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Our 45-minute Bible Study Nightmare •Survivors Relate Encounter With Daredevil Gunmen
The ever-bubbling town of Okene in Kogi State was thrown into deep mourning on Monday, following gunmen attack on worshippers at a Deeper Life Bible Church located in the town. BOLA BADMUS and LANRE OGUNPITAN report the encounters of survivors of the attack.
Okene, the Kogi State capital was in turmoil on Monday evening, when gunmen stormed a Deeper Life Bible Church located in the town and fell no fewer than 16 worshippers, but latest reports indicate that the death toll has risen to 20.
According to witnesses, three men, armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles, were said to have entered the church prior to a Bible study session. One of the men was said to have switched off the generator that provided lighting in the church while the other two armed men fired into the darkness with their assault rifles. Fifteen people died during the encounter while one other died on his way to the hospital.
The incident has since thrown the entire community into deep mourning with the police and other security personnel working hard to track down those behind the act.
However, victims of the attack have been recounting their experiences.
Lawal Saliu Itopa is one of the victims. Itopa, who is currently receiving treatment at Okene General Hospital, counted himself lucky, having survived the attack.
According to him, the day’s service commenced by 6pm as usual without a premonition that something untoward was about to happen.
“At about 7:30pm, in the middle of the programme, our generator went off and before we knew what was happening, two men with guns entered the church and started firing at us; some of our members who attempted to run out of the church were trapped at the door by some of the hoodlums outside,” he said.
He added that most of the worshippers went under the benches to take cover but the gunmen still came close and were shooting at them to make sure that no one survived. Itopa could not really say how he managed to survive with gunshot on his body, but stated: “I remember seeing one of the shooters heading towards me while I lay helplessly on the ground with bullet wound on my leg and pretended as if I was dead. They were going round to confirm if we were all dead. I saw some people rushing out and falling down and I eventually blacked out.”
Also, another female victim, who is currently receiving treatment in the hospital, could not hold back her tears as she kept sobbing when approached for comments.
A survivor, who identified himself as Clement Okoro, said that he was lucky to have temporarily gone out to ease himself when he suddenly heard sporadic gunshots.
“When the gunshot subsided, a few of us ran to the church only to see the lifeless bodies of believers littering the ground with blood flowing like an abattoir. I am only lucky that my wife and children were still in the shop when I left for the church, this is a most horrendous situation,” he lamented.
Another victim, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they were in the church for the weekly bible study programme when all of a sudden they heard gunshots. He said all he could recall was that he found himself in the hospital with bullet wounds on his legs and arms.
One of the pastors, who refused to disclose his name, said he and his wife escaped by divine intervention, describing the episode as “most wicked.” He recalled that the gunmen shot the worshippers, spraying them with bullets from underneath the benches in the church so that no one could escape. He said he immediately took cover within the neighbourhood as the shooting lasted for more than 45 minutes.
Speaking on the development, the General Overseer of the Deeper Life Church in the state, Raymond Egujubi, wondered why people would murder innocent worshipers, noting that 17 worshipers died, including the pastor of the church.
Also, the Vice President, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Pastor Femi Asiwaju, condemned the attack, describing the incident as barbaric.
According to Asiwaju, who spoke in Lagos, it was unfortunate that the crisis had persisted and urged government to ensure that new strategies were put in place
to protect the lives and property of Nigerians as well as ensuring the peace of the nation.
Meanwhile, as death toll in the incident rose to 20 and the church set to bury the dead, the church’s General Superintendent, Pastor Williams Kumuyi, has described the killings as not only wicked, but utterly premeditated.
Pastor Kumuyi, who expressed this in a statement by the church’s secretary, Jerry Asemota, said it was hard to reconcile that peace-loving people sitting in a church and listening to Bible study were gunned down in cold blood by people they had done nothing to provoke. The pastor, therefore urged the government to come to terms with the fact that a large swathe of people awere being sent to their early grave , even as law enforcement agents seemed unable to provide the required protection for all law abiding citizens.
Kumuyi, who said this form of killings had been going on , particularly in the northern part of the country for too long and only attracting condemnation each time they occurred, declared that no nation could continue this way while calling for more prayers by Christians across the country.Share