One of the leaders in the street where St Francis Catholic Church, Owo is located, Ojowa Clement, who saw the bandits when they arrived the Church, said the terrorists bought roasted corn before attacking the church.
DAILY GIST recalls that some worshippers lost their lives in the explosion that occurred on the church premises while the mass was going on.
Speaking with Daily Trust, Ojowa said, “I was sitting outside the house with my wife and other people when they trekked from that path (pointing to a narrow path close to the Church). They came on foot and were carrying sacks.
“They even stopped at a point to buy roasted corn. We didn’t pay them any attention until they got to the front of the Church and approached the driver of a Golf car and asked for his car key. When he resisted, they brought out a gun and the man cooperated and ran away. By this time, a small boy selling sweet was walking away; they called him back and shot him dead.
“At this point, we all ran inside and hid. They even shot at our house (pointing to bullet holes in the building) but none of us was affected. After about twenty minutes, the gunshot stopped and then people were wailing and crying. I have been sick since then because I have never witnessed this type of thing.”
Benjamin Asowa, a civil servant and one of the victims of the terror attack, who spoke from his sick bed at the Federal Medical Centre, Owo, said “The mass just ended with the priest saying ‘go in peace’, and all of a sudden, we heard a gunshot. A young boy who sells sweets by the Church gate had been shot. People started running helter-skelter. Then, there was an explosion, in fact it was difficult to remember. About four or five of them started shooting at us. I saw a small boy looking for his parents, he was killed. They didn’t spare anybody. Suddenly, a bullet hit me in the leg, all the people around me were dead. They were all young boys. My wife is also on admissions as she was affected by the explosion. The way they carried out that operation, it was like they were trained for it and their mission was to wipe out everybody. Some strange people have taken over, we don’t understand what is happening anymore.”
He appealed to government to take the issue of security seriously.
Another victim, Mrs Precious Sunday, was shot at the back and close to the breast. While writhing in pain, she also said it was by the grace of God that she survived the attack. “I was in the Church with my three children, one of them – a four-year-old, was also shot and is receiving treatment at the children’s ward.
I never believed such a thing can happen in the Church and in a town like Owo which has always been peaceful.”
The 35-year-old woman who claimed to be a business woman however said she can only pray that God forgives those who perpetrated this evil.
49-year-old sawmiller, Benjamin Ozulumba in his own account, said “It was just like a scene from a horror movie, in fact it is difficult to describe. I was sitting with my 78-year-old mother, Mrs Bridget Ozulumba, at the time. The explosion affected my two legs but killed my mother. We were trying to escape when the explosion landed, I’m still in shock but my wife and five children survived unhurt.”
Mrs Gloria Okorie was also one of the worshippers in Church on that dark Sunday. She had gone with her five children. She said one of her children Faith Okorie was shot, but the rest escaped. It was later l learnt that the Rev Father hid my children in the toilet. We jumped over the fence; and those in the market assisted us through the fence.
She was full of prayers for those who have been assisting the victims through donations and other means.
For one of the victims, Mrs Caroline Agboola Aina, popularly know as Iya Alakara (bean cake seller), the story was not the same for her because she never made it.
The 69-year-old woman who sells akara close to the Church was hit by a bullet and died on the spot.
Her sons Agboola Olalekan and Agboola Michael said that they were in Lagos when he heard the sad news of their mother’s death. “I was shocked and had to rush down. She was a good woman. She calls her children every morning and evening on phone just to pray for us. She was a crazy giver,” said Michael.
The Church has approached the state government to make arrangements on how to bury the dead. Forty corpses, according to the Catholic Bishop of Ondo Diocese Reverend Jude Arogundade, are at the Federal Medical Centre Owo, St Louis Hospital and some private hospitals in Owo.
Governor Rotimi Akeredolu has also announced that the Church will provide land, in a good environment for mass burial, which will be made a park.