Sylvanus Viashima, Jalingo
Barely a week after priests and parishioners killed by armed Fulani herdsmen were buried in the Catholic Diocese of Makurdi, Rev Fr Cornelius Koba narrowly escaped death on Sunday night with gun shot injuries as armed herdsmen attacked the Sacred Heart Minor Seminary, Jalingo.
State Police Public Relations Officer ASP David Misal confirmed the attack in a phone interview with Daily Sun.
Speaking on the attack, the Catholic Bishop of Jalingo Diocese, Most Rev. Dr. Charles Hammawa, described the attack on the Seminary and the targeting of priests as regrettable, urging government to be more serious in handling security issues in the country.
“It is regrettable that as a church we are only modeling the children to be good citizens of the country, but we are now coming under unprovoked attacks,” he said.
“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.
“The primary responsibility of government is the protection of lives and property and we will continue to call on government to sit up,” he said.
The bishop explained that all the students that ran into the bush for safety during the attack which happened around 1 a.m. Monday have all returned.
He noted that the school has been closed temporarily for a week to enable the children go home and overcome the trauma before they return for studies.
Narrating his ordeal, Rev Fr. Koba, who was shot in the leg during the attack, told journalists that the attackers stormed the Seminary 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 1 a.m. and got a student whom they ordered to take them to my room. I came out and met them all armed numbering over five. As soon I came out one of them said ‘see him, kill him’, but one of them objected.
“They struck me with their sticks and and when I fell down, one of them shot me in the leg and they left,” he said.
Taraba State has a bill in place prohibiting open grazing, but so far grazers still move about with their cows grazing openly on farms and private property with impunity, with most people afraid of confronting them for fear of attacks.
This latest attack, happening just opposite the airport, on the outskirts of the state capital, further emphasizes the degree of security threat posed by rampaging herdsmen in the state and the country at large.