The Catholic Church has declared war against Masqueraders in Nigeria, even as it has likened them to terrorists who should be dealt with by security agencies.
This revelation was brought to light in a message delivered on the pulpit by Bishop of Nsukka Catholic Diocese, Prof. Godfrey Onah, after some masqueraders beat a seminarian into coma.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the masqueraders were part of the Oriokpa masquerade popular in eastern Nigeria.
Onah, while condemning the masqueraders during church service, urged law enforcement agencies to treat those that block roads, beat, and extort money from people as terrorists and cultists.
He said: “It’s unfortunate that in this 21st century some youths in Nsukka area will cover their face and block roads, beating and extorting money from people who are going about their legitimate businesses in the name of masquerading.
“The security agents should treat these criminals who hide under the guise of masquerade as a culture to harass and harm law-abiding citizens as terrorists and cultists.”
This was not the first time that traditionalists in Nigeria will be on a collision with the Church as they have fought many battles during the colonial years.
On March 29 a seminarian serving in Nsukka diocese, Lawrence Ezeugwu, was beaten to coma by a group of masqueraders who blocked the road at Ugwuoyia, Nsukka.
“This is a sacrilege and abomination and the church will ensure that all those involved are brought to book as well as fight to put this evil culture to an end.
“As bishop of the diocese I am ready to lay down my life in fighting to stop this inhumanity to man by masqueraders in Nsukka who block roads and intimidate innocent residents,” he said.
Onah said the matter was immediately reported to the police, adding that the police had arrested one of the masqueraders.
He described the Oriokpa masquerade in Nsukka as a cult and a form of idol worship and vowed to deal with any catholic members engaging in masquerading no matter the position of that person in the church.
“The Nsukka Oriokpa masquerade is evil cult and a form of idol worship. anybody engaging in it is worshiping idol,” he said.
Confirming the development, Mr Ebere Amaizu, the Enugu state Police Public Relation Officer said one of the masqueraders was already in police custody.