A survivor of Owo catholic church attack. Photo: Olufisoye Adenitan/Radio Nigeria
In June 5, 2022, the biggest Catholic Church in Owo, Ondo State, St. Francis Church came under attack as it rounded off its Sunday mass.
Sounds of heavy gun shooting and bombing rented the air and by the time it all ended, 100 worshippers including over forty dead persons became victims of the brutal attack.
According to media reports, nearly 80 percent of the victims were women and children.
Ordeals of the survivors
Though the church reopened 10 months after the attack, this was not without fear and a sense of insecurity in the minds of the women survivors.
One of them, Mrs Olayinka Adeseluka who lives at Idashen Owo, about 48 minutes drive away from the church had been bedridden due to a spinal cord injury from the attack.
The 48-year-old mother of three boys had her two legs completely paralysed and now lives on diapers.
A medical report issued by the Federal Medical Centre Owo says pellets of bullets still hide in parts of her body.
When asked about how she has been coping, Mrs Adeseluka, who was a school bursar and businesswoman before the incident said the incident made ”her a liability to the family”.
She showed copies of letters written to the Catholic Diocese of Ondo and the government on her health and the need to seek a medical trip abroad but this had not received any positive response.
“I am the secretary of the Catholic Women Organisation, life has been very difficult for the past one year, I go through pains on daily basis ” Mrs Adeseluka stated. “
A Nurse, Mrs Margaret Attah has a different story, the 44-year-old mother of three children had her legs amputated and her left eye ruptured.
Sharing his experience, the distraught husband, Mr Dominic Attah said he was helpless and had resorted to fate.
He said the situation had been overwhelming for him as he practically now do everything including house chores, cooking and preparing the children for school.
“I have accepted my faith and moved on with the challenges it has posed on my wife” Mr Attah said.
For Mrs Blessing John, a groundnut seller who was pregnant at the time of the attack, the incident left her with severe injuries limiting her from engaging in hard labour or getting closer to fire. Also, one of her ears was damaged.
” I cannot engage in hard labour again. My back, Ankles and head ache anytime I try to work, ” Mrs John blessing said.
Five other women who spoke with Radio Nigeria about their plights disclosed that they sustained various degrees of injuries because they ran back to the church to search for their children after they had initially escaped immediately after the attack happened. “I can’t hear again ” Mrs okoye said.”
The Church, Government
Speaking on the state of his worshippers, the Priest of Saint Francis church, Reverend Father Michael Abugan in a sober mood admonished the survivors to accept the reality of their conditions as the will of God and have faith for their healing.
According to him “Nobody can question God when situations like this happen.”
One of the medical Doctors who provided emergency medical support to victims, Reverend Sister Titi Abe said the people in the church during the attack suffered psychological trauma and needed constant therapy to overcome the experience.
In an interview, the Ondo State Commissioner for Health, Dr Ademola Ajaka said the victims were provided with funds and relief materials as well as regular checkup on the 7th of September, three months after the attack.
Unfortunately, there was no special consideration for women, not minding the higher casualties suffered by them.
A gender rights activist, Dr Abiola Afolabi-Akiyode however asked government and charity organizations to always ensure that in cases of crisis, disaster and conflicts, women should be given special attention considering that many women are breadwinners in their homes, and they face more difficulties as in the case of Owo attack.
Reporting by Olufisoye Adenitan; Editing by Chinasa Ossai and Annabel Nwachukwu