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Nigeria’s Seminarians “more determined to study for priesthood” Since Murder of Colleague

Fr. Habila Daboh - Rector of Nigeria's Good Shepherd Seminary

A year after gunmen attacked the Good Shepherd Catholic Major Seminary in Nigeria’s Archdiocese of Kaduna, kidnapped four Seminarians and later killed one of them, the Rector of the formation center says Seminarians there are “more determined than ever” in their journey to Priesthood.

In an interview with ACI Africa, Fr. Habila Daboh said that memories of the night of 8 January 2020 and the subsequent murder of Seminarian Michael Nnadi are still fresh. 

“The Seminarians are more determined than ever to study for the Catholic Priesthood. They are more determined to preach peace, to preach Jesus Christ,” Fr. Daboh told ACI Africa Wednesday, March 24.

“The Seminarians are doing very well. They are very committed and no one has dropped from the seminary,” the Nigerian Cleric further said, adding that one of the Seminarians kidnapped alongside the late Michael Nnadi is in the process of overcoming his traumatic abduction experiences.

The three Seminarians who survived the abduction were transferred from the Kaduna-based Major Seminary “so that they can heal quickly,” the Rector of the Good Shepherd Catholic Major Seminary told ACI Africa March 24.

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On the night of 8 January 2020, gunmen dressed in military uniform broke into the Major Seminary located in the Northwestern part of Nigeria, and forced entry into the dormitory where 268 Seminarians were being accommodated.

After conducting an operation of about 30 minutes, the gunmen kidnapped four first year philosophy Seminarians, took away laptops and phones.  

One of the four seminarians was freed ten days later, having been dumped by the kidnappers along Nigeria’s Kaduna-Abuja highway and “helped by passersby”. Two more seminarians were freed on 31 January 2020.

The news of Michael’s death was announced on 1 February 2020 by the Bishop of his native Diocese of Sokoto. 

In the March 24 interview with ACI Africa, Fr. Daboh said that the abduction and events leading to Seminarian Michael Nnadi’s death are “still fresh.”

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“The events cannot disappear so quickly. The killing of Michael is still fresh in our memories. It’s as if it happened yesterday. The hurt is still fresh,” said the Clergy of Nigeria’s Kaduna Archdiocese. 

The Seminarians need “some bit of reassurance that as the Rector, I am ready to do whatever is humanly possible to protect them,” the Cleric who has been at the helm of the Nigerian Catholic Major Seminary since 2016 further said.

Africa’s most populous nation has been experiencing insecurity since 2009 when the Boko Haram insurgency emerged with the aim of turning the country into an Islamic State. 

Since then, the group has been orchestrating indiscriminate terrorist attacks on various targets, including religious and political groups as well as civilians.

The insecurity situation in Nigeria has further been complicated by the involvement of the predominantly Muslim Fulani herdsmen, also referred to as the Fulani Militia, who have been clashing frequently with Christian farmers over grazing land.

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Religious and political leaders have fallen victim to the insecurity with many abductions.

Fr. Harrison Egwuenu of the Diocese of Nigeria’s Warri Diocese was abducted March 15. He was freed March 21  after spending a week in captivity.

Last December, the Auxiliary Bishop of Nigeria’s Archdiocese of Owerri, Bishop Moses Chikwe, was abducted by unknown gunmen and later released unharmed. 

Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State was reportedly attacked by members of the Fulani Nationality Movement (FUNAM) on March 20.

In the March 24 interview with ACI Africa, Fr. Daboh said that Nigeria is “passing through an unfortunate political state” and attributed the country’s state of insecurity to illiteracy, poverty, unemployment and ethnic discrimination.

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As a way forward, the Nigerian Cleric challenged Muhammadu Buhari-led government to spearhead initiatives that “kick poverty out, educate people, let ignorance be taken out of every Nigerian.”

Religious leaders in the West African nation have a “huge role to play” in ending the conflict based on religion by taking the lead “with religious tolerance,” Fr. Daboh said, adding, “Let’s learn to be sincere and go into the Priesthood and Religious life so that we can preach peace to the world.”

“I Look forward to a Nigeria where you could pick your car and travel anywhere anytime of the day or night without worrying,” he said adding that he longs for a time when Christian and Muslim leaders will “sit together, eat and share religious ideas.”

He dreams of a Nigeria where citizens are well educated and employment is given “on merit, not because of ethnicity or religious background.” 

“I Look forward to a Nigeria where people from different parts of the country will look at each other as Nigerians. If we look at each other first of all as Nigerians, Nigeria will be a better place for us,” Fr. Daboh told ACI Africa March 24.

He reiterated the need for peaceful co-existence in Africa’s most populous nation saying, “Let us try to eschew our differences on our own. Nobody can build Nigeria for us.  We can only build it ourselves.”