Friday, 22 October, 2021 08:37

Benue Catholic priest, shot dead while caring for IDPs, buried amidst tears

Tears flowed freely from family, parishioners, and friends of the murdered Catholic priest, Reverend Father Ferdinand Fanen Ngugban, 38, as his remains were finally interred a few days ago, precisely on April 13, 2021.

Ngugban was killed alongside six others on March 30, 2021, by loyalists of the late wanted criminal kingpin, Terwase Akwaza, popularly known as ‘Gana’ in Katsina-Ala Local Government Area of Benue State. The priest had provided shelter for many persons in the area who had been displaced by the insecurity in the community.

Fr. Ngugban was said to have barely completed the morning mass at St. Paul, Aye-Twar parish in  Katsina-Ala LGA where he served when his assailants shot him the early hours of that fateful Tuesday.

 

His body was committed to Mother Earth at the cemetery for priests in Katsina-Ala Catholic Diocese amidst tears as well as eulogy from his beloved ones after the funeral Mass held at St. Gerard Majella Cathedral.

Fr. Ngugban was said to have barely completed the morning mass at St. Paul, Aye-Twar parish in  Katsina-Ala LGA where he served when his assailants shot him the early hours of that fateful Tuesday.

The rampaging dare-devils had also burnt some houses in the area and killed the other six persons said to be taking refuge in the parish premises following the insecurity around their community, which made them to deserted their homes.

The Council Chairman of Kastina-Ala, Alfred Atera, had said that the bandits attacked the priest at the church premises, killing him and the others.

“On 30th March 2021, at about 7-8 am, unknown gunmen, came and burnt a village called Agu Centre in Mbatyula/Mberev council ward in Katsina-Ala and killed Rev Fr Moses Ngugban and three others by name: Mfave Tumachihi, Mbangohor Tsebo, and Orlukaa Ulu.”

 

The remains of Reverend Father Ferdinand Fanen Ngugban

 

But, Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) for Benue Command, DSP Catherine Anene, however, had confirmed only the killing of the priest.

Anene stated, “Attack on St. Paul’s Catholic Church, Aye-Twar village, Agu center in Kastina-Ala LGA by bandits is confirmed.  Rev. Fr.  Nguban Fanen lost his life during the attack.

“The corpse has been deposited at General Hospital, Katsina-Ala while a joint operation of Police and other security agencies are on the trail of the hoodlums.”

Also confirming the incidence the Director of Communications in the Catholic Diocese of  Katsina-Ala, Rev Fr Celestine Aayongo told newsmen in Makurdi by a telephone conversation that the Rev Father Ferdinand Ngugban was killed by the hoodlums in the parish house.

According to him, “unknown gunmen invaded the community and were shooting sporadically at anyone in sight and the community members ran to the parish house to take refuge and in the process, the priest was also shot dead.”

Fr Ferdinand went out to find out the cause of the confusion. He was shot in the head as he tried to take cover after sighting gunmen

 

A statement later released by Fr. Fidelis Phelle Akjmbul, the Chancellor of the Diocese of Katsina-Ala, indicated that the body of the priest and those of six other victims were recovered after, “there was pandemonium among the internally displaced persons who took refuge in the parish premises.”

It added that “Fr Ferdinand went out to find out the cause of the confusion. He was shot in the head as he tried to take cover after sighting gunmen.”

Ngugban according to the statement was ordained to the priesthood in 2015 and was on his way to “renew his priestly vows alongside his brother priests.”

The deceased clergy had served as the assistant priest at St. Paul parish since 2018, where he helped cared for the many internally displaced persons hosted by the parish.

Before then, Ngugban served as the assistant cathedral administrator for the Diocese of Katsina-Ala between 2015 and 2016 and was also a priest of St. Peter parish in Gbor-Tongov between 2016 and 2018 respectively.

The deceased clergy’s colleagues and friends have described him as a good person who didn’t deserve to die in the manner he was killed.

The deceased clergy had served as the assistant priest at St. Paul parish since 2018, where he helped cared for the many internally displaced persons hosted by the parish

Among them, Rev. Fr. Mchia Michael, had penned a piece entitled, “The bullet that pierced his soul,” to mourn Ngugban on the Tuesday he was buried.

Michael stated, “Fr Ferdinand Ngugban worked with me as the assistant Cathedral Administrator at the creation of Katsina-Ala diocese. A very hard-working young man. Quick to adapt to all situations, very patient, very respectful, very calm, very simple, very quiet, and a gentleman.

 

Obituary of the late Reverend Father Ferdinand Fanen Ngugban

“He was so committed to his work and did all he could to live his life according to the calling of his vocation. He was also a shy person but with contagious smiles. How could such a soul die in such a manner? What was the aim of the assassins? What was the gain of killing such a man, not in the open field, not in the streets, and not in the farm? But in the very house of God. At his duty post! Not in someone’s house.

“When trouble chases you the only safe place is the Church, and what happens when one deliberately enters a Church and kills the custodian of the Church’s property? Or how can a stray bullet get the Priest as its only option?

“Not long ago I have written of how Benue Priests were murdered by herdsmen; little did I know that this was coming to my threshold. The Tiv nation is desecrated with this act. The Holy of Holies is desecrated with this heinous and barbaric act!

“Has our God backed out? He hasn’t. We have forgotten and abandoned our God. Let us turn back to him. As Christians, we have faith in the resurrection. He died in the Holy week and was buried after the Octave of Easter, we believe that the resurrected Christ will take him into his Kingdom.

“When he was shot at the arm, he knelt and prayed. Just like Jesus and Stephen he was saying ‘forgive them for they do not know what they are doing. May his prayer change the hoodlums so that they may embrace Christ too, and may his final prayer gain him eternal life. Rest on dear friend.”

Not long ago I have written of how Benue Priests were murdered by herdsmen; little did I know that this was coming to my threshold

 

 

Author: Ifah Sunday Ele

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