The Imo State government has given reasons for the arrest of some priests and leaders of white garment churches – Cherubim and Seraphim and Sabbath Missions – in some council areas in Orlu by soldiers.
It said members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) perpetrating crimes in Orlu used the white garment churches as cover for their nefarious activities.
News had reported the alleged arrest of over 30 clerics by security forces battling IPOB members in Orlu.
Rumours have been rife the pastors were arrested for allegedly preparing ‘odieshi’ charm for members of IPOB, which reportedly made it impossible for bullets to penetrate operatives of Eastern Security Network (ESN).
But, addressing reporters in Owerri, the state capital, Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Chief Cyprian Akaolisa, explained the church leaders were arrested because they harboured ‘hoodlums’ against whom the military operation in Orlu was initiated.
Akaolisa said: “If you investigate the activities of some of these churches, you will understand that over time, hoodlums establish and use such churches as front for their nefarious activities.
“We have records that armed robbers have been hanging out as pastors; in the night they will go for their operations but in the day they wear their garments and use such white garment churches”.
Though, the commissioner could not mention the number of clerics or suspects arrested so far, TheNation reported that no fewer than 33 clerics and church elders have been whisked away from different white garment churches in the Orlu area with a church razed to the ground while others were riddled and totally defaced with high caliber military firearms.
At Our Lord’s Sabbath Mission, Umunam Atta in Njaba LGA, a superintending priest, whose community leaders had vouched for his exemplary conduct, was whisked away with his adolescent daughter and pastors.
At the House of Prayer International Covenant Church, some painters were among the 10 persons whisked away by soldiers who stormed the church around 6am shooting from all sides.