Tears, anguish as Ondo buries 22 victims of Owo church massacre

The victims of the June 5, 2022 terrorists attack on St. Francis Catholic Church, Owo, Ondo State were, on Friday, buried in Emure community amid tears by family members and friends.

No fewer than 40 worshippers, including four children, were reportedly killed on the church premises after Sunday service by the rampaging gunmen.

They were said to have operated unchallenged by security agents for about 30 minutes.

Speaking at the funeral mass held at the Mydas Resort and Hotel, Owo, on Friday, the Ondo State Governor, Mr Rotimi Akeredolu, regretted that government failed in its duty to protect the lives of the victims, because the attackers had backers.

The governor, who said he lacked the words to describe the massacre, vowed that evil would not prevail over the state.

“We have failed to defend these people. Not because we have not tried, but because these forces on the other side are evil and they have supports. They will not triumph over us forever.

“When I see the sea of heads here it speaks volumes. What has happened to us in Owo, in Ondo State is indescribable. A lot of words are used to qualify it – dastardly, horrendous – but I still believe there are words to use to describe it but I’m still short of those words.

“We have just 22 (deceased) in this hall. A few of them have been buried because the relatives couldn’t wait till today. But as at the last count, these animals came to the church and murdered 40 people,” Akeredolu said.

The Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Ondo, Jude Arogundade, expressed bitterness over the attack, saying the incident underscored the need for state police.

“Why do the people of this country need to beg for state police, despite the endless attacks and killings?” he queried.

The cleric commended the governor for designating a memorial park in honour of the victims, stressing that the killers had blood on their hands.

The Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Matthew Kukah, who was also at the funeral mass, called on Christians in the country to remain strong in the face growing attacks.

He said, “We remain hopeful about the future of our country which is in the hands of God.

“Where we are now is not Nigeria; we don’t recognise our country any longer but again we have nowhere to turn to except to look up to God. We are prayerfully hoping on the power of God more than any person can talk about. We call on our people to remain strong.”

Some of the relatives of the victims blamed the government for not taking the security of lives and properties of the people seriously.

Mr Nwani Christopher, who lost his brother and a niece to the incident, described it as a serious blow to the family.

He said, “I lost somebody who is very dear to me, a senior brother with his daughter, a promising child that we were hoping would grow to be a person the family will depend on. It was a tragic event on that June 5 that somebody went to church and never came back.

“What I want to use this opportunity to say is, let the government decide if this country can still accommodate all of us because despite their sermon of  unity in diversity, I’ve not seen that one Nigeria. Why are all these things happening? It seems the people at the top are intentionally keeping silent. Are they benefiting from all these?”

Another mourner, Mrs Helen Ifeanyi, who said she lost a brother-in-law, appealed for more effective security.

She said, “Government should provide security at the state level. If there was security on that day, the damage would not be this much. They (security agents) would have stopped them (the gunmen) but on that day, they just had a field day and they went scot-free. We are seriously devastated.”

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