“The images of attack are horrifying”: Priest on Attack on Catholics in Nigerian Diocese

Some victims of the attack at the hospital in Agan and Makurdi, Benue State Nigeria. Credit: Fr. Moses Aondover Iorapuu

At least 11 people, most of them Catholics, were killed when alleged Fulani herdsmen attacked a village around Abagena camp of internally displaced persons (IDP) in Nigeria’s Makurdi Diocese on the night of Thursday, January 19, a Catholic Priest has told ACI Africa in an interview.

In the Friday, January 20 interview with ACI Africa, the Vicar General for Pastoral in Makurdi Diocese recounted the “horrifying” persecution that Catholics were subjected to during the attack.

“The images of the attack are horrifying, and I keep saying that not even ISIS is capable of such brutality,” Fr. Moses Aondover Iorapuu told ACI Africa, and explained, “After killing, these guys decapitated some and took the parts away as proof to whoever is the sponsor.”

“The attacks took place yesterday, Thursday, 19th January, around Abagena IDP camp about 9.00 p.m.,” Fr. Aondover said, adding, “This village is 4 km into Makurdi, the Benue State capital.”

He continued, “As of this evening 11 people were killed, including women and children, and many with life-threatening wounds in the hospital.”


“Almost all the victims” of the January 19 attack were Catholics, the Nigerian Catholic Priest further said, and added, “The attackers, according to the survivors, were Fulani, who occupied some of the villages they had abandoned in earlier raids.”

Fr. Aondover lamented the delayed response from security agents, saying, “The response from the police and the military as always: normal late arrival at the scene, and the attackers remain unidentified.”

Nigeria has been experiencing insecurity since 2009 when Boko Haram insurgency began with the aim of turning the country into an Islamic state.

Since then, the group, one of largest Islamist groups in Africa, has been orchestrating indiscriminate terrorist attacks on various targets, including religious and political groups as well as civilians.

The situation of insecurity in the West African nation 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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In the January 20 interview with ACI Africa, Fr. Aondover acknowledged with appreciation the response of the Church to attacks that he said is seen in what the Foundation for Justice, Development, and Peace (FJDP) is doing.

FJDP is a Catholic not-for-profit entity that “adopts rights-based approach to programming with a view to promoting and protecting in totality, the rights and dignity of persons especially those with extreme vulnerabilities.”

Founded in 1971 and incorporated in 2013, FJDP “has strong network of presence and a premium reputation for intervening in hard-to-reach communities with preferential option for the poor and extremely vulnerable,” according to information on its website.

The January 19 attack on the village around Abagena IDP camp saw the inhabitants “forcefully driven from their homes by these herdsmen,” Fr. Aondover said, and lamented “the incessant attacks without a single arrest and meaningful reaction from the government.”

He added, “We feel terribly frustrated and abandoned by our government and the international community.”


“We have had IDP camps since 2001. How else do we need to tell our story before we get the needed protection and help?” the Vicar General for Pastoral in Makurdi Diocese posed during the January 20 interview with ACI Africa.

Jude Atemanke is a Cameroonian journalist with a passion for Catholic Church communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Buea in Cameroon. Currently, Jude serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.