By Olufisoye Adenitan

Bedridden Patient Seeks Support for Foreign Medical Treatment

5th of June 2022 is a day best described as a black Sunday; one of unimaginable horror and sacrilege in a sanctuary.

The scene of the sacrilegious action was Saint Francis Xavier Church, Owo, Ondo State where gunmen invaded the church at the closing of Mass, killing scores of defenceless worshippers.

While the ruthless and gruesome attack lasted, wailing, crying, rent the atmosphere amidst individual scramble for personal safety, and shouts as those lucky to survive called out names of loved ones left behind in the thick of the offensive.

A Yoruba proverb, ‘Tina ba n joni, jo omo eni, tara eni la nKoko gbondanu’, meaning, ‘If caught in a fire incident as a parent along with your child, first pursuit is personal safety, afterward the child’s’.

By the time the shooting subsided, about one hundred worshipers had been killed or fatally wounded in the brutal attack.

Preliminary findings indicate that nearly eighty percent of the victims were women and children

In this investigation, Radio Nigeria reveals the pathetic situation of some of the female victims, who continue to nurse pains one year after the massacre, as they narrate their ordeal a year on.

I drove for almost 48 minutes from Saint Francis Xavier Church, the scene of the massacre to Mrs Olayinka residence in Owo.

Mrs Olayinka Rasheedat Adeseluka, a 48 years old mother of 3 boys, who became a catholic by marriage seventeen years ago has been bedridden for the past one year, having suffered severe spinal injury from gunshots during the attack.

Her two legs are paralyzed while she has been placed on catheter and diaper for her excretion and urination. 

During my visit to her house at Olaoluwa Idashen Street Owo, I met her on the bed guarded with pillows to provide support and comfort. On asking what life had meant after the attack, she burst into tears.

Her medical report issued by the University College Hospital, UCH, Ibadan and Federal Medical Centre Owo shows that pellets of bullets still lodged in parts of her body. 

Mrs Adeseluka struggled to narrate her ordeal with tears. 

“I am the secretary of Catholic Women Organisation, Saint Francis Xavier Church Owo. After  I was admitted at FMC Owo and referred to University College Hospital, UCH, Ibadan for operation, where I came back home bedridden” she said. 

When asked about how the incidence has affected her source of livelihood, Mrs Adeseluka, who worked as a school bursar and business woman explained that life had stood still for her and she had become a liability to the family, expressing regrets for going to Church the day of the incidence.

She showed a copy of letters written to the Catholic Diocese of Ondo on her plight to seek medical trip abroad but had not received any positive response.

“I daily see life as not worth living. The pains are too unbearable, I just want to die. I have pleaded with my family to allow me go and rest. This is too much for me”. Mrs Adeseluka lamented.

On the day of the massacre, it was like a movie until everything turned out to be a reality; I was also scrambling with other women for safety when I saw the door of the church pull down by heavy sounds. Where I was lying, two gunshot at different times penetrated my back, I thought it was the end of my journey on earth, she narrated.

Mrs Olayinka Adeseluka’s husband, a middle aged man married her 17 years ago and the marriage produced 3 boys, with the last child of about 9 years.

Mr Adeseluka Dapo lamented that his family has been shattered since the attack happened.

“After the Owo attack, my wife had been bedridden, she suffers spinal cord injury and she has lost stimulus from waist to the limbs. Our children now live with my wife’s younger sister because nobody will take care of my children. I work far away in Ido Ekiti, Ekiti State, I have written letters of assistance to the bishop and the government to fly my wife abroad, but till now, there has been no response in this matter” Mr Adeseluka said.

Life has really gone upside down for the family has they had to get a care giver  at the cost of 20,000 naira person month for Mrs Olayinka Adeseluka who can practically do nothing for herself again.

Radio Nigeria met with her in the balcony of her house where she was sitting on her wheelchair.

The 44 year old mother of 3 children has her two legs amputated and her left eye ruptured due to the impact of the dynamite threw at the side she was hiding during the attack. Her children and husband survived the attack

“I worked with Owo General Hospital before the incident, but for the past eleven months, I have been nursing the wound of the attack” Mrs Attah lamented. 

“I received compensation in batches from government while in hospital sometimes 100,000. But the last I received was 500,000, out of which I procured artificial eye for 180,000; prosthesis was also given to me.  

“I cannot deceive you, life has been very tough, I depend on my husband and children for survival” Mrs Attah lamented.”

Also speaking on how it had affected her marriage, Mr Dominic Attah, her husband, visibly angry blurted out, “What can we do than to resort to faith.”

“The experience has been draining for my family. I practically do everything in the family ,I cook ,prepare the children for school do the cleaning and it’s overwhelming for me” Mr Attah stated 

Mrs Blessing John, a middle aged woman, a groundnut seller and devoted member of the Catholic Church Owo, says “The attack has affected my back and ear, I can’t engage in hard labour again.”

She is traumatized and has severe injury that has limited her from engaging in hard labour, one of her ears is damaged with other injuries on her back 

Mrs John blessing, who also farms to earn a living, fend for the family with her petty business before the incidence.

She said she was in church heavily pregnant and with her other four children. One of her kids was sitting beside her while the others were scattered around immediately the attackers came into the Church .

“I was pregnant during the attack ,I came to church with four children and carrying pregnancy, I sustained injury alongside with my little  boy during attack but after the attack and free treatment received from saint Louis hospital Owo ,out of the sum of 500,000 given to me by government I gave my husband 200,000 for farming ” I can’t engage in hard labour again, Mrs John noted.

Glady Chinedu Odeize, on her part, says she remained traumatized, suffering ear impairment due to the volume of heavy sounds orchestrated by the dynamite during the attack.

She said that she was pregnant, but unlucky to have her baby delivered with cataract on the left eye due to the shock.

“My baby is battling cataract in the left eye from the attack.”

Glady Odeize was not compensated with any fund neither was she given free treatment until her parent came to relocate her to Akoko area of the state for proper care 

“When I gave birth to my baby, the doctor told me that the baby has cataract in that left eye due to the trauma I suffered. The baby boy was referred to UCH, Ibadan for medical treatment, no fund to take him to the hospital, I reported my case to the Reverend Father, he said there is nothing he can do “Glady Odeize said.

Mrs Okoye Anthonia, is a victim with one of her damaged.  

Mrs Okoye said she was in church on that beautiful Sunday but was lucky to have escaped to the altar side where their attackers threw dynamite and the pieces entered her ears and since then she had been battling ear impairment. She was treated free at the hospital but she was never compensated.

*What a Terrifying day*

Mrs Adejogun Titilayo, a physically challenged woman said her wheel chair got damaged and nobody compensated her, she procured another herself.

“I escaped the attack unhurt but lost my wheel chair to the gunshot while her niece escaped  to  the mission house.” 

Mrs Titilayo Adejogun had an accident in the year 2020 and has since been confided to the wheelchair, she was in the church alongside her sister’s daughter.

For Onowa Benjamin, the experience has been harrowing as she lost her parents, Mr and Mrs Deborah and Chukwudi Onuoha, in the attack.

Mr and Mrs Deborah and Chukwudi Onuoha 48 years and 52 years had 12 children.

Onowa Benjamin said the family was compensated with 500,000 after the church procured coffin for the dead. 

“We lost our breadwinner to the attack, it has been very tough on the family, I can’t quantify the loss, my siblings are still very young “Onowa Benjamin lamented.

Okefi Florence, is a 15 year old girl, whose mother died in the attack.

Her mother, Mrs Cordelia Okefi, was 56 year old, who was the breadwinner of the family, who left behind 5 children.

Okefi Florence said life had never be the same for them considering the role her mother played in fending for the family always

 In a sober mood, the priest of Saint Francis Church, Owo, Reverend Father Michael Abugan said the people involved in the attack should accept it as the will of God. 

“About 42 survivors were compensated by the church, and the fund generated from philanthropist donations during the attack was used to renovate the church and also in building a cenotaph for the dead victims”

When asked about the plight of victims who are still battling to recover their lives and wellbeing, Father Abugan said that the women should accept the reality of the condition and have faith in God for healing. 

Reaching out to clarify the prosthesis issues with the company supplier in Ibadan, High Rise International Healthcare Limited, the lead spokesperson and prosthesis trainer, Mr Femi Ajiboye said, the quotation of the prosthesis ordered for Mrs Attah by the government and World Health Organisation was the Modular Above  knee prosthesis with a silicone liner and shuttle lock system: aluminum, titanium, hydraulic/pneumatic knee system and a high profile dynamic foot, (Activity grade level 3) at the cost of 2.950,000 each.

“Professionally the prosthesis is good and suitable for her use, just that she needs more training to get use to it and proper management of it, Mr Ajiboye said.

A medical doctor, who was on ground on the day of the attack to provide emergency medical support to victims, Reverend Sister Titi Abe said that the everyone inside the church suffered psychological trauma from the attack and they needed therapy to overcome the psychological trauma experienced.

About Seventy Seven injured patients with various degrees of injuries were treated at Saint Louis Hospital Owo. women and children were the major casualty but the medical response was prompt with quality response from health workers  and medical facilities were mobilised by the state government and the World Health Organization’s Country Representative.

“Most of the women and children suffered ear impairment occasioned by the sudden blast and sporadic gunshot experienced during the attack ,Reverend Sister Abe added”

Immediately after the attack, political leaders, Philanthropists, WHO and Social crusaders condemned the attack and promised to give succour to parishioners involved in the attack.

Several Millions of Naira was donated to the government and the church, and the government promised free medical treatment as well as support to the victims of the attack .

On the 7th of September, Three months after the attack, Government donated cash and other relief materials to the victims of attack.

In an exclusive interview, the Ondo Commissioner for Health and member of Donation Committee set up by Government for the Saint Francis Church attack, Dr Ademola Awolowo Ajaka highlighted the number of victims to be 41 deaths and 91sustained varies degrees of injuries.

“It was like a pandemic for Ondo state, but the emergency response was prompt, we have supported the victims with funds and relief materials ,Regular checkup on them ,cash gift in batches and clearing of their medical bills by government”, Dr Ajaka stated.

“W.H.O supported Ondo state and the Country Director was in the state for months for an on spot assessment of the situation.

A lot of funds were received from philanthropists. We will publish every details of how the money received was spent. Government is trying to be transparent about the process and ensure no stone is left unturned.”

Considering the fact that women and children were the major casualty,  the commissioner when asked about the way in which the donation were shared, maybe women were given preferential treatment than others, Dr Ajaka said  “No, we didn’t give preference to any gender ,we just felt everyone is involved not minding different injuries suffered ,we did everything equally.”

Terror attack like that of the Saint Francis Church Owo can be related to September 21st, 2013, Nairobi Kenya Shopping Mall Centre attack in which at least 67 people were killed while the attack was perpetrated by the Islamic group Al-Shabab in response to kenya ‘s military operations in Somalia.

Similarly, months after that Owo church attack, Nigeria Chief of Defence Staff , General Lucky Irabor claimed that the attack was perpetrated by the Isamic State of West Africa Province, ISWAP. Till now no justice has been served.

According UK Counter Terrorism Policing, Boko Haram and ISWAP insurgency attacks began in 2002 in Nigeria.

Most attacks witnessed in Nigeria were conducted by Boko Haram or Islamic State West Africa (ISWAP) and occur in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States in the North East. There have also been significant attacks in other states, including in Gombe, Kano, Kaduna, Plateau, Bauchi and Taraba States.

Since May 2022, Islamic State West Africa (ISWAP) has conducted a number of attacks in Kogi, Niger, and in the Federal Capital Territory. 

Public places where crowds gather have been targeted in the past, including places of worship, markets, shopping malls, hotels, bars, restaurants, football viewing centres, displacement camps, transport terminals (including train networks), government buildings, security and educational institutions (schools, further education colleges and universities are all regular targets), and international organisations.

*Church Reopens*

9th of April 2023, ten months after the attack on the Saint Francis Xavier Church Owo was reopened with a new look, with renovation and construction of Cenotaph directly opposite  the church in honour of the dead victims .

*Church Cenotaph*

According to Ondo State Commissioner for Heath, Dr Ademola Awolowo Ajaka, government was building a memorial park in honour of those who lost their lives in the attack for future references.

*Picture of memorial park*

“We as a government will celebrate the memories of the dead through the construction of a memorial park in honour of the departed soul.

It is hoped that in cases of crisis, conflict women would be given special consideration because most of this gender were the bread winners of their homes and they faced difficulty and love with the scars forever in their lifetime.”

This Story is supported by Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism under the Report Women! Female Reporters Leadership Programme.

Editing by Simeon Ugbodovon/Princess Lawal

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