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An alarming fire gutted Christ the King Major Seminary in north-central Nigeria last week, destroying a residential building, and leaving the seminary scrambling as it begins a new semester.

According to the seminary’s rector, students and staff fought the blaze, because a local fire department couldn’t get to the seminary in time to stop the fire.

Fire broke out at Christ the King Major Seminary Jan. 9 in north-central Nigeria. Seminarians and staff helped to fight the blaze. Credit: Pillar Media.

Seminary rector Fr. Jonah Yabanad Stephen told The Pillar that the fire, at Christ the King in Nigeria’s Kafanchan diocese, was likely caused by an electrical fault.

“At about 14:50 on 9th January 2024, there was a fire outbreak in one of the seminary's hostel, St. Mary's Hostel. The fire is suspected to be as a result of an electrical spark though the actual cause is yet to be ascertained. To the glory of God, no life was lost” Fr. Stephen explained.

“We suspect an electrical fault given the unstable and fluctuating nature of [power] supplies around us. This is because the occupant of the room where the fire incidence began from, Fr. Sylvanus Attoh, has been away on break and was scheduled to return to the country on 11 January,” the priest told The Pillar 

“Staff, seminarians, students, and passers-by all made efforts to reduce the extent of the damage. These salvaged the ground floor of the hostel.” 

But “the entire first floor was gutted by fire,” he said. 

“Though no life was lost, books, printer, phone, and other personal belongings of the priest and 12 students were lost.”

The rector explained that: “The inferno engulfed the upper floor of St Mary’s Hostel of the Christ the King Major Seminary/St Albert Institute, Fayit. It was formerly the Spiritual Year Center of the Catholic Diocese of Kafanchan. This makes it the first structure in the whole campus whose construction began in 2005 and was completed in 2007. 

“Now it serves as a hostel residence for staff and lay students working and studying at the St Albert Institute, Fayit, Fadan-Kagoma. It houses the vice rector of the institute, Fr. Sylvanus who doubles as a formator in the seminary, the secretary of the department of theology, a non-teaching staff, a makeshift office of the dean of students’ affairs of the institute, security officers of the Nigerian Army and lay students of both philosophy and theology of the Institute.” 

“A point to note is that students were just returning from the Christmas break to continue with the second part of the first semester of the 2023/2024 academic year.”

According to the rector, the fire destroyed a classroom, a priest’s apartment, and nine student rooms.

The rector explained that poor roads in the region prevented the fire department from helping to fight the blaze.

“Given the nature of the roads to Fayit, it was unthinkable that emergency service could get to the venue in time. There was none,” he said.

Fire broke out at Christ the King Major Seminary Jan. 9 in north-central Nigeria. Seminarians and staff helped to fight the blaze. Credit: Pillar Media.

The seminary, meant “for the formation of seminarians to the Catholic priesthood” is connected to the St. Albert Institute, which “handles the academic life of the students both seminarians and lay students” Fr. Stephen explained.

The priest said he is hopeful he’ll be able to rebuild.

“Life is a precious gift that must be guarded by all means. Nothing compares to it. While this is a sad occurrence, we are grateful that no life was lost.” 

“Our hope is that with proper support, we could get a new hostel, given that the fire damage to the walls of the upper floor building is irreparable,” the priest said, estimating that reconstruction would cost roughly $110,000 USD.

This is not the first time in recent months that a Nigerian seminary has been gutted by fire. 

On Jan. 10, 2023, St. Peter’s Minor Seminary, Katari-Kaduna, in northwestern Nigeria saw a fire cause almost $500,000 USD in damage.  

The mysterious inferno affected two dormitories, a dining hall, a kitchen, and a laboratory of the seminary established in September 2003.

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