Blessing Kogi was shot twice but survived. (World Watch Monitor)

When 23-year-old student Blessing Kogi returned home on Thursday 27 September, she was full of joy, expecting to spend a restful evening with her family in their quiet, residential neighbourhood of Rukuba Road, in the south-western outskirts of Jos, the capital of Nigeria’s Plateau state.

Twelve members of her family were gathered together that evening, including her grandmother, mother, three siblings, sister-in-law, nephew and three cousins. Her father was still at work. It was a joyful atmosphere.

But just after 7pm, as the family were having diner, armed men stormed the area and started shooting randomly. The armed men entered Blessing’s family compound, killing ten members of her family.

Only Blessing and one of her cousins survived the attack, but they too sustained injuries.

Speaking to World Watch Monitor, Blessing recalled the dramatic moment she saw most of her family wiped out by armed men:

“All of us were in our grandmother’s room. We were eating when they suddenly came in and opened fire.

“So, I fell on the floor and played dead, but one of them still came to where I was lying down and shot me twice – on my neck and shoulder.

“When they went out, I noticed I was able to move, so I got up and went inside the bedroom and I hid under the bed.

“They noticed two of my cousins were still alive; they shot one of them in three places, but she survived. One of them raped my other cousin and shot her afterwards.”

“Two of my cousins also managed to hide under the bed. But unfortunately, the gunmen still came back the second time to check if some people were still alive.

“They noticed two of my cousins were still alive; they shot one of them in three places, but she survived. One of them raped my other cousin and shot her afterwards.”

The assailants also collected all valuables, including mobile phones, before leaving the property.

Blessing was hiding for more than an hour, under the bed, bleeding.

“When I heard the voices of some neighbours I then came out and was then taken to the hospital,” she recalled.

“The assailants continued their killing spree in my neighbourhood. In total, 15 people were killed in my area: 10 in my house, three in another and two elsewhere. They also injured five people, including three children, in another house, and the two of us.”

The 10 members of Blessing’s family who were killed were:

  1. Grandmother – Kende Audu
  2. Mother – Talatu Kogi
  3. Sister – Cynthia Kogi
  4. Brother – Jonathan Kogi
  5. Brother – Ishaya Kogi
  6. Sister in-law – Blessing Lucky Kogi
  7. Nephew – Majesty Lucky Kogi
  8. Cousin – Ruth Samuel
  9. Cousin – Dorcas Sunday
  10. Cousin – Ezimi

Blessing gave some details about the assailants. She said some were wearing army uniforms, while others were dressed in black.

“The people wearing black clothes spoke Hausa and Fulani, while the others wearing army uniforms spoke correct English,” she said.

As they were about to leave, she said the gunmen with army uniforms had said: “We have finished our work; they should come and pay us our money.”

‘He cannot talk, cannot eat, I don’t know what to do’

Blessing said that her father has been broken by the loss of his wife and other family members.

“He just need prayers, because since the attack he is just confused, he cannot talk, cannot eat, I don’t know what to do,” she said.

Blessing is recovering from her injuries, but she said she is still traumatised and believed the assailants were on a mission to kill but couldn’t understand why her family had been targeted.

She said no police or army personnel came to rescue them, though her neighbourhood is just along the road from the Rukuba Military Barracks.

She said the attack had also reminded her that two days earlier, on 25 September, she had noticed the presence of some strangers in the neighbourhood – Fulanis who said they were looking for their missing son. After searching for some hours, they left the area, claiming they had seen the corpse of their missing son.

“He just need prayers, because since the attack he is just confused, he cannot talk, cannot eat, I don’t know what to do.”

“But no-one in the area had heard about it [the boy’s death] and they didn’t inform the local community leader,” Blessing recalled.

The attack in Rukuba Road provoked violent protests the following day, Friday 28 September, across the city, over the perceived inaction by security forces, who they say did not show up during the four hours the attackers unleashed mayhem in the area.

A human rights activist, Dashe Joshua, quoted by the Nation Online magazine, denounced the inability of security forces to prevent the killings.

“How can gunmen penetrate the city and perpetrate such crime?” he said. “When this type of killings happened in the remote villages, the security agencies would tell you they can’t be everywhere in the villages, but now this is happening in the state capital.”

According to local sources, dozens of people lost their lives between 27-30 September in various acts of violence across the city. A number of properties were also looted or destroyed.

“Many lives have been lost,” said Rev. Dr. Soja Bewarang, the chairman of the Plateau state chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria. “Also, properties, including church buildings, have been destroyed. Many people have been displaced. People are living in fear, not knowing when death and destruction will visit their community.”

In response to the attack and subsequent unrest, the Plateau state government imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew in the local government areas of Jos North and Jos South.