By: Adeboye Ado
‘Na all of you go die’, Attackers threatened us—Mother of five says
Barely one year after gunmen wreck havoc at St. Francis Catholic Church in Owo, Ondo State, survivors of the massacre are still groaning in excruciating pains over the demise of their loved ones who passed away after the deadly attack on the church on June 5, 2022.
The bloodletting attack led to the death of 41 innocent worshipers while 80 others sustained varying degrees of injuries.
Even as the church reopened 10months after for easter service on April 9th, 2023, no reprieve and relief yet, this is even as some survivors still grapple with shock, disbelieve and apprehension occasioned by the seemingly unprovoked attack.
Although armed security operatives have been drafted by the government to guard the church, but some members are yet to join the church again over fear of another attack by the stonyhearted gunmen.
Narrating her harrowing experience, a Catholic devout, Adejokun Titilayo, who was still recovering from an accident she had a few years ago which left her crippled, said she escaped miraculously from being killed by the gunmen armed to the teeth.
Adejokun noted that the killing remained indescribable to her, saying she was in wheelchair when gunshots rented the air, stressing that she had a misty understanding of her escape from the church.
She said, “I was in the church that very day, I can’t believe that I’m still alive. I cant even described how the incident happened because it was a devastating experience for me.
“I lost my wheel chair and one of my shoes to the incident. Infact people who could walk with their legs died but how I managed to escape is mysterious, all remembered was that I heard gunshots from every angles.
“Seeing myself alive gives me joy because those who had opportunity to escaped were killed by the gunmen who mercilessly attacked the house of God.
“It is heartwrenching to see how innocent worshipers were killed because I was at the front when it happened, Adejokun added.
I lost my husband, two sisters-in-law to the attack —Mother of five
A trader, Mrs. Monogbe Imisioluwa Rita, has been viciously affected by the unexpected death of her husband and two sisters-in-law who were living with her while alive.
Mourning the deceased members of her family, the beleaguered and slovenly dressed mother of five children, bemoaned the throes of unbearable pain she passed through after losing her bread winner.
Painting the vivid picture of what really happened, Rita explained that “I won’t forget this bad incident because I lost my husband a police officer, Monogbe Ayodele John, and two sisters-in-law: Monogbe Omolola, Testimony John and one of my sons who is alive but sustained injury head.
“On that fateful day, our Reverend father called children out to pray for them so after that he finished the mass, I wanted to go out I heard stranged sounds (gbo gbo gbo), I thought it was the usual cultists clash because some of our members were outside.
“Immediately people started running inside, I saw some hefty men clad in black, so I ran back. After the consistent gunshots, my husband who was a police officer and the church warden left the middle of church to find out what was happening.
“On his way to peep through the window so as to check what really went wrong outside, he was gunned down and his sister who was following him as well as cautioning him not to peep, was also shot dead.
“My daughter who was trailing his dad before he was eventually shot alongside his sister, ran back for her life but he was given a hot chase by one of the attackers, but the gunman pursuing her shot her. The bullet slightly hit her on the head and she managed to roll under a car parked at the premises.
“So as the storm calmed, I saw another sister-in-law soaked in blood, seems she was shot on her private part. But she later died.
Sobbing Monogbe continued: “sadly, I went to where my husband was, he was lying helplessly he gazed at me before he died. Earlier, we heard one of the gunmen saying ‘na all of you go die’, infact a cold shiver ran down our spine. But thank God some of us survived.
Rita, however, said she was given N500,000 and the church also supported her with starting capital to commence business as well as scholarships for her children.
“I used all the money given to me to purchase cassava grinding machine for the purpose of earning income to cater for my chidren, Monogbe said.
The agony of a grandmother who lost grandson who came home to meet untimely death as a result of elongated ASUU strike
Unabting tears continued to uncontrollably rolled down on the face of Mrs. Stella Ogbefun while lamenting to TRACE how her grandson who was studying pharmacy at University of Benin (UNIBEN) was killed in the ugly incident.
The trader noted that her grandson whom she simply identified as Tony came to reside with her temporarily till the strike action embarked upon then by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) was called of.
“Tony was shot dead but his brother who escaped being killed was profusely bleeding and helpers said I should leave the dead and carry the living brother to the hospital, it was the saddest moment of my life.
“When I called their parents in Kogi, I told them to come to Owo, but couldn’t informed them that one of their children had given up the ghost.
“Upon the arrival of the parents, they met me in an inconsolable state, as they try to comfort me, they got the wind of the death of their child, they couldn’t hold it anymore, they left me and started sprawling the floor. Tony was later buried.
On the reopening of the church, she said the memory wont fade off easily, but she maintained that she would keep serving God regardless of the terrible incident that nearly shattered her live.
Sound of explosions and the Boko-Haram version
“After several sounds of explosion, I told someone next to me that Boko Haram guys have invaded the church. While we were arguing, we heard another sound again. To the surprise of everyone, our Father was done with the service”
A public servant, Mr. Adekolu Clement, narrated his nerve-racking experience, emphazing that he never thought he would escape the merciless killers who stormed the church with lethal weapons, adding that the scene will remain ever green in his memory.
He explained that “God gave me the grace, I ran to the sakristi, hid myself and my son there. I saw one of the dreaded men coming, almost at the door where I was hiding, i was so scared, immediately the gunman entered, I flew the window and my son followed suit.
“On getting outside, I jumped the fence with my son. That was how I escaped. I saw one of my church members, Mr. Onouha lying in the pool of his own blood because he was shot in the head, I cried. It was a bad incident.
Man who escaped through narrow window with bullet inside leg
As survivors still find it difficult to erase the memory, Mr. Adenawo Abel Olatunji disclosed the throes of escaping through a narrow window during the vicious attack.
“My foster father was shot but not dead, only my sister was killed. She was shot in the neck.
“On that unfortunate day, I was sitting at the back with my parents, it was even raining heavily. The mass went on peacefully as the Reverend Father called children to pray for them.
“As the father ended the mass, we started hearing gunshots. I looked outside briefly but I thought it was just clash between cultists and police. Suddenly, the church wardens ran into church to shut the door and shouted at the top of their voices saying we should lie down.
“I looked outside, I saw two hefty men wielding dangerous weapon, immediately I ran towards an exit door shivering, but one of the attackers was already at the place and he has killed some people, immediately I ran back.
“As I was running towards the altar, I felt something like an electric shock inside my leg, but I continued with the unending race. Immediately I discovered a narrow window, I forced myself into it and immediately jumped over a fence close to the church.
“Getting to a nearby house, occupants called my attention to blood gushing out of my leg and I was told a bullet was side. I was rushed to a traditionalist who removed the bullet and I was later taken to hospital for treatment.
However, the Church had since the beginning of the just concluded week commenced different activities to remember those murdered in cold blood last year.