As you read this piece of testimony about the bandits who attacked the Priests - FRS Emmanuel Okolo and Noah Monday, serving the Parish of St Raphael's Catholic Church, Fadan Kamanton (Catholic Diocese of Kafanchan, Nigeria), the 25 year old Seminarian who did not survive the gruesome attack, Brother Na'aman Ngofe Stephen was buried on 12th September, 2023. The Funeral Mass was held in the beautiful Church beside the charred remains of the Priests residence. As the choir rehearsed for the funeral Mass inside the Church, the grave was being dug in front of the old Church building by the youths.
The mood in the parish was mixed. There was joy for the miracle which is what the survival of FRS Emmanuel and Noah is but, sadness at the painful killing of Brother Na'aman. The initial assumption is that he got trapped and burnt to death in the fire set on the house by the bandits but, the body was discovered to bear gun shot holes at the abdomen which suggests that the bandits already shot him dead in the early stages of the attack as they forced their evil ways into the Fathers house. His hair and most of his body was intact from the hot blazes. I saw his knapsack bag, slippers sandals still in his room, partially burnt laptop and wallet.
I was received by Fr Emma himself sitting under the trees enjoying their shade, cheerfully, 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 lost at the attack includes a young life, a car, a motorcycle, four Mass boxes, and every other books, certificates and furniture; 3 laptops and 3 TV sets. Everything, except the boxers inner wears on them actually. Overall the loss stands at about N70m.
How The Miracle Happened:
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 alone fought the 11 bandits to a standstill and caused them major casualties. They all had guns of different makes including about 7 AK-47 rifles with which they shot at him furiously and repeatedly but to no effect. He told me he taught they shot him 7 times but Fr Noah said he heard more than 30 gun shots; non 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.
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 had enough and yelled in rebuke at the bandit: "which Jesus are you talking about, is it the same Jesus I worship abi the Jesus na your mate?" 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.
The coordination and knowledge of their way around the house could not have been coincidental. Someone who knew Father's and the house very well led them to the attack. They knew their ways around the house.
The Burning Down Of The Rectory
As the bandits left the scene in total confusion and daze, the Fathers called out to each other in the parlor to take stock of survivors. That was when Brother Na'aman did not show up. They checked his room and did not see him. They presumed he had escaped probably. Alas he was dead!
The bandits did not go far but 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 after thought from a vindictive, bruised and defeated set of Bandits who used that to cut their loses.
The Fathers 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 Brother Na'aman but, Fr Emma stopped him because the fire was already full swing and he 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. They spoke eye ball to eye ball like man to man with bandits.
Interestingly this operation lasted between 8:13pm and 9:30pm. A whooping 1hr 12mins. I saw the soldiers checkpoint that was about 500 meters away from the Church where the attack happened. I kid you not, I was there and saw for myself. The entire viallge was awake due to the jolting sounds of gun fire. How nobody came to help in any way, both soldiers and villagers is also part of the mystery and miracle. Some especially those neighboring the church confessed to have 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?
Anyways the Fathers were on ground by the morning to celebrated the daily Mass with the people in thanksgiving to God and for the eternal repose of the soul of Brother Na'aman Ngofe Stephen. May his gentle soul rest in peace with the Lord. Amen.
To peter out their incompetence and irresponsibility, the Deputy Governor of Kaduna State Dr Hadiza Balarabe Usman visited the Priests and Parishioners, the General Officer Commanding the 3rd Division of the Army under whose watch Southern Kaduna and the not so effective security outfit Operation Safe Haven falls also visited. Indeed Nuhu Ribadu the National Security Adviser called Fr Emma. His interest was if Father thought the attack was religiously motivated. Of course there are so called Christians who are collaborators.
Soldiers on ground are really suffering lack and deprivation of basic needs. So they cannot be effective. After 26 years in the army and battle tested in theatres including Liberia, Sierra Leone and Boko Haram and now Bandits, a Sergeant I spoke with told me he earns N72,000. He earns no allowances even on special duty. He has an aged mother, a wife and four kids to look after. He said his family cannot afford rice again or tea and bread. They buy their kids and fatigue with a meagre sum of N25,000. And I asked which Army would have it's soldiers personally buy their own fatigue anyways? Meanwhile this man is in custody of a weapon that costs more than a million Naira in the open markets and works as a security for human beings.
Meanwhile Government promised to rebuild the house and warned Father to inflate the cost in many folds because that is standard government procedure and practice. How? Why? They threatened that if he does it the church and Jesus way he will be on his own because the money will be cut down.
Fr Emma told me that God prepared him for this attack before it happened and that God wrought the miracle of his survival so that He will remind us that He God still exists. Fr said "let no one deceive and cheat you by convincing you to believe with them that God does not exist." He had just returned from a weeklong travel on Monday, had his sacrament of penance (confession of his sins to another Priest) on Tuesday, he went to Kafanchan town which is the regional HQ, to get a few groceries on Thursday. The informant obviously saw him and tipped the gang of bandits who came that very fateful Thursday evening.
Going forward, we should pray and believe harder in God than we do now. His survival was pure miracle. Like Jesus his Lord and Master, he saw death but did not die, he is alive. He said the Bishop was so worried he called check on him throughout the night. We saw the letter of solidarity and consolation he wrote. We should also prepare both spiritually and physically for any eventualities always.
Finally after all the display of original Odeshi by the Master Jesus himself, pray for the Fathers. He told me that after everything, looking back and the reality of what happened dawning on him, trauma is setting in for him.
Happy survival Fathers. May more Fathers survive and Nigerians survive bad governance, hunger and insecurity.
To God be the Glory forever and forever. Amen. The Lord Jesus reigns forever. ~Rev Fr. George Barde.