Owo community in Ondo State wore a mourning look on Monday, 24 hours after some gunmen attacked Saint Francis Catholic Church, Owa-Luwa Street in the town which is the headquarters of Owo Local Government Area.
The Sunday attack on the church in Owo, the hometown of the state governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, left many parishioners dead and several others injured.
As of Monday, survivors of the attack were groaning at the Federal Medical Centre, Owo, where they are currently receiving treatment.
This is just as some victim’s families have been hospitalised due to the trauma from the attack.
Speaking to one of our correspondents, a survivor, Nbara Arinze, while recounting the attack, said he escaped death by a whisker, adding that despite hiding underneath a bench, the gunmen shot him in the leg.
He said, “After the father (priest) had given final blessing and everybody was about to leave the church, we started hearing gunshots and everybody began to run helter-skelter for safety.
“So, I hid under the bench and the bullets hit my leg, l almost died.”
A relative of a victim, Andrew Jacob, described how his uncle lost his child and sister to the incident, adding that the grieving father had since been hospitalised.
He said, “I was not in the church when the incident occurred. I had come earlier and left home. But later somebody rushed to my house to inform me that some criminals were shooting at the church.
“When I rushed there, I found many people dead and many were rolling in pain on the ground. So, they brought my uncle here (FMC).
“Since yesterday I have been going and coming because my uncle lost his child and sister and I am the one taking care of him. It is very sad.”
Narrating his ordeal to the BBC Yoruba, another victim, who gave his name only as Francis, said during the shooting, people in the church thought gangsters were rampaging, adding that they were initially unaware that the church was under attack.
He said, “It was a terrible incident; as we finished mass, and people were coming out, we heard gunshots and we thought that gangsters were in town but unknown to us, the shooting was just coming to the church. The shot, bombed and even the alter was destroyed. When they came in, they were just shooting at everybody.
“I had to hide somewhere with my children but my leg was outside and they shot me. Even the guy beside me was killed. A lot of people were killed, it was a terrible experience that only God understands.”
Earlier on Monday, members of the state chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria took to the streets of the ancient town to protest against the killing.
The association led by its state chairman, Rev. Fr. Anslem Ologunowa, took the protest to the palace of Olowo of Owo, Ajibade Ogunoye III.
The Nigeria Governors’ Forum represented by its chairman and Governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, also protested the attack.
Fayemi, who paid a condolence visit to the Bishop of Catholic Diocese of Ondo, Jude Arogundade, disclosed that the attack was sponsored.
The Bishop, who described the attack as evil, decried the spate of insecurity in the country, saying those people at the position of authority must do everything to tackle the menace.
“I am calling on you the leaders of the country. I think we need to talk and we need to be frank with ourselves. This cannot happen without the backing of some powerful people. Those behind this, no matter how powerful they are, must be brought to book,” he said.
Shortly after, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo also paid a condolence visit to the state, as he visited the palace and the victims at the hospitals.
Osinbajo said, “I’m here on behalf of the President as well as the government to express our sincere condolence first to the church and then to the people of Owo and to the people of Ondo State.
“This is a horrible tragedy. I do not think that anyone will wish even their worst adversaries. It is also a time to reflect deeply on the questions of our relationship to each other, I think that is one of the things that have happened here. Everybody has condemned it.”
Similarly, the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu visited the town and donated N 75 million to the victims.
Reacting, the European Union expressed shock over the killings.
The union, in a statement, said, “The EU stands in solidarity with the people of Ondo state, and in particular the families who have lost their loved ones. Those responsible for the despicable act should be speedily brought to justice.”