Owo massacre: Church confirms 38 deaths, plans mass burial for unidentified corpses
Authorities of the Diocese of Ondo on Tuesday said 38 persons have so far been confirmed dead in the Sunday terrorists’ attack on St. Francis Catholic Church, Owo, Ondo State.
The Diocesan Bishop, Jude Arogundade, disclosed this in an interview with The PUNCH.
Gunmen had on Sunday attacked the church located on Owa-Luwa Street in Owo, the hometown of the State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, leaving many parishioners dead and several others injured.
But Arogundade said the diocese had been able to account for 38 victims.
He, however, said some families picked up corpses of their loved ones and those could not be accounted for by the diocese.
He said, “People have been asking me about the figure of those who died. The figure that we can account for presently is 38.
“But we know that many people were taken to private hospitals. Even some people came to take the bodies of their loved ones. We are trying to trace those people so that we can have a recount for all.
“But in the catholic hospital, which is St. Louis Hospital in Owo, and the Federal Medical Centre in Owo, we have 38 bodies.”
Meanwhile, a source in the church told The PUNCH that the diocese may consider mass burial for the victims of the massacre as some bodies had not been identified and claimed by their relatives since the incident happened.
The source, however, said a final decision has not been reached on the date and other burial arrangements.
He said, “There are plans to give mass burial to those who lost their lives in the Sunday attack. The decision was taken due to the nature of their deaths. So we have to bury them instead for them to just be in the morgue for a long time.
“Those that will be given mass burial are those whose bodies could not be identified by anyone. Definitely, when the necessary arrangements have been concluded, the church will notify the public on when the mass burial will be done.”
Meanwhile, Akeredolu said no fewer than 22 people were killed in the attack.
He said the attack affected 80 people out of which 22 lost their lives, while 56 survivors are on admission at the Federal Medical Centre, Owo, St Louis Hospital, Owo and the Owo General Hospital as well as some other private hospitals.
Akeredolu stated this on Tuesday during a statewide broadcast to the people of the state.
He said, “The total number of people involved was 80. As at now, 56 are on admission, two discharged, while the death toll is 22. Efforts have been deepened to prevent further casualties.
“The site, that is, St. Francis Catholic Church, Owaluwa, Owo presents a gory war-like scene. The Federal Medical Centre, Owo, the St. Louis Hospital, Owo, the General Hospital, Owo as well as some private hospitals in Owo were filled with the injured, most of who were in critical conditions.
“The most unfortunate part is the lives of innocent children cut down in their prime and some severely injured by the mindless attackers. At Owo, the anger was palpable. The tension was at an abrasive level just as the urge for reprisals was high. Without doubt too, the ripple impact of this heinous act as well as the understandably angry reaction across the state could not have been different.
“I urge our people to be calm but remain vigilant. Do not take the law into your own hands. Leave the rest for government to shoulder.”Meanwhile the World Health Organisation said it would support the state government with emergency trauma materials to help it recover from the terror attack.
The WHO Country Representative and Head of Mission, Nigeria, Dr. Walter Mulombo, stated this when he led his team to visit Akeredolu.
“The World Health Organisation is committed to support your state to respond to all hazard and emergencies, including following up of such unfortunate incident,” he said.
UN seeks arrest of perpetrators
Meanwhile, the United Nations Secretary- General, Antonio Guterres, has condemned the attack.
He called on the authorities to spare no effort in bringing the perpetrators to justice.
According to a statement by the spokesperson for the Secretary-General, Stéphane Dujarric, on Tuesday, Guterres emphasised that attacks on places of worship are abhorrent.
The statement read, “The Secretary-General condemns in the strongest terms the heinous attack on the St. Francis Catholic Church in Owo, Ondo State, on June 5 that resulted in the death and injuries to scores of civilians as people gathered for the Pentecost service.
“The Secretary-General emphasises that attacks on places of worship are abhorrent. He urges the Nigerian authorities to spare no effort in bringing the perpetrators to justice.”
C & S Church condemns killings
Also, the Cherubim and Seraphim Unification Church of Nigeria has condemned the attack.
A statement made available to The PUNCH on Tuesday quoted the church’s Supreme Head, Dr. Solomon Alao, as regretting that persecution of Christians, which has been going on in the Northern part of the country, has been extended to the South.
Alao, therefore, called on the Federal Government to move fast to prevent religious war in the country.
He argued that the attack was predetermined to scare Christians away from churches and decimate Christian faithful in Nigeria.
He said, “We hope this case will not be treated like several killings that had taken place in Benue State and other Christian-dominated settlements in the North.
“We shall continue to hold the Federal Government responsible until they arrest and charge the criminals to court.
“We had said it severally that the so-called bandits and Boko Haram are being treated with kid gloves and this is the time to be decisive in dealing with them if the government still wants this country to remain one.”
A coalition of over 500 women organisations under the aegis of Womanifesto on Tuesday tabled a five-point demand for the government to swing into action and address the menace of killings in Nigeria
The women, who were reacting to the Owo attack, gave the government till July 5, 2022 to do something about the demands.
The Convener of Womanifesto and Executive Director of Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre, Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, raised the issues in a statement on behalf of the 500 groups titled, “Womanifesto condemns the killing, gives Nigerian government four weeks ultimatum to address the incessant killings.”