•It was black Sunday in Ondo—Akeredolu •Nigeria is at war —Bishop, Ondo Diocese •We’re yet to identify killers—Police •Amotekun, hunters, vigilante groups hunt for killers
AKURE — OWO, an ancient town in Ondo State, in South- West of Nigeria, on Sunday, June 5, witnessed a horrendous massacre of innocent worshippers, including children and parents.
It was a gory sight of blood, tears and sorrow.
The ill-fated Sunday, which was ought to be celebrated as Pentecost Sunday for Catholic adherents, turned into a black Sunday as over 50 worshippers were shot at close range by rampaging terrorists, who stormed the Saint Francis Xavier Catholic Church, Owa-Luwa Street in Owo.
It was indeed a black Pentecost Day for the parishioners
Four gunmen, who had earlier disguised as worshippers and mingled with church members, suddenly brought out their weapons, AK-47 and shot innocent souls at close range at the tail end of the Sunday service.
Police sources told Vanguard that while the disguised gunmen were inside the church, other armed men, who had positioned themselves around the church premises from different directions, shot into the church.
Aside from shooting dead the worshippers, the killers threw dynamites into the auditorium which led to many members losing their limbs and other parts of their bodies.
Gory sight as dismembered body parts liter church auditorium.
It was indeed a gory sight as charred human parts of children and women littered the church and its premises.
A nurse with the General Hospital Owo, Mrs Margret Attah was also a victim as she lost both legs during the attack.
The church altar, where many of the worshippers ran to for refuge, was not spared by the gunmen as it was bombed and smeared with the blood of the casualties.
The church altar and parts of the building caved in as a result of the impact of the dynamite ignited by the gunmen. A part of the POP of the church altar was destroyed due to the impact of the explosives.
When Vanguard visited the Church, dismembered body parts littered the church and the premises.
The calculated attack, which took place in the home town of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State, left no fewer than 50 worshippers dead and several others injured.
Incidentally, the church that was attacked and bombed is situated less than 200 metres away from the palace of the Olowo of Owo, Oba Ajibade Ogunoye.
The ugly incident, which occurred at about 11:15 am, punctuated the peace of the ancient town and invariably violated the sanctity of the place of worship.
The assailants, who had arrived at the church in a Volkswagen Golf car, abandoned it and fled the scene using a Nissan Sunny car, AKR 895 AG, which was snatched from the owner, and escaped through Owo/Ute road.
The ancient town wore a mournful look when Vanguard visited after the attack last Sunday.
Irate youths chase away security
For 30 minutes that the killers operated, Vanguard gathered that there was no response from any of the security operatives in the town.
Reports had it that when security operatives arrived after the departure of the killers, the mourning crowd chased them away from the church premises.
It was revealed that when sympathisers sent distress calls to the Owo Divisional Police Station, they complained of a lack of operational vehicles.
After much pleading by the Priests in the church, the sympathisers later allowed the police to convey the dead bodies to three different mortuaries in the town.
The mortuaries include that of the Federal Medical Centre, Owo; St Louis Hospital and one private hospital in the town.
Akeredolu begs youths against reprisal attack
Expressing shock, Governor Akeredolu, who cut short his official visit to Abuja ahead of the All Progressives Congress national convention, vowed to hunt down the killers and make them pay for the heinous crime.
He said: “We trust that the Almighty God shall avenge and by His grace, we shall spare nothing in bringing the perpetrators of this dastardly act to justice.
“The vile and satanic attack is a calculated assault on the peace-loving people of Owo kingdom who have enjoyed relative peace over the years.
”It is a black Sunday in Owo. Our hearts are heavy. Our peace and tranquillity have been attacked by the enemies of the people. This is a personal loss, an attack on our dear state.
“We shall commit every available resource to hunt down these assailants and make them pay. We shall never bow to the machinations of heartless elements in our resolves to rid our state of criminals.”
He, however, pleaded with youths in the town not to take laws into their hands by embarking on revenge.
Nigeria is at war—Bishop, Ondo Diocese
Speaking with Vanguard, the Bishop of Ondo Diocese, Jude Arogundade described the killings as total madness.
Arogundade said: “Nigeria is at war. This is madness, all over the world, there is nowhere people will plan to come and kill babies, children, husband and wife worshipping on the special day, the Pentecost day.
“It’s quite unbelievable that somebody will come and the intention is to kill everybody in that church. Those who were running out were being shot from outside, and those who were inside were being shot inside.
“They threw dynamites to blow off the altar down to the sanctuary. This kind of desecration can only be done by the evil ones.”
Killers must be arrested, face justice—Olowo
Frowning at the barbaric attack, the Olowo of Owo, Oba Ajibade Ogunoye has asked the government and appropriate security agencies to ensure that the “heartless persons or group are apprehended to face justice. He appealed for peace and advised the people of the town to shun any action that may snowball into taking laws into their hands.
We’re yet to identify the gunmen—Police
Meanwhile, the Ondo Police Command said though it has commenced investigations, the attack was carried out by yet-to-be-identified gunmen at about 11.30 am on Sunday, 5th June 2022.
In a statement, the Police said: “We 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, three unexploded IEDs were recovered at the scene of the incident.