Attack on Catholic Seminary in Nigeria

by David Nussman  •  •  May 29, 2018   

Suspected Fulani militants assault priests, seminarians

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JALINGO, Nigeria ( - Two Catholic priests were wounded in an attack on a Nigerian seminary.

Two Catholic priests and several seminarians were injured by unknown assailants at Sacred Heart Minor Seminary in Jalingo, the capital city of Taraba State in Nigeria. The attackers beat the priests with rods, shooting one of them in the leg. Several automobiles at the seminary were shot at and damaged, as was other property.

The assault took place Monday morning at 1:00 a.m. local time. Fulani militants are the suspected perpetrators of the assault. Fulani herdsmen, members of a mostly Islamic ethnic group, have been blamed for several attacks in recent months against mostly Christian farming communities in Nigeria.

One of the priests who fell victim to Monday morning's violence was Fr. Cornelius Koba. He told reporters, "They struck me with their sticks, and when I fell down, one of them shot me in the leg, and they left."

"They also shot ... the windscreen of my car," Fr. Koba continued. "One of them opened fire at my window and destroyed my television set and other properties."

Father Koba said he suspects the attackers were Fulani militants because some of the Fulani had a dispute with him. He explained, "My 'offense' is that I often ask them to stop invading our school for grazing and stop cutting down our trees to feed their cows."

Bishop Charles Hammawa of the diocese of Jalingo said of the incident, "For the Fulani herdsmen to attack us in Jalingo, is an indication that our security situation in this country has become extremely bad. The primary responsibility of government is the protection of lives and property, and we will continue to call on [the] government to sit up."

They struck me with their sticks, and when I fell down, one of them shot me in the leg, and they left.

This is not the first time Fulani militants have attacked Catholics. On April 24, two Nigerian Catholic priests were killed by Fulani militants during Mass at a church in Benue State. The attackers raided the village, entered the church and attacked those present at Mass, leaving 19 dead (including the two priests).

In the aftermath of the priests' death, the bishops of Nigeria called for the resignation of the country's president, Muhammadu Buhari. They argued that President Buhari was failing to protect the lives of his nation's citizens.

The location of Benue State in Nigeria

So far this year, hundreds of Nigerians have been killed by Fulani extremists. At the May 22 funeral for the 19 dead from the Benue State attack, Benue Gov. Samuel Ortom said that 492 people had been killed in Benue State alone.

The May 22 funeral for the victims was accompanied by nationwide protests by Catholics.

Cardinal John Onaiyekan of the archdiocese of Abuja spoke to the press on the day of the protests. He said, "We must continue to work for peace with the support of the grace which comes to us every day from God."

The cardinal also exhorted, "We who are Christians need to counter the evil intentions of those who desire a nation that is soaked in blood."

We who are Christians need to counter the evil intentions of those who desire a nation that is soaked in blood.

Along with religious and ethnic differences, the Fulani militants are also motivated by a new policy against open cattle grazing, a policy which the Nigerian government passed in November 2017. The ban was intended to deter clashes between semi-nomadic Fulani herdsmen and local farmers in central Nigeria, but the policy appears to have had little impact, as Fulani attacks skyrocketed this year.

A group better known internationally for causing violence in Nigeria is the Islamic terrorist organization Boko Haram. While on the decline, Boko Haram is not eradicated. For instance, a small town in Nigeria experienced a Boko Haram attack on Sunday. An IED exploded in Konduga in Borno State, killing four and wounding seven.

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