‘Heroic’ staff save pupils as gunmen attack Catholic school at night

Hundreds of children have been kidnapped from schools across Nigeria over the past years, but fortunately the latest attack on a catholic school was foiled and nobody was killed or abducted.

The quick thinking of a headteacher helped save the lives of sleeping students after armed extremists stormed a secondary school in Nigeria’s Middle Belt during the night of Tuesday, 7 May.

According to the director of Social Communications of the diocese of Makurdi, Father Moses Iorapuu, who spoke to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) about the incident, the principal of the Father Angus Frazer Memorial High School, Father Emmanuel Ogwuche, promptly switched off all the lights in the building after hearing gunshots outside, preventing the terrorists from finding their way inside the school.

Fr. Moses Aondover IORAPUU
Fr. Moses Aondover IORAPUU

Father Iorapuu said that unidentified extremists opened fire at the co-educational Catholic school while the pupils were asleep inside the building, adding that “there were so many gunshots, and they were shooting for a very long time. We were lucky, and the Lord was kind to us that no student was hit.”

An officer of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps guarding the school in Benue State “jumped over the fence” and “the gunmen went after him, but he managed to escape” with non-fatal injuries, Father Moses Iorapuu told ACN.

The priest explained that the school is temporarily closed and the students have been evacuated as “a pre-emptive measure to ensure the safety of the children and avoid what could have been an unimaginable disaster”.

Father Iorapuu said that the pupils have been “traumatised” and “there is fear” of further atrocities, highlighting: “This attack was the first of its kind we’ve experienced. They have attacked churchgoers, farmers and villagers before, but now they have upped their game, attacking a school. We are not sure what is going to happen next.” He added that the police were very slow in responding – “by the time they came, the attackers had disappeared”.

He added: “The people are kind of getting used to these attacks. The response from the government has been rather unimpressive.”

Father Angus Frazer Memorial High School is located in Makurdi’s Phase 3 area – a district that is notorious for killings and kidnappings by suspected Fulani militants. Father Iorapuu said that Makurdi Diocese has tightened security at Church buildings and appealed to the authorities to ensure the safety of citizens. He added that he hopes that the state governor will “wake up to the reality of what we are facing”.

Father Angus Frazer Memorial High School in Makurdi.The school was attacked by armed extremists on 07.05.2024. Luckily, there are no victims.
Father Angus Frazer Memorial High School in Makurdi. The school was attacked by armed extremists on 07.05.2024. Luckily, there are no victims.

“This attack happened in the capital of Makurdi State and if there are no security arrangements to protect our schools, then we have to suspend our activities because we don’t know which school will be the next target. We are expecting that there will be a reaction and this attack on the school will finally push the government to act”, he concluded.

The attack, which ACN was informed about by local sources, took place shortly after a trip to Nigeria by representatives of the foundation. The trip included visits to some of the areas worst affected by violence in Nigeria, including Makurdi Diocese.

Extremist attacks on schools in Nigeria came to international attention with the kidnapping of 276 mostly Christian female students from the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, in Borno State by Boko Haram terrorists. More than 10 years on from the atrocity, over 90 students are still reported missing.

The most recent case of mass kidnapping of students occurred on 7 March of this year, with more than 200 students taken in Kuriga, in Kaduna State, in the central north of Nigeria.

 

By Amy Balog & Maria Lozano.

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