Priests injured in attack on a seminary by Fulani herdsmen
Reports in the Nigerian media said a Catholic minor seminary was attacked by largely Muslim Fulani herdsmen in Jalingo, part of Nigeria’s north-central “Middle Belt” region. The attack occurred in the early morning hours around 12:30 a.m. local time. A Nigerian priest confirmed there were no fatalities but several were injured, including two priests.
Fr Emmanuel Atsue, rector of Sacred Heart Minor Seminary in Jalingo, later used WhatsApp to circulate information about the attack, saying he was doing so with permission from Bishop Charles Hammawa of the Diocese of Jalingo.
“They shot sporadically at the rector’s residence, broke window glass in the process, (littered with live bullets were collected by police). They also shot out the windscreen of a vehicle belonging to one of the priests. They shot and injured one of the priests, Fr Cornelius Poobah, in the leg, [and] beat up Fr Stephen Bakari,” Fr Atsue said. He described the Fulani gunmen as “sophisticated,” saying residents at the minor seminary heard their conversations.
The state commissioner of police said that the Fulani had targeted Fr Pobah because he had earlier challenged their attempts to graze cattle on seminary grounds. That was confirmed by Fr Atsue: “From their conversations, we were able to understand that their grievance against us is that the security men in the seminary have been challenging their decision to graze right inside the seminary: around the classes, football field, laundry etc… They said [they would do so] even inside the church if they see grass their cows will graze.”
All the students who ran into the bush for safety during the attack have now returned. Fr Atsue said. “Two of them who were showing them the way to the father’s house suffered injuries from the sticks of the herdsmen. I had a meeting with the officials of the Parents Teachers Association, and the bishop has approved a one-week break for the seminarians to enable them to manage their trauma for a while and to show themselves and their parents that they are safe.”
Following the attack, calm has been restored “thanks to the prompt response from the Nigerian Police, Army, Civil Defense and local vigilantes,” Fr Atsue said, adding “Let us continue to pray for and work for peace in Nigeria.”
Speaking about the attack on the Seminary, the Catholic Bishop of Jalingo Diocese, Most Rev. Dr Charles Hammawa, said: “It is regrettable that as a church we are only modelling the children to be good citizens of the country, but we are now coming under unprovoked attacks.”
“We thank God no life was lost in the incident, though my priest, Rev. Fr. Cornelius Koba, was shot in the leg. This is one attack too many. Fr. Koba had only told the Fulani herdsmen to stop grazing on the school premises and they came after him in the dead of the night.
“For the Fulani herdsmen to attack us in Jalingo, it is an indication that our security situation in this country has become extremely bad.”
He urged the government to take control of security issues in Nigeria. “The primary responsibility of government is the protection of lives and property and we will continue to call on the government to sit up,” he said.
The attack on the Seminary is the latest in a long-running series of violent incidents involving mostly Muslim herdsmen and mostly Christian farmers in the Middle Belt area. The violence is often fuelled by ethnic and religious issues, as well as grazing rights and dwindling amounts of fertile land. In the last few months, an increase in a violent confrontation between armed Fulani herders and unarmed farmers has resulted in the death of over100 people.