Report from Dr Khataza of CSW on Nigeria
1. Preliminary Report
Nigeria Assignment 10-21 February
The joint Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) UK and Nigeria team was informed that while the media reported that around 185 people were killed during the massive attack on Kano City in January by Boko Haram, in reality the death toll could easily amount to 500. CSW learned that during the attack on the police barracks, while the police force was defending a frontal attack, Boko Haram cadres had broken in at the back of the facility, and with the assistance of a person who knew it well, were going from house to house targeting and killing Christian men and boys aged 18 and over. What is particularly worrying is that in this and other instances, Boko Haram clearly out gunned the police due to the standard of weaponry they possess; in some instances this has included rocket propelled grenades. At the time of the CSW visit, there was still a 6pm-6am curfew in Kano, and the sense of fear amongst the Christian community there was overwhelming. There had been no church services for two weeks after the onslaught, due to the overwhelming fear of renewed attack. CSW was also informed that people now park within 10 metres of churches. All are searched upon entering and no bags, including women’s handbags, are allowed into many church premises. In addition to this, the team was informed that most Igbo traders, who hail originally from Eastern Nigeria, had moved their families away, with only the men remaining, some of whom were seeking to leave the area. The economic impact on Kano State has been considerable.
However, Christians expressed reassurance at the fact that the present Governor of Kano, who has disbanded the hisbah force created by his predecessor, is clearly far less sympathetic to extremist views than his predecessor was. The Governor has publicly acknowledged that Christian victims of the January attacks outnumbered the Muslim ones, and is disbursing
Nigerian Minister of Information , cited in; “Boko Haram Violence is destroying the North’s economy-FG”
2 Kaduna State
This state is a prime target for Boko Haram for two reasons. Firstly, for the first time in the history of Nigeria, a Christian won the gubernatorial elections. He, his wife and family are now key targets. Secondly in Southern Kaduna there is a Christian majority where youths fought back hard against the April 2011 violence, which was supposedly electoral, but was also immediately religious. Boko Haram has issued a statement indicating that this area was one of its key targets. Security is tight, however, nothing can be guaranteed. The week before the CSW arrival, Boko Haram had bombed a military barracks where a key member had been detained after being discovered in Kaduna. Fortunately, and despite the fact that the blast knocked some people from the second floor to the ground floor, only the suicide bomber was killed. CSW interviewed a survivor of the blast who is still hospitalised, and who described his ordeal when a suicide bomber in military attire, and his similarly dressed accomplice, struck just as he was checking in at the reception to visit the head of the barracks on a personal matter: “the last thing I remember ... I saw myself in the air and that was all. The victim had glass embedded in his left side, burns to his right forearm and wrist, and lost his front teeth, but came out alive: “how I escaped was a miracle, it is God and nothing else”.
The team visited the Buruku area, where churches, vicarages and parts of a Baptist primary school that benefited the entire community had been destroyed during the April 2011 violence. The violence allegedly broke out for electoral reasons, yet Christians, Christian symbols and Christian communities were immediate targets. A Muslim teacher at the school–where most of the students were in fact Muslim – said: “I feel bad about what happened. It was just religious.” In an area called Tudun Wada in Kaduna City, every church, bar two, had either been burnt down or driven out. The church was visited by the team belonging to the Evangelical Church Winning ALL (ECWA), and is always a target during religion-related tension. During the April violence, the church was attacked for the fourth time. The attackers carried away whatever could be looted from the church offices and board room. Furthermore, they set the church pews in the church building on fire, destroying the roof. The congregation had just managed to renovate it, but was still using plastic chairs during meetings. Despite the dangers, the Sunday service was packed. Other churches have not been so fortunate. CSW also received a thorough briefing on the substantial losses sustained by ECWA in what was described as a “massive attack” on the central District Church Council (DCC – equivalent to a parish) during the 2011 violence. Most churches are yet to recover, with several congregations still worshiping in the open air.
Although Boko Haram had a headquarters in Maiduguri, this is the state where the movement was born, where it undertook its first actions in 2003 and where it is currently most effectively conducting a campaign of religious cleansing. A January 2012, a CSW briefing highlighted the fact that indigenous Christians are currently fleeing their ancestral homes in Yobe and Borno States for the relative safety of Jos, Adamawa and elsewhere as Boko Haram undertakes house-to-house or stalking executions in these areas. Unfortunately, the response by the Governor of Yobe State to the violence meted out against Christians has been extremely disappointing. Despite constant attacks and the destruction of churches, homes and lives, Christians from Yobe have categorically stated that neither the Governor, nor the Deputy Governor, nor the local Emir has visited victims or condoled or compensated them in any way. When Christian leaders attempted to visit the Emir to request assistance, he allegedly refused to see them, even when they turned up at his palace. CSW was also informed that during one Boko Haram attack, key officials were conveniently out of contact, and consequently, no order could be issued to enable security units to counter the killing. If true, such behavior is either due to complicity or fear – given the fact that Boko Haram has openly threatened traditional rulers and officials. Whatever the rationale, the end esult is that effective action to protect has not and is not being taken, and Christians who remain in the area are extremely vulnerable, especially since Boko Haram is currently reported to be stalking and killing police officers, officials and Christians with prospects one by one. As one person informed us: “if government doesn’t bring these people to book they will eliminate all of the Christians”. For a recent example of this phenomenon, see “Nigerian gunmen kill customs boss in Yobe State”,
In Gombe the team met victims of the 5 January shootings at the Deeper life Church in Gombe City, during which ten people died, including the pastor’s wife, when Boko Haram gunmen attacked a powerful prayer meeting. At the end of the meeting one of the victims, who lost a son during the shooting and had just left hospital himself, received a call from his daughter Rachael, who he had sent to the bank earlier that day, stating: “help me pray my final prayer, I don’t know where I am”. Such disappearances of Christian girls are allegedly a common occurrence. For two days there was no news of her whereabouts, with speculation mounting that she had either been attacked and robbed, was in the hands of ritualists ,who would kill and dismember her for their own purposes, or had been abducted for forcible marriage and conversion. On the evening of 20 February, Rachael was found
in a terrible state. She was unable to speak and was hospitalised pending recovery. At time of writing, CSW is awaiting news of what actually happened to her.
While in Gombe, the team also visited a Christian official of the victorious political party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the Honourable Jack Gumpy, now a broken man on medication and dialysis after 10 family members, including children, grandchildren, were murdered and burnt to ashes in his official residence during the electoral violence of 2011. The atmosphere in Gombe State was noticeably tense, thus it was not surprising to learn of a Boko Haram’s attack during the following week.4 Fortunately Gombe’s current governor was more sympathetic to the fears of the Christian community than his predecessor, who failed to prosecute those responsible for the brutal murder of Christian school teacher, Christianah Oluwatoyin Oluwasesin. “Boko Haram kills seven in Gombe”, The Nation http://www.thenationonlineng.net/2011/index.php/news/39167- boko-haram-kills-seven-in-gombe.html5 http://dynamic.csw.org.uk/article.asp?t=news&id=637
Since January 2010, there have been 23 attacks on Christian villages in the indigenous Christian area of Tafawa Balewa by armed Hausa Fulani Muslims. The Governor of Bauchi has done little to protect these villages, and is even alleged to be openly sympathetic to the aims and objectives of the attackers. At one stage the Governor is alleged to have stated publicly that he would turn Tafawa Balewa into a grazing area for the Fulani tribe. The state government has also forcibly closed schools in Bogoro (another largely Christian area) and Tafawa Balewa, ostensibly for renovation, and is illegally shifting the Local Government Area (LGA) headquarters to an area called Bununu, from which Christians were expelled in 1991 and which is too dangerous for them to approach. The consequence of this is that no Christian will be employed at the headquarters representing their area: “if you approach (Bununu) they will kill you... Their target is to frustrate us, to destroy all we have”. The legality of the motion to relocate the LGA is in question, as it was proposed by a representative who was not from Tafawa Balewa – which in itself was illegal. When a Christian female representative from Bogoro raised an objection to this procedural irregularity, she was allegedly bullied into making a public apology.
The swift decision to remove the LGA headquarters was justified on the grounds that “the local people are troublesome” and followed an alleged armed robbery on a local bank where no bullet was fired or found in the vicinity, a marked contrast to what was widely broadcast by the media. Yet these same “troublesome” people have been under attack since 2010; they have not retaliated, despite the fact that no action has been taken to defend them. As one interviewee pointed out: “if we are troublesome, what do you call those who are attacking us”? CSW was informed that a bank account has now been opened for contributions towards a legal challenge to the move.
CSW also heard of the difficulties faced by Christian children in accessing education. CSW was also informed that between 2010 and 2011, in the Azare area, Christian children have been regularly kidnapped and girls “Islamicised”, although a few admittedly converted in order to receive gifts and money.
Post election violence affected thirteen of Bauchi’s 20 LGAs. The team was informed that very few churches were left standing or untouched, especially in the northern part of Bauchi State. In Azare, during the April violence, fifteen churches were destroyed along with many homes. In Itas LGA, five churches were burnt and demolished to their very foundations, homes were looted, and two women were killed. Worse still, as the violence raged, when pastors in Itas tried to contact the DPO, they discovered his mobile was switched off.
Many areas have yet to recover from the April 2011 electoral violence and seem unlikely to receive justice for their losses. In Malumfashi, Katsina, where at least 23 churches were burnt down, the ECWA medical mission, which CSW had visited a few years ago, was thoroughly looted and its dispensary, church, secretariat and staff residence reduced to rubble by a crowd that was thousands strong with almajeris (Quranic students), who were aged between 6 and 20, making up 95% of the mob. The crowd was largely chanting “CPC” (Congress for Progressive Change – the unsuccessful political party of former general, Buhari) and “Change” as they attacked. However, Christian symbols were targeted along with political offices and homes of PDP stalwarts, and in Malumfashi, a pastor informed and his wife were asked to renounce their faith. His wife managed to escape as they began to beat him. After putting put a tyre around his him and calling for fuel, the crowd became distracted. They eventually left the pastor alive but burnt down his house and church.
In Funtua, Katsina State, survivors of the April violence continue to live under threat. The April attacks were described as coordinated, and took place in the presence of security operatives, who were reportedly positively acknowledging those shouting for change. For example, a Baptist Church on the Zaria Road was burnt down despite its close proximity to a police station. Some Christians who were in hiding while the violence was underway heard attackers telephoning others making such statements as: “we’ve finished what we had to do here, what about you, how are you doing?” Last year, CSW had heard of similar telephone conversations when interviewing victims of the April violence in northern Kaduna. They serve as a clear indication that the violence was far from spontaneous and was highly organized. In other instances, when women were about to be raped, some of the attackers would stop it by saying “those were not our orders”. Survivors in Malumfashi andFuntuatestifiedtooverhearingsimilarconversations. It would appear that perpetrators received orders to loot extensively before embarking on destruction. For example, a survivor of the attack on the Malumfashi dispensary site informed CSW that when one of the assailants suggested they kill some Christian men as a “sacrifice”, another refused: “we were only asked to burn and loot, not kill”. In Funtua, where around 11 people died, including three members of the same family who were deliberately burned to death in their homes, survivors informed CSW that since the violence local Muslims constantly make such comments as: “why are you still here”, “we don’t want you here”,
and “leave our land”. Those who try to rebuild their shattered businesses continue to have them broken into and vandalized to this day. Many Christians said their security in Funtua was “not guaranteed”.
With regard to official reactions to the April 2011 violence, a pastor from Malumfashi stated that when he was eventually able to contact the DPO late that evening, the officer was “proud and arrogant as if it was no concern of his”. Another in Funtua said he had been informed by a junior officer that the violence could have been contained, and that the officer had asked the local Divisional Police Officer (DPO) for permission to use teargas to disperse a crowd that had gathered during the initial stages of the violence, but had been refused. Tellingly, while the Governor of Katsina State is reported in the press to have donated at least N20 Million to victims of January’s Kano bomb blasts and violence,6 victims of the April 2011 violence in Katsina have yet to receive any form of compensation. In fact, few in Nigeria are aware of the destruction in Malumfashi, because there were no media broadcasts of the violence.
While in Katsina, CSW also visited Dusa Village in Kankiya LGA, which is being systematically marginalised because the inhabitants refuse to convert. The nearby Muslim village enjoys graded approach roads and at least three bore holes and water pumps. Upon leaving the Muslim village the approach roads to Dusa deteriorate markedly, particularly after passing the home of the only villager to convert to Islam. It was reported that upon his conversion, the Governor’s wife at the time
visited the area, threw a party for the man, and a house and small school were constructed for him a few yards away from the village as an illustration of the benefits of conversion.
The people of Dusa have no access to water. Primary schools are 4km away and are unreachable during rainy season – the team traversed a dry riverbed to reach the village. When they complained to local authorities of a lack of water in the village they were told “Die of thirst. Who asked you to become Christians?” On another occasion they were told that if they were given a water pump “the people there would be lifted up, and how can you expect us to lift up infidels?” In the event that their children overcome all obstacles and manage to complete primary school, they are systematically deprived of further education, and any secondary schools they can access are 8-10km away. Such discrimination appears to occur throughout Katsina State, and CSW has encountered similar discrimination over many years in many other states, including Kano, Bauchi and Borno. Non- Muslims, and particularly Christians, cannot easily access employment, or once employed, cannot rise above a certain position. Moreover, with regard to employment, especially in federal agencies such as the police, army or navy, CSW was informed that in Katsina State, applicants with Christian names are removed from the list. Yet despite being offered all of these amenities in return for conversion, the villagers are still standing strong in their faith.
At the time of the CSW visit, Plateau State was calm but on alert. This state is another prime target for Boko Haram – the organisation identified it as such in the same broadcast where it threatened Southern Kaduna. Christian leaders of the youths of their respective tribes that are indigenous to Plateau State briefed the team on the ongoing crisis. Note that the visit occurred prior to the bombing of the COCIN headquarters church. With regard to Boko Haram and the general violence, another concluded that the key to ending the crisis is the end to the almajeri system, as almajeris generally function as “guns for hire” during episodes of violence.