June 7, 2022

Owo bloodbath: How we were attacked, victims narrate sordid experiences

Ondo killing

By Kingsley Omonobi, Dayo Johnson, Anayo Okoli, Dapo Akinrefon, Marie-Therese Nanlong, Omeiza Ajayi, Gabriel Olawale, Shina Abubakar, Luminous Jannamike & Ademola Adegbite

•How my legs were shattered by dynamites —Attach Margret, nurse 

•I lost my mother, legs during attack —Ozulumba, timber merchant 

•I was bombed at the altar —John Nwogwu 

•Over 100 people died —Gloria John •CAN protest killings 

•Akeredolu directs flying of flags at half-mast

 •It’s barbaric —Ondo council of Obas; Yoruba can’t be overrun, says Ooni •

Give security agencies ultimatum to bring perpetrators to book, Sultan tells FG •IGP orders forensic investigation •Perpetrators ‘ll face full wrath of law, says Osinbajo •

As NGF, Tinubu donate N125m to victims, Owo Catholic church •

PDP,  Atiku  blast  APC, say silence on attack confirms complicity

AKURE—VICTIMS of last Sunday’s attack at St Francis Catholic Church, Owo, Ondo State, that left over 50 people dead, yesterday, narrated how the attack was carried out, as a nurse with the General Hospital in the town, Mrs Attach Margret, narrated how she lost both legs during the attack.

Also, members of the Christian Association, CAN, Owo branch, yesterday, protested the killing, even as angry reactions greeted killings.

The Northern Governors’ Forum, the Ooni of Ife, Oba Enitan Ogunwusi; President-General, Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs and Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Muhammadu Abubakar III; Ondo Council of Obas, Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oba Lekan Balogun; Ohanaeze Ndigbo and Amnesty International, all condemned the attack yesterday and urged the Federal Government and security agencies to bring perpetrators of the attack to face justice.

Similarly, Force headquarters disclosed yesterday that Explosive Ordinance Experts discovered three unexploded bombs at the church premises.

Meanwhile, in honour of the victims of the terror attack, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu has directed that all public buildings, facilities and official residences fly the Nigerian flag at half-mast for seven days.

Victims narrate sordid experiences

Speaking with Vanguard at the Orthopedic and Trauma Department of the Federal Medical Centre, Owo, where she was rushed on Sunday, Mrs Margret said: “My life is shattered. My breath is failing, I can’t breathe properly; God please help me. I am getting tired, please nurse help me, don’t allow me to die.”

The pain didn’t allow her to explain further what happened after the blast of the dynamite.

But a source in the hospital said when the killers arrived at the church and were shooting sporadically, many of the worshippers scampered for safety, while others ran to the altar.

The source said: “The woman who lost both legs was hiding where the dynamite landed. It was after the whole incident that those who were picking the corpse discovered that she was still alive.

“They discovered that both legs had been cut off and she was bleeding profusely. She was rushed to FMC where she was attended to.”

Vanguard also learned that the 43-year-old mother of four, from Ile- Oluji in Ondo State, was hiding at the exact point the dynamite landed inside the church.

Her two legs were severed off by the impact of the dynamite which also uprooted the church altar.

I lost my mother, legs during the attack—Zulumba, timber  merchant

Also, narrating how the incident happened, Benjamin Ozulumba, a 49-year old timber merchant, told Vanguard: “When we were about to close, we just heard gunshots within the compound of the church. Before we knew it, they started shooting everybody and they threw dynamites.

“It was when the shooting was going on that I was shot in the leg. I lost my mother in the attack but the rest of my family is safe. My mother is over 70 years.

“With blood already gushing out of my leg, I immediately summoned strength within me to move to the back of the Catechist when there was an explosion. 

On getting to the back yard, I saw a ladder and escaped through the ladder.

“When I was trying to escape, I saw many bodies on the ground. The bodies were just too many.

“I went to church with my wife, children and my mother. But nothing happened to my wife and children.”

Also speaking on the attack and how he escaped, another victim, Alex Michael, said: “We were still in the church after the last prayer, when we heard gunshots outside the church and before we knew it, they started shooting people and everybody inside the church and in the process, many people died.

“I was with my kids and I tried to defend them and we have to move under the pew when the shooting was going on but the place could not contain us and my legs were outside. They shot my legs but thank God nothing happened to my kids.”

Another victim, John Nwogwu said: “What happened was that we were in the church after the last blessing and prayer by the Father.

“We just heard gunshots at the entrance of the church and before we knew it, they had started shooting and killing people.

“Before we could know what was going on, we were surrounded and the only thing to do was to hide at the back of the altar.

“We heard a loud explosion and the ceiling fell on us. Even at that, they were still shooting at us. I crawled to the altar only to be bombed there by the attackers.

“One of our choir masters was hit by a stray bullet on the hip. Where I was hiding I was able to see one of the attackers, he was putting on Khaki that looked like that of Man O’ War.

“They bombed the altar. During the attacks, we lost husbands, wives and children.”

Another victim, 28-year-old Gloria John said: “After the priest had given us the final blessings, we heard gunshots outside.

“The gunmen started shooting at us from outside. We started shouting and crying. We also began to call on God to save us. Over 100 people died, including children. A couple died at the same spot.

“I went to the church alone. My husband did not follow me. I was shot in the leg. I and other victims were rushed to FMC.”

Many victims require blood—CMD

The Chief Medical Director of the Federal Medical Centre, Owo, Dr Ahmed Adeagbo, said: “We mobilised our staff and worked very hard to make sure we didn’t lose any of the people brought in alive. Those that required surgery were operated upon and they are doing well.

“The directive from the Federal Ministry of Health is that we should not collect money from the victims. We also have collaboration with the state government.

“They were able to mobilise 20 units of blood and they still promised to do more. They were able to bring some consumables and also promised to give more.

“NEMA was also here and we have given them what we need but we are still expecting them. People have also been donating voluntarily. Many of the victims require blood.

“People are donating blood and those that require transfusion were transfused and I’m sure we will still have some in our blood bank now. Even UNIMED contacted us to give us blood.”

Osinbajo, govs, Tinubu visit victims

Less than 12 hours to the national convention of the All Progressives Congress, four presidential aspirants of the party visited victims of the attack.

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu; former Ogun State governor, Ibikunle Amosun and Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State visited victims of the attack.

Vanguard gathered that Fayemi and Amosun arrived together, while Tinubu and Osinbajo arrived Owo separately.

Perpetrators of Owo killings will face full wrath of law—Osinbajo

In his reaction, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has described the gruesome murder of parishioners at the St. Francis Catholic Church in Owo Local Government Area of Ondo State, on Sunday as an unspeakable evil.

The Vice President in a statement by his spokesman, Laolu Akande, said: “The President has already ordered a full-scale investigation of this crime. Without any doubt, those who perpetrated this will be fished out and they will pay for the consequences of this crime.”

The vice president was received in Akure by the Ondo State Deputy Gov. Lucky Aiyedatiwa, and was later joined by Governor Rotimi Akeredolu in Owo.

During his visit to the palace of the Olowo of Owo, Oba Ajibade Ogunoye III, in company of Akeredolu; Osinbajo told the traditional ruler that his visit was on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari, who sent his condolences.

Govs, Tinubu donate N125m to victims, church

Speaking at the palace of the Olowo of Owo, Oba Ajibade Ogunoye, Tinubu promised to donate N75 million to the victims and the St Francis Catholic Church in Owo.

Speaking through Governor Akeredolu, who accompanied him to the Palace, Tinubu promised to donate N50million to the victims and another N25 million to the Catholic Church.

Speaking with newsmen after the visit, Tinubu said: “Seeing this is dastardly enough. There is no human being that will not be touched deeply.”

Also, the chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Governor Fayemi, who announced the donation of a sum of N50 million to the church on behalf of the NGF, said: “It is a serious and unusual attack on the people who can’t go out and farm or worship God in peace. 

”We are all shocked. Just like Governor Akeredolu said, these people shall not go unpunished. They will be hunted down and brought to book. But this cannot save the lives that have been lost or save the wounded from discomfort.”

Responding, Akeredolu, vowed to either bring the assailants down to the state for justice or take justice to them.

In his response, Bishop Jude Arogundade, who described the attack as evil, urged the governors to ensure that those behind the killings and their sponsors were brought to book.

In his remarks, the Olowo of Owo, Oba Gbadegesin Ogunoye said the perpetrators of the ugly attack wanted to make a statement.

Akeredolu directs flying of flags at half-mast in honour of victims

Meanwhile, in honour of the victims of the attack, Governor Akeredolu yesterday directed that all public buildings, facilities and official residences fly the Nigerian flag at half-mast for seven days.

The governor, however, said the attack on innocent worshipers was a deliberate and calculated assault on the people of the state.

He said: “Those who unleashed this unprovoked terror attack on our people have tested our collective resolves. We will not be deterred from responding appropriately to this dastardly act.

“In honour of the victims of this unfortunate attack, I, hereby, direct that all flags be flown at half-mast for seven days, starting from Monday, June 6, to Sunday, June 12, 2022. It is a collective loss to the people of our dear state.”

CAN protest killings

The killings, however, elicited angry reactions as members of Christian Association, CAN, Owo branch, yesterday, staged a protest at the Palace of Olowo, Oba Ogunoye, to commiserate with him.

They described the attack as barbaric and urged the government to beef up security in the state.

Police recover unexploded bombs

Following the attacks, Force headquarters said Explosive Ordinance Experts discovered three unexploded bombs at the church premises.

Also recovered by Police investigators are pellets of expended AK-47 ammunition, while the Explosive Ordnance Devices-Chemical Biological Radiological and Nuclear Explosives, EOD-CBRNE, unit confirmed the use of explosives as fragments of the IEDs used were found.

In the same vein, the Inspector-General of Police, IGP Usman Alkali Baba, has condemned the attack.

In a statement by the Force Public Relations Officer, CSP Muyiwa Adejobi, the IGP said: “The attack was carried out by yet-to-be-identified gunmen at about 11.30 am on Sunday 5th June 2022.

“The gunmen, from preliminary investigations, invaded the church with arms and materials suspected to be explosives.

“Police investigators who were part of the First Responders deployed to the scene have recovered pellets of expended AK-47 ammunition, while the Explosive Ordnance Devices – Chemical Biological Radiological and Nuclear Explosives (EOD-CBRNE) unit confirmed the use of Explosives as fragments of the IEDs used were found and after thorough sweeping of the scene, 3 unexploded IEDs were recovered at the scene of the incident.”

Killings barbaric—Ondo council of Obas

Frowning on the dastardly act, the chairman of the Ondo State Council of Obas and the Deji of Akure Kingdom, Oba Aladetoyinbo Aladelusi, described the attack as barbaric.

Oba Aladelusi said: “The unprovoked attack was barbaric and highly traumatizing which had left the ancient city of Owo in unquantifiable pains and agony.”

Yoruba can’t be overrun —Ooni

In his reaction, the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, in a statement by his Director on Media and Public Affairs, Moses Olafare, said: “When calamities like this befall us without a single trace, the interpretation is that the intelligence unit of our country’s security architecture is probably faulty or completely missing.

“However, we the descendants of Oduduwa cannot be overrun in our own home as we are prepared and ready to defend ourselves against external invaders.”

Give security agencies ultimatum to bring perpetrators to book, Sultan urges FG

Also reacting yesterday, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, in a statement by NSCIA’s Director of Administration, Zubairu Usman-Ugwu, said: “All peoples of faith should take this attack as a direct attack on all law-abiding citizens and should, therefore, be in the vanguard to halt the evil that appears to be assailing the life, property and integrity of humanity, particularly believers in God.

“The Council also calls on the governments at all levels to issue and pursue an ultimatum for the security agencies to unravel the identity and bring to book the perpetrators of the violation of sanctity of not only life but also religions.

“It is, therefore, mandatory for security agencies to help in rescuing the helpless citizens that we have all become.”

Killings meant to instigate ethno-religious crisis—Interior minister

The Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, who paid a condolence visit to Owo yesterday, described the killing of the worshipers as devastating, senseless and an attempt to ignite an ethnic war.

He said: “While the motive of the perpetrators is yet to be established, there is no doubt that their cowardly act is intended to cause chaos and instil fear in the people, foment trouble and provoke bloody inter and intra-ethnic crises.”

It’s an affront on Yoruba nation —Olubadan

Also condemning the killings, the Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oba Lekan Balogun, said such wicked act must be the last in the Southwest.

He said: “This is not time to seek political correctness at the detriment of the people that elected you into offices as their governors. It is time to prioritize the safety of the people’s lives and property, because, you are first a Yoruba person before becoming a Nigerian and without the people being massacred by the blood suckers, you cannot be governors.”

Also, Chairman, Alliance on Surviving COVID-19 and Beyond, ASCAB, Femi Falana SAN, who flayed the attack, said: “We commiserate with the government and people of Ondo State over the massacre. 

”Our hearts go to the bereaved families who lost their loved ones in the dastardly attack. However, governments at all levels must go beyond issuing threats. 

”It is common knowledge that every country involved in the prosecution of the war on terror is required to train security personnel and acquire adequate security gadgets to protect the people. 

”Therefore, the Federal Government should ensure that the nation’s airports, trains, buses, courts, schools, malls, churches, mosques, banks and other public places are provided with screening machines and CCTV cameras.”

Northern Govs, TEKAN-ECWA bloc, Catholic Laity Council react

The Northern Governors Forum, Evangelical Church Winning All, ECWA; the TEKAN-ECWA Bloc of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN and the Catholic Laity Council of Nigeria, yesterday, expressed anger over the attack on worshippers at the St. Francis Catholic Church Owo, Ondo State which left many dead and others injured.

Chairman of the Northern Governors’ Forum and Governor of Plateau State, Simon Lalong in a statement by his Director of Press and Public Affairs, Makut Macham said: “The Forum condemns the unprovoked attack on the Church and its worshippers which is a clear attempt by criminals to instigate religious hatred and inflame passions among Nigerians.

“This will not only ensure that justice is served but ensure a clear message is also sent to criminals who are bent on causing chaos in the country.”

However, the ECWA President and Head, of the TEKAN-ECWA bloc of CAN, Rev. Stephen Panya described the attack on the Church as “pure devilish wickedness and evil.”

His words: “This attack is a well-calculated assault on the peace-loving people of the Owo Kingdom and the entire Christendom in Nigeria. It is barbaric, vile, wicked, Satanic, and a deliberate action to wipe out Christianity in the country.

Meanwhile, addressing journalists, the National President, Catholic Laity Council of Nigeria,  Henry Yunkwap said: “The crime committed by those killed was just two; one, they were Christians, and secondly, they were in the Church on Sunday, worshiping God. As a Christian group and direct mourners of this sad incident, we do not want to only condemn this barbaric act but use this medium to let the government know that we have taken enough of this killing of our people and we now find it very difficult to chew what they have forcefully put in our mouth. The only option left is to throw it out.”

Perpetrators must face justice —Amnesty Int’l

Similarly, Amnesty International, while reacting to the attack in a statement by its Media Manager, Isa Sanusi, said: “What happened in Owo reveals the impunity enjoyed by gunmen on the rampage across Nigeria. 

”This tragic event should offer a wake-up call for the authorities, who must now do everything they can to ensure the perpetrators of this appalling crime face justice.

“Victims and their families have a right to know the truth about this shooting and to be provided with justice and reparations. 

”Amnesty International is calling on the Nigerian judicial authorities to immediately launch a thorough and impartial investigation to identify the perpetrators of this crime, and to prosecute and judge them in fair trials, without recourse to the death penalty.”

Community policing would’ve prevented killings—VOR

A foremost Pan-Yoruba Intelligentsia Group, Voice of Reason, VOR, blamed the failure of the constitution to allow state policing among other things for the massacre at St. Francis Catholic Church, Owo in Ondo State.

Chairman of the Group, Mr Olusola Adekanola said: “We in the Voice of Reason (VOR) believe it is now time to put our heads together and strategise. VOR will, as a matter of urgency, convene a meeting of all stakeholders in Yoruba land to discuss especially the security of our ancestral home.”

PDP,  Atiku  blast APC, say silence on attack confirms complicity

The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and its presidential candidate in 2023 elections and former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, have condemned the deafening silence of the All Progressives Congress, APC, over Sunday’s gruesome terrorist attack and killing of innocent worshippers at St. Francis Catholic Church, Owo, Ondo State.

This, the PDP said, confirmed APC’s complicity and implicit support for terrorism in the country.  

National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Debo Ologunagba, who stated this in a statement in Abuja yesterday, said:  “The PDP is also appalled by the lame and disconnected press statement by the Buhari Presidency which did not demonstrate any Presidential empathy, concern, assurances and commitment expected of a Commander-in-Chief, who should be a Comforter in Chief in the face of such horrific terrorist attack on the country.

“The feeble and insensitive statement by the Presidency is a further confirmation of the tacit sympathy for terrorism by the APC administration.

“This is because in saner climes the President would personally address the nation on the gruesome murder of many citizens under his care.

“President Muhammadu Buhari’s personal silence is deafening and points to allegations in the public space that terrorists are enjoying tacit accommodation from the highest level of the APC administration.

“It is indeed unpardonable that as terrorists were murdering our citizens in Owo, President Buhari was busy in the comfort, luxury and safety of the Presidential Villa, having a dinner with APC leaders and conducting political meetings aimed at perpetuating APC’s fraudulent, insensitive, inhumane and vicious government on hapless Nigerians.

“According to PDP, such actions by APC and President Buhari, who had woefully failed in his promise to lead the fight against terrorism from the front, continued to embolden terrorists to carry out more terrible attacks on citizens.“It also noted that the  inexcusable stance of the APC also lent credence to the fears already expressed by Nigerians that there were planned orchestration of crisis by the APC in various parts of the country to derail the scheduled 2023 general elections.

“For the umpteenth time, our party calls out the APC to come clean on the pact it has with terrorists for which it is sacrificing the lives of innocent Nigerians,” PDP stated.

It warned APC not to continue to use Nigerians as expendables in their ignoble pact with terrorists, describing such an action as reprehensible, atrocious and must not be allowed to continue.

On its part, the presidential candidate of the party, Atiku Abubakar, expressed disgust at the decision of the ruling All Progressives Congress to go ahead with an elaborate dinner with presidential aspirants at a time the nation and the rest of the world were in a sober mood.

In a statement issued by his media office in Abuja yesterday, Atiku also described the party’s decision to hold its presidential primary on a working day, thus disrupting the lives of hard working Nigerians in the nation’s capital.

He said:  “It is disconcerting that on the very day when the whole of the country and the rest of the world was in a sober mood, on account of the massacre in Owo, Ondo State, the ruling party, All Progressives Congress could not find the moral rectitude to cancel a dinner with their presidential aspirants, slated for the evening of Sunday, June 5.“