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Relatives Of Victims, Survivors Recount Ordeal After Owo Church Attack

Twenty-four hours after the gruesome murder of innocent Nigerians at a Catholic Church in Owo Local Government Area of Ondo State, NEMA says 11 children and 22 adults are on admission at the emergency wards of the FMC Owo.

It was a black Sunday when tears flowed freely after terrorists unleashed havoc on St Francis Catholic Church members, Owa-luwa Street, in Owo Local Government Area of Ondo State, Southwest Nigeria.

The terrorists invaded the church while Sunday service was going on and shot sporadically at the congregation that scampered for safety.

The attack took place without any rescue from the security operatives. Police posts around the church were said to have no patrol vehicle to respond to distress calls.

Although authorities have not issued official casualties figures from the attack, the assailants killed many people and injured several others. 

Relatives of victims weep

Multiple sources who visited the scene claimed that many people, including children, were killed. 

Our reporter learnt that a former chairman of the Obafemi Awolowo University Alumni Association in Owo, J. A. Ajanaku, his wife and one of their daughters were among those killed.

Image of the church attacked by terrorists. Photo: Fidelis David

A citizen identified as Uchena said he lost three family members in the attack. 

“I lost three family members in this tragic accident. Nigeria has gotten to me. I never saw this coming. I need someone to talk to before I lose my mind,” he said. 

When contacted on Monday morning for further information, a distraught Uchena replied, “I can’t really talk now”, as he still battles with the shock. 

A lady named Olaide, who appears to have lost her parents in the incident, lamented the incident. “The audacity of Nigeria to take my parents from me. I will always hate this country!!!!!” Olaide wrote on Twitter.

Another lady whose father died in the attack told FIJ, “The moment I heard about it, I knew my parents were not likely to survive,” she said.

“My parents hardly miss church and always sit at the back. My dad, in particular, was the Chairman of the Catholic Men Organisation, so he never missed church.”

Survivors recount close shave with death

Reverend Father Andrew Abayomi, the officiating priest at the Catholic church who survived the attack, said mass had almost ended when the terrorists invaded the church. 

He said he had even ordered people to be going home when gunshots rented the air. 

“We hid inside the church for 20 minutes, but they attacked people who were already going home. After a while, we opened the door, so we could rescue those who were shot and rushed them to the hospitals.”

During a visit to the hospital, Rotimi Akeredolu, Governor of Ondo State. Photo: Rotimi Akeredolu/Twitter.

Victoria Innocent, a congregation member, told HumAngle that she escaped death because she left the church before the mass ended. 

“I survived because I left the church before the mass ended. I was going home when I heard sporadic gunshots,” she said.

“I fell into the gutter while trying to hide because of stray bullets. The shooting lasted for nearly 20 minutes before I was taken to hospital by a passerby for treatment and discharged afterwards.”

HumAngle learnt from eyewitnesses, including a medical practitioner, who received injured people at the Federal Medical Centre (FMC) Owo that at least 30 wounded persons were brought to the hospital. 

The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) on Monday, June 6, said 11 children and 22 adults are on admission to the emergency wards of the hospital.

NMA calls for assistance 

The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) in Ondo has charged doctors in the state to mobilise themselves to participate in treating injured persons.

Uche R. Ojinmah, President of the association, said in a statement, “We call on all doctors in Ondo State and the environs to mobilise themselves to participate in the treatment of the injured.”

“We also appeal to Nigerians in the affected area of Ondo State to kindly go to the hospitals where the injured are being treated to donate blood to save lives.”

However, the shortage of blood is a challenge as many survivors have lost blood and need a transfusion.  Augustine Ikwu, the Director of Social Communications, Catholic Diocese of Ondo,  confirmed that the shortage of blood for injured victims is the challenge confronting the church. 

The priest disclosed this while speaking on the Frank Talk programme on Monday morning on Rave FM Osogbo, Osun State. 

He urged Nigerians in and around Owo to visit St Louis Catholic Hospital and Federal Medical Centre, both in Owo, to donate blood for victims under critical conditions.

When asked about the number of casualties, he simply said: “From yesterday till now, it has been a devastating situation, and from my correspondence this morning, I spoke with them and have been able to gather that as we speak now, as, at last night, not less than 80 persons were already confirmed dead.”

“Our morgue at the Catholic hospital, St Louis Hospital, Owo, is already full, cannot take any other person again, and so, we have to defer to Federal Medical Centre, Owo.”

Although the Ondo State Police Command said a forensic investigation into the attack has begun to ascertain the actual or remote cause(s). The security operatives kept mum on the number of casualties. 

Rotimi Akeredolu, the Governor of the State who had visited the scene of the incident on Sunday, said he was sad about the unprovoked attack and killing of innocent people. He, however, did not speak on the number of people killed. 

As of the time of publishing this story, no group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

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Adejumo Kabir

Kabir works at HumAngle as the Editor of Southern Operations. He is interested in community development reporting, human rights, social justice, and press freedom. He was a finalist in the student category of the African Fact-checking Award in 2018, a 2019 recipient of the Diamond Awards for Media Excellence, and a 2020 recipient of the Thomson Foundation Young Journalist Award. He was also nominated in the journalism category of The Future Awards Africa in 2020. He has been selected for various fellowships, including the 2020 Civic Media Lab Criminal Justice Reporting Fellowship and 2022 International Centre for Journalists (ICFJ) 'In The Name of Religion' Fellowship.

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