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

Pupils at the school where the attack took place (© Father Angus Frazer Memorial High School)
Pupils at the school where the attack took place (© Father Angus Frazer Memorial High School)

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 on Tuesday (7th May) night.

Father Emmanuel Ogwuche, principal at Father Angus Frazer Memorial High School in Makurdi, promptly switched off all the lights in the building after hearing gunshots outside, preventing the terrorists from finding their way inside the school.

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, Director of Social Communications at Makurdi Diocese told Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

Father Iorapuu said that unidentified extremists opened fire at the co-educational Catholic school while the pupils were asleep inside the building.

He added: “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.”

Father Iorapuu 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”.

He added: “The people are kind of getting used to these attacks.

“The response from the government has been rather unimpressive.”

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”.

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”.

He concluded: “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.”

Makurdi clergy reached out to inform ACN about the attack after leaders from the charity visited Nigeria a few weeks ago, a programme that included 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.

More than 10 years on from the atrocity, more than 90 students are still reported missing.