Survivors of Sunday’s killings at St. Philip’s Catholic Church, Ozubulu in Ekwusigo Local Government Area of Anambra State yesterday narrated their ordeal. Those of them who spoke with New Telegraph said their survival was divine.
This came as the Federal Government yesterday vowed that those behind the massacre would soon be smoked out and punished. Also the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) said it had commenced investigations into the allegations that the perpetrators were waging a drug war.
One of the survivors, Samuel Ndulue, who was lying on the hospital bed heavily bandaged after undergoing an operation on his two legs, said that he was sitting on the third row when the shooting started.
He said: “We were in the church as usual and as we were about saying the prayer of the faithful, the Parish Priest, Rev Father Jude Onwuaso, asked us to stand up. Immediately we stood up, the gunman started spraying bullets on the people. “I lay down under the pew and as the gunman momentarily stopped firing, most people felt he had gone out and they scampering into safety, he opened fire again.
“I got up to run away only for the bullets to hit me in my two legs, shattering them. I became unconscious.
It was when I woke up that I discovered that I was in the hospital. I thank God I am alive.” Another victim, Miss Chinasa Chukwueloka, said: “It was a miracle that I am still alive. I followed other people to run when the shooting started but I fell in the middle of the church and that was when the bullets hit me.” A 14-year-old girl, who gave her name simply as Chidimma, said she could not explain what happened to her.
According to her, she only found herself in the hospital yesterday morning. Another victim, who did not want his name mentioned, said the man beside him in the hospital just died yesterday morning “but I didn’t know he was among us”.
A man, who lost his uncle, brother’s wife and a baby to the shooting, Mr. Joel Obunadike, said the gunman shot them from behind. He said that though they did not die on the spot, they gave up the ghosts later at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital (NAUTH), Nnewi.
Obunadike regretted that his brother, whose wife and child were killed, was yet to return from a trip and did not yet know what happened.
He said: “We were in the middle of the mass when a black car drove to the church gate and parked. Afterwards, the car moved away but turned back before parking on the same spot.
“A young man came into the church through the back door and started shooting indiscriminately while backing the altar. Many people tried to escape through the two remaining doors but to our surprise, the gunman opened fire in those directions.
“I did not rush out like others immediately and it was majorly those people that tried to escape through the two doors that were either killed or wounded.” One person reportedly died yesterday morning at the Accident and Emergency Ward of NAUTH.
Although the hospital management denied loss of any victim since they were brought to the hospital, eight of the 20 victims in the hospital were in critical condition while the rest were responding to treatment.
When contacted, the NAUTH Chief Medical Director, Prof Anthony Igwegbe, said none of the victim had died. He said: “I am tired of speaking to the press, I’ve spoken to so many of them this morning, you can take him to the ward to see them and speak with them if he wants to.” The CMD’S briefing coincided with the visit of the former Governor of Anambra State, Mrs. Virgie Etiaba, who said she was there to sympathise with the victims and thank God for saving them alive.
At the ward, a medical official said some of the victims had been moved to the theatre for operation because most of them were still carrying the bullets in their bodies. Meanwhile, relations and sympathisers have continued to throng the Accident and Emergency Ward under strict security surveillance.
Ozubulu has also turned to a Mecca of sort as people from all parts of the country, especially neighbouring communities gathered to get a first-hand glance of the holy place desecrated with bloodletting. Though the land is still laden with grief of the unfortunate mishap, there were feelers that it might not be the last as the drug war, which has allegedly lasted for three years, has not ended.
Speaking with New Telegraph on the phone, a South Africa-based Nigerian, who pleaded anonymity, said the war would have been settled if Chief Alloysius Ikegwuonu popularly known as Bishop in South Africa had followed the agreement on the deal to the letter.
He said: “Bishop is good at taking it all, not minding who would be hurt in the process. But I think this time, he got hooked. You cannot take what belongs to you and other people to enrich yourself and expect to go free. No. With time your sins will catch up with you. “I feel bad that his father was caught in midst of the masquerade dance. Honesty is required in every business if not the person will not end well.
There are guys in South Africa that are doing business without having issues with anybody.” The Chairman of Ekwusigo Local Government Area, Mr. Ikenna Ofodeme, dismissed the insinuation that it was a quarrel between two Ozubulu indigenes. The chairman said that he was compiling details of the casualties.
He said: ‘It is possible that God wanted to use the incident to expose some bad people in the community. I pray this would be the last we will hear of such thing again.” However, the state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Garba Umar, said that some arrests had already been made though he didn’t disclose the number of people arrested. He said that the number was being kept away from the public in order not to jeopardise the ongoing investigation.