“It’s a miracle I escaped”, Catholic Nun in Nigeria Says after Surviving Deadly Shooting

Sr. Esther Nkiru Ezedinachi, a member of the Handmaids of the Child Jesus serving victims of attacks in the Catholic Diocese of Ekwulobia. Credit: Denis Hurley Peace institute

Sr. Esther Nkiru Ezedinachi, a member of the Handmaids of the Child Jesus in Nigeria’s Catholic Diocese of Ekwulobia who survived a fatal shooting incident in the embattled Anambra State last month finds it difficult to believe that she escaped the February 24 episode unscathed.

Sr. Nkiru was involved in heavy shooting when assailants attacked a vehicle she was traveling in in the company of other people that were coming from a marriage ceremony.

A professor was killed and a number of other people kidnapped in the incident that the Catholic Nun says has not received any media coverage.

In a Wednesday, March 16 interview with ACI Africa, Sr. Nkiru who provides psychosocial support to victims of militant attacks in the embattled Nigerian State described her February 24 experience as traumatic and said that she was lucky to have escaped alive.

“February 24 is the day I will never forget; a traumatic day,” the member of the Handmaids of the Child Jesus said.


She narrated to ACI Africa the events ahead of the shooting and said that her group had received prior warning that “some men” were on their way to attack them.

“It was at about 7:30 p.m.; we were coming back from a marriage event. Those ahead of us phoned and informed us that these men were operating at Ufuma - Ajali axis (of Ekwulobia-Ufuma road in Anambra State). After waiting for some time, we decided to take the Oko route. Unknown to us, they overtook us with their robbed vehicles of which one of them was a Toyota Hilux,” Sr. Nkiru recalled. 

The Catholic Nun narrated that before her group realized what was happening, the assailants had blocked the road and started shooting. She said, “People were confusedly running to save their lives.”

“We ran into the bush; some were kidnapped, including two persons in our vehicle who unknowingly ran towards them. A professor was shot dead instantly,” she said.

The Catholic Nun says that the shooting went on for about 30 minutes after which they came out of their hiding places in the bushes, only to find their car damaged with numerous bullet shots.

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“My handbag, money, documents, and phone were taken,” she said, and added, “It was a miracle I escaped with two other persons in our vehicle… I thank God, I thank God, I thank God and I pray for the professor and his family.”

“With the help of a well-wisher, a bank officer was contacted very late that night to block our bank account, otherwise, it would have been a story that no one would know from where to begin. The event of that day and its effects cannot be fully described,” Sr. Nkiru told ACI Africa March 16.

The Catholic Nun has been working with others to deliver meals to hundreds of children hiding in bushes and on streets near the Diocesan premises, unable to find accommodation in the IDP centers that have been said to be full.

She said that with the rampant insecurity in Nigeria including the Boko Haram terrorizing the North and Fulani herdsmen and other militant groups harassing civilians in Central and Southern parts of Nigeria, not much attention is given to the Sisters’ Apostolate.

“There are many things happening in Nigeria these days that this type of apostolate is of no interest to usual media houses, except social media. Even the more than 30 minutes of heavy gunfire and killing of a Professor on February 24 was not carried by any newspaper or broadcast by Radio,” she bemoaned. 


Still, Sr. Nkiru finds her work gratifying, and “the least she can do” to alleviate suffering in Anambra, she told Denis Hurley peace Institute (DHPI), an entity of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) that is monitoring the evolution of conflict in Nigerian States.

“I am very happy with the apostolate. I thank God for the opportunity given to me to feed these street men and women and we enjoy doing it and we see it as practical Christianity,” Sr. Nkiru says in the report that DHPI shared with ACI Africa.

She adds, “It was an inspiration from God. It all started in October 2020. I used my little monthly allowance to start it. It is exciting and today we feed from 20 to 30 people every Sunday with a variety of food items and drinks, especially water.”

“I am at the heart of the people and I am also a human rights activist, because I don’t like injustice,” the Catholic Nun said in a past report, and added, “We need to stand up and be direct, direct, people who were not before me, we must fight for justice, because we have them, when such souls are in the mist.”

The Catholic Nun who describes herself as a human rights activist said that Anambra State “has been a safe haven for everybody.”

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In the March 16 interview, she told ACI Africa that insecurity in the Nigerian State was first brought about by the politicians who she said created fear “to scare people and make away with ballot boxes.”

According to the member of the Handmaids of the Child Jesus, what followed next was drug abuse and kidnapping.

Additionally, unemployed youths became good tools for politicians to do their dirty business, Sr. Nkiru told ACI Africa, and explained, “It first started in Imo state. Anambra State recently has also become a fearful area. Nobody feels safe.”

She said that the situation is made complex by angry youths who are agitating against marginalization of the Igbo (a Nigerian tribe), and various other kinds of injustices in the country.

Others are aggrieved by the detention of Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), a separatist organization in the West African nation.  

Sr. Nkiru said that local people and Christians in the embattled Nigerian States are all living in fear. She explained, “With other economic hardships, and corruption, this can be said to be the worst time in the history of this country and our area.”

“As religious, there is not much we are doing except counseling. Political leaders are not doing or even talking about daily killings taking place in different parts of Nigeria; instead, their major concern is the 2023 election,” she said, and added, “As it is now, everyone sleeps with one eye open. And many are afraid of what may happen tomorrow.”

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.