Thursday, 30th November 2023

Catholic Church priests recount how they survived Kafanchan seminary attack

By Saxone Akhaine, Kaduna
15 September 2023   |   3:04 am
About 11 terrorists and a parishioner lost their lives when bandits invaded the Catholic Seminary in Kafanchan Diocese, setting the building and properties ablaze.

Kaduna Police Commissioner, Musa Yusuf Garba

About 11 terrorists and a parishioner lost their lives when bandits invaded the Catholic Seminary in Kafanchan Diocese, setting the building and properties ablaze.

A seminarian, Na’aman Ngofe Stephen, who lost his life during the attack, was buried on Tuesday in front of the church at Saint Raphael Fadan Kamanton, where he was killed.

The funeral mass was held in the church beside the burnt residence of the Priest. As the choir rehearsed for the funeral Mass, the youths dug the front of the old Church building where the remains of the deceased were buried.

Giving account of the incident, Reverend Father George Barde, said contrary to the report that the deceased died in the inferno, Stephen died as a result of gunshot wounds he received from the bandits.

According to him, the bandits, who also attacked the priests in the building-Rev. Fathers, Emmanuel Okolo and Noah Monday, at the Parish of St Raphael Fadan Kamanton, opened fire on the priests, but they were both saved by God before their escape from the building.

Barde said: “The mood in the parish was mixed. There was joy for the miracle, which is the survival of the two priests, but sadness at the painful loss of Na’aman.

“The initial assumption was that he got trapped and was burnt to death, but the body was ridden with gunshot wounds, which suggested that the bandits already shot him dead in the early stages of the attack, as they forced their way into the parish.

“His hair and his body parts were intact. I saw his knapsack bag, slippers and sandals in his room, partially burnt laptop and wallet.” The priest added: “I was received by Fr Emma himself sitting under the tree, brave and unfazed. Not looking at all like the story of what happened. He showed me and other concerned parishioners round the charred remains of the house, recounting the vivid and bloody details of the attacks.”

“The beautiful Parish house and Church edifice were donated by an illustrious son of the village. The value of loss from the attack, including a young life, a car, a motorcycle, four mass boxes, and every other books, certificates and furniture; three laptops and three television sets are enormous. Overall the loss stands at about N70 million.”

Rev. Father Barde, also recounted the miracles that led to the survival of the two priests.

“Fr Emma did not hide, nor run away from the attackers. Fr Noah hid himself somewhere within the house. The seminarian was in the bathroom where he was probably shot and left to die in the pool of his blood.

“Fr Emma alone fought the 11 bandits to a standstill and caused them major casualties. They all had guns of different makes, including about seven AK-47 rifles, with which they shot at him furiously and repeatedly, but to no effect.”

“He told me he thought they shot him seven times, but Fr Noah said he heard more than 30 gun shots; none did him harm. He joked to me that if he had a shirt or a singlet inner wear on him he would have suspected that some juju was done on the shirt or singlet. He described the feeling of bullets on his bare skin as ‘ice touching him, and falling off. He did not even get to wear a shirt, except his boxers when they barged in.

“A few among the 11 member-gang did not go back as they came, they fell to the ground and did not live to tell the story. The fate they unleashed fell on them first. It was a gruesome day and God proved himself faithful,” Barde added.

He continued: “At their frustration and bewilderment, one of the bandits, probably a member of his church, said ‘In the name of Jesus, we must kill you, and you must die’. At this point, Fr Emma had enough and yelled in rebuke at the bandit: “which Jesus are you talking about, is it the same Jesus I worship?

“After some more shooting without success, the leader said in Hausa “ku zo mu tafi, wannan ba mutum ba ne” meaning (come let us go, this one is not a human being”. They left the house hurriedly in fear and trembling, carrying their fallen comrades.” Barde said the coordination and knowledge of their way around the house could not have been coincidental.

“Someone who knew Father and the house very well led them in the attack. They knew their ways around the house,” he added. On the burning of the house by the terrorists, he said: “As the bandits left the scene in total confusion and daze, the priests called out to each other in the living room to take stock of survivors. That was when Na’aman did not show up. They checked his room and did not see him. They presumed he had probably escaped. Alas he was dead!

“The bandits came back in anger, and retaliation before escaping to the bushes, to set the house ablaze, hoping they might kill the Priests or at least harm them through the means of fire since the barrel and barrage of guns and bullets had failed. The burning down of the Rectory was, therefore, an afterthought from a vindictive, bruised and defeated set of bandits, who used that to mitigate their losses.

“The priests, themselves, used the same door the bandits used to run away and escape the raging fire. Fr Noah, not convinced, wanted to go back a second time for Na’aman but he was prevented because the fire was already in full swing, and would die in it. They literally crawled out of the fire due to the heat coming from the flames.

“Most of the encounter and conversation that Fr Emma had with the bandits, 11 of them right in his bedroom all by himself and his God has been corroborated by Fr Noah, who was hiding within the house on that fateful day.

According to Rev. Father Barde, the operation lasted between 8:13p.m. and 9:30p.m.

“I saw the soldiers’ checkpoint that was about 500 meters away from the Church where the attack happened. The entire village was awake due to the jolting sounds of gunfire. How nobody came to help in any way, both soldiers and villagers, was also part of the mystery and miracle. Some, especially those near the church, confessed to having seen the bandits filing out and fleeing, but had no matching or superior weapons to attempt any efforts. God alone took the glory! But why would the soldiers on security duty nearby less than a kilometer not respond?”