St. Rita's Catholic Church, Kaduna after the suicide bomb attack
By John Shiklam
They were preparing for the Holy Communion, a worship routine that is considered a prized part of a church service in orthodox churches, especially the Catholic Church. It is also called the Last Supper. And communicants in the church always look forward to that session of the service when they believe they hold closer communion with their maker, as they partake “in eating of his flesh and drinking of his blood.”
But Sunday, the communion was not only disrupted, it actually turned out to be the last supper, even though taken in the morning, for 10 of the worshippers who died in the bomb blast at St. Rita Catholic Church, Malali, Kaduna.
Recounting the ordeal they went through in the church, Jacinta Oko, a parishioner, said: “It was during the communion then I heard a heavy sound; then I did not know what happened again as I fell down. We were about taking communion when the thing happened.”
Also, Markus Ishaya, a 25-year-old man said: “Everybody started running when the bomb exploded. Everybody was about to bend down for prayers before taking Holy Communion then all of a sudden, we heard a loud sound. I started running I did not even know that I was injured on my left hand.”
Similarly, Mrs. Veronica Ejero, who was wounded in the incident along with her three children, said they were in the church during the prayer of consecration when the incident happened.
“Everybody was standing up, and then a car just hit the fence of the church, and then billows of smoke followed,’ she said.
The blast abruptly ended the service. The priest, Rev. Fr. Michael Bonni, who was leading the consecration prayers and preparing the Eucharist (communion), had the chalice blown off his hands, the wine spilled, as shards of broken glasses started flying around the church auditorium.
Confusion and chaos took over, as the shrilled cry of the dying, the injured and the scared rent the air.
They all scampered to safety, not knowing which direction to run to. And when the “madness” subsided, five persons were lying dead in the pool of their blood, including the charred remains of the suicide bomber. By the night of Sunday, the death toll had risen to ten.
According to Ejero, “the fence collapsed, I saw a black car like jeep ramming into the church, and then the car exploded. It shattered the glasses on the windows, many of us were injured. It was the glass of the window that cut my arm.
“We started mass by 7am and the incident happened about 9am. Four of my children were wounded one of them is critical and he is in the children’s ward. The explosion was so heavy that the building was shaking as if it was going to collapse.”
Also narrating their ordeal at the St Gerald Hospital beds, some of the victims said there was no security presence in the church during the worship.
Policemen used to stand guard around the church. But none of them was around the church Sunday. Was it a coincidence?
“Normally on Sundays during mass, you will see two policemen sitting outside watching the movement of people, but today (yesterday) I did not see any security man. The cadets (children) who used to provide security for us during mass went on camp. So there was no security,” said a female parishioner.
The choir mistress of the church, Jemaima Joseph, could barely control her tears as she spoke. “I wanted to conduct a song then we heard boom! Everybody started running. We did not know that it was a bomb. The sounds seriously shook the church building and we thought that maybe it was earthquake. I was so scared I was just praying to God,” she said.
Also affected were Mrs. Kauna Auta’s six children, three of whom were seriously injured while the other three sustained minor injuries.
She was sobbing as she stood by Elvis, her eight-year- old son at the hospital bed.
“I came from Abuja when I heard of the incident. My six children woke up this morning and went to church. Three of them were affected and they are all in different hospitals. The six of them were affected but the other three are at home because their injuries were minor,” she said.
Speaking in an interview when he visited victims of the incident at the St. Gerald Catholic Hospital, Archbishop of the Catholic Diocese of Kaduna Matthew Man’oso Ndagoso, described the attack as the most inhuman thing any person could do to his fellow man.
“Just three days ago, the call for peace, unity and love dominated Sallah messages sent out by the nation’s leaders at various levels. And what the attack clearly shows is that the appeals and messages were rebuffed by those behind the bomb attack,” he said.
He, however, urged Christians not to resort to reprisals.
Meanwhile, the Kaduna State Governor, Mr. Patrick Yakowa, through his spokesman, Mr. Reuben Buhari, has called on residents to shun the rumour being peddled around that there was a reprisal in parts of the city.
Buhari said the various security agencies were already on ground to ensure peace in the state.