Barely a week after the burial of priests and parishioners killed by Fulani herdsmen in the Catholic Diocese of Makurdi, Benue State, Rev. Fr. Cornelius Koba, Sunday night, narrowly escaped death with gunshot wounds, as Fulani gunmen attacked the Sacred Heart Minor Seminary, in Jalingo, the capital of Taraba State.
The Taraba State spokesman, ASP David Misal, confirmed the attack in a phone interview with our correspondent.
Catholic Bishop of Jalingo Diocese, Most Rev. (Dr.) Charles Hammawa, described the attack on the seminary and the targeting of priests as regrettable. He, therefore, urged government to be more serious in handling security issues in the country.
He 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 attack. 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 is an indication that the security situation in this country has become extremely bad. The primary responsibility of government is the protection of life and property and we will continue to call on government to sit up.”
The bishop explained that all the students that ran into the bush for safety during the attack, which happened around 1am have returned. He explained that the school has been closed temporarily for one week to enable the children go home and overcome the trauma before they would continue studies.
Narrating his ordeal, Rev. Fr. Koba told journalists that the attackers stormed the seminary in their numbers and headed to his room, where he was attacked.
“They also shot and broke the windscreen of my car. One of them opened fire at my window and destroyed my television set and other property. 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.
“They came around 1am and got a student whom they ordered to take them to my room. I came out and met them, numbering over five, all armed. As soon I came out, one of them said, ‘See him, kill him,’ but another one objected. They hit me with their sticks and when I fell down, one of them shot me in the leg and they left,” he said.
Taraba State has a bill prohibiting open grazing but, so far, herdsmen still rove about with their cattle grazing openly on farms and private property with impunity, as most people are afraid of confronting them for fear of attacks.
The latest attack, happening just opposite the airport, on the outskirts of the state capital, further emphasizes the level of security threat posed by killer herdsmen in the state and the nation at large.