May 21, 2018 Last Updated 8:03 AM, May 21, 2018
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Nigerian 'Migrant Hero' Baptised By Pope After Foiling Robbery

John Ogah was baptised by the Pope during an Easter service John Ogah was baptised by the Pope during an Easter service Image sourced at bbc.com
Published in International News
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Six months ago Nigerian John Ogah was alone, without a home or job, begging for small change outside an Italian supermarket in Rome.

He struggles for words to describe his situation, likening his survival to that of a dead person with nothing to lose.

"It was difficult for me, really. When I [say] difficult, difficult," the former undocumented migrant tells the BBC in a phone interview.

But fast-forward half a year and John is a legal resident in Italy and hailed a "migrant hero" for confronting an armed robber. He feels like the luckiest man on earth now that he has literally been blessed by the Pope himself.

As part of Saturday's Easter service at the Vatican, the 31-year-old bent before Pope Francis to be baptised alongside seven other adults from around the world.

Already a Catholic, but never baptised in his home state of Kaduna in northwest Nigeria, John says the experience was a "great surprise" to him and the happiest in his life.

"To be baptised by the Pope, it means a great future, a great blessing," said John, who took the baptismal name of Francesco in honour of the Pope.

"I was nobody before, but now I become somebody," he shared.

Four years ago, John left Nigeria to escape a criminal gang that wanted to recruit him, according to Italian media. After a short stay in Libya, the welder by trade made his way to Italy on a smuggler's boat.

On his arrival, he filed for asylum but in 2016 his case was rejected and he decided to stay on as an undocumented migrant.

In September last year, the 31-year-old was begging for money outside the Carrefour supermarket in Rome's Centocelle neighbourhood, much as he had done for months.

A masked thief armed with a meat cleaver tried to make off with €400 (£349) he had stolen from the supermarket's cashiers. But John, who was watching the robbery unfold, refused to stand by and let the 37-year-old Italian escape.

"I wouldn't have cared if he had killed me that day, what he did was not good." John explained to the BBC. "The bible says thou shalt not steal. Yes, thou shalt not steal."

Security cameras captured his next heroic steps - confronting the armed robber with nothing but his bare hands, wrestling the cleaver away and after the thief fell from his getaway scooter, holding him by the collar until the police arrived.

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