Nigeria Owo Church Massacre: Who Are the Victims?


A composite photo of 6 of the victims

Worshipers at St Francis Catholic Church in Owo, southwestern Nigeria, were celebrating Pentecost earlier this month when a group of gunmen hiding among the congregation opened fire, killing 40 people, including four children.

A mass burial is held in Owo for some of those killed, including many breadwinners.

Here are some of those who died on June 5:

Chukwudiorinya Onuoha, 60 and Deborah Onuoha, 54

Chukwudiorinya Onuoha and Deborah Onuoha

Chukwudiorinya Onuoha and Deborah Onuoha

Mr and Mrs Onuoha were sitting next to each other in the church when the attack happened.

Neighbors and friends remember Ms. Onuoha, a petty trader, as always ready to help.

Her husband was a gardener at a university.

“My mother was amazing, always ready to help those less fortunate and was not biased,” said their son Chinedu Onuoha.

He said he had lost a mentor in his father.

All three were in church when the attack happened, but Chinedu was sitting in a different section from his parents.

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He believes his mum would still be alive if it hadn’t been for ‘fake news’ that the nearest hospital was not seeing patients, meaning she hadn’t been treated at time.

Umunna Okafor, 37 years old

Mr. Okafor and his son died from gunshot wounds sustained in the attack.

He used himself as a shield to try to protect his son but the powerful bullets tore him apart.

Responders found their lifeless bodies, with him still lying on top of his son, following the attack.

Mr Okafor owned a shop in Owo that sold electronics and had been diagnosed with malaria a day before his death, his brother Cletus Okafor said.

“The day before, I went by his shop to see how he was doing.

“I wanted to drop him off at his place but he told me it wasn’t necessary,” Clectus told the UKTN.

If he had known this would be the last time he would see his brother, he would have stayed with him, he said.

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“I would have dropped him off at his house.”

Caroline Agboola, 68 years old

Mrs. Agboola, a widow, was selling akara (fried bean dumplings) next to the church of which she was also a member.

Described by many as a good listener, she was loved by members of the community.

Before her death, she had invited her son Tope Ibijowo for a meal of rice.

“I would have liked to honor the invitation. It would have been our last meal together,” he said.

Veginus Nwani and Chidiogo Nwani, 11 years old

Veginus Nwani and Chidiogo Nwani

Veginus Nwani and Chidiogo Nwani

Mr. Veginus Nwani was with his children at the church during the attack.

Her son escaped unscathed but her daughter Chidiogo Nwani was killed.

The 11-year-old was one of four children who died that day.

After the shooting, the son transported his sister’s body to the nearest hospital, where she was pronounced dead upon arrival.

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Brigitte Ozurumba

Ms Bridget was with her family at the church when the attack happened.

Her son is among the injured and is currently being treated in one of the nearby hospitals, along with more than 60 other people.

The Nigerian government suspects the Islamic State West Africa Province (Iswap) carried out the attack, but this has been disputed by local authorities, including the Governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu.

Iswap, which normally operates in northern Nigeria, did not claim responsibility for the attack, nor did any other group.

A grieving community is struggling to come to terms with what happened, and in the absence of arrests, questions remain about whether the perpetrators will ever be brought to justice.

As the church is still closed, the funeral will take place at a nearby hotel, with tight security.

After the service, Father Abayomi, pastor of St Francis Catholic Church, said the families would collect the bodies and finally bury them.

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