Since religiously induced violence in Nigeria came to light in the 80s, not much was done to properly document it. Stefanos Foundation, a faith based Non-governmental organisation has been documenting and reporting these events. At present, the Nigerian issue has become of great concern to the World. Many people, including Western journalists and NGO workers have made attempts to present the Nigerian situation to their respective Countries; the accreditation requirement for foreign journalists intending to visit Nigeria for reporting/filming purposes is stringent (e.g. 6 weeks advance notice) making it very difficult for accurate foreign reportage. Even when the accreditation requirements are met, in an attempt to be balanced, foreign journalists are obliged to consider the account of both sides for fairness. The outcome of this western scientific analysis and reporting of this situation has failed to present the true picture of our circumstances therefore Stefanos Foundation, a Nigerian indigenous organisation seeking to present the voice of the persecuted Nigerian Christians took the initiative of including in its budget this year, an awareness trip to the Western World.
The campaign for the strict imposition of Islamic law in northern Nigeria has been established in three folds ranging from the marginalisation and intimidation of Christians in Moslem dominated States, to community cleansing of ethnic people in Christian majority States and continuous bombing of strategically targeted areas in Northern Nigeria. In the wake of Monday, the 30th of April, 2012; at about 9am, news of a bomb blast explosion targeted at the Police Commissioner which killed 10 people in Jalingo, Taraba State Capital and also affected parts of the State’s Ministry of Finance building filled the air; few hours later, there was another incidence of the bomb blast at the Police roundabout in Yola. This is a continuation of series of attacks targeted at Christians and the security operatives in Northern Nigeria in an attempt to frustrate the rule of law and encourage the imposition of Sharia law in the region.
Yesterday, Sunday the 29th of April, 2012, bombs were thrown simultaneously into two lecture halls at the Bayero University Kano which is a Federal University, when worship was ongoing with the attackers waiting and aiming their guns at worshipers running out to escape from the effects of the bomb blast. This led to a casualty figure of 26 dead people including 2 Professors with several others wounded. On the same day, three Police officers in Katsina were shot by unknown gunmen. Meanwhile in Maiduguri, after the Holy Communion Service in his Church, Rev. Albert Naga of Church of Christ in Nigeria (COCIN) LCC Simari and three elders of the Church were gunned down by unknown gun men on their way out of the Church .
In the same light, on Tuesday, the 24th of April, 2012, Gwa Rim village in Riyom LGA of Plateau State woke up to cries of mourning as people were attacked by the Fulanis living amongst them. It was reported that two Fulani leaders were arraigned as a result of the attack but released on bail last Friday only for a repeat occurrence the next day, Saturday, the 28th of April in a nearby village, Ngwa Wereng where houses were burnt. Today, Monday, the 30th of April, another attack was launched in Gwon Rim, another nearby village leading to the death of one David Mamai.
In Maiduguri, North East Nigeria where Boko Haram has defied the Authorities, Christians have all sorts of pathetic stories of their plight in that State. Below is a story of Josephine Joseph (name changed for security reasons), a widow of Mr. Joseph who was killed by members of Boko Haram.
“On 1st March, 2012, we parted ways with my husband in the morning as he left for work while I also went for women’s fellowship meeting in the church. We both returned at about 12noon. He was able to buy some food stuff and soup ingredients for the family. He later went back to work where some persons met him there and rained bullets (gunshots) on him. I was home expecting the children to come back from school; unknown to me, the woman next door had fainted on receiving a call that my husband had been killed. I quickly rushed and sprinkled water on her and waited on her to revive. When she recuperated, I asked her what call did she receive? She asked me to immediately call my husband on phone. I tried calling but it was switched off. I then decided to visit his workshop but the women volunteered we must go together.”
“As we got closer, people around the vicinity told us not to go further because they said, “an Igbo man was killed there.” I alighted from the tri-cycle that we boarded and decided to risk through the security men (soldiers) who had already condoned off the area. I covered myself in ‘hijab’ and raised my hand in surrender (as often being demanded by soldiers) and went pass them to the scene. I overheard them saying to each other thrice, “shoot her, she is one of them.” To God’s glory, God did not permit any of them to shoot. By the time I got to where a man was lying dead in the pool of his blood, behold, it was my husband. As I screamed Jesus! one of the soldiers asked, are you a Christian? I responded in affirmation. He further asked, why then are you dressed like this (in hijab; as was common with Muslim women)? I told him that is how I used to dress myself in this environment too.”
“I had to convey the corpse of my husband to be buried in his village on the third day (3rd). At the village, I received a phone call that his shop had been vandalised at Maiduguri.”
“Painfully enough, my husband was an orphan. His mother died when he was just three (3) months old. His elder brother, a police officer, left to visit home and had not been seen for over thirty (30) years now. It is my husband and I who are taking care of his five (5) children. I did not find my stay in his village for about a month and some days easy. I met with people who are far from ‘knowing God.’ To an extent that I confessed that, “if not for the bullet shots that was seen on my husband’s body and the pictures taken at his death, they would say I was the one who murdered him,” because of the hardship that I encountered. In fact, it was the ill-treatment that made me return to Maiduguri a couple of days ago when I received a call for this workshop.”
Stefanos Foundation, on 16th to 21st of April, 2012 invited the widows of the people killed by Boko Haram in Maiduguri for a workshop. On Josephine’s return to Maiduguri, she called Stefanos Foundation with the following report:
“I was woken up early in the morning of 26th April, 2012 at about 5:00am by the cry of a chicken around my house. When I got out I saw a young Muslim man, Aliyu (name changed) who lives on my street struggling with a chicken. I couldn’t imagine what he was doing with a chicken around my house at that early hour, so I hesitated for another person in my compound to come out before I move out; luckily a neighbour opened her door and came out, we greeted, then I gathered courage to walk up to him and greet him. He quickly said that his grandmother gave him the chicken and that he was trying to take it to where it can be killed and prepared for him, but requested that he tie the chicken around my house before coming for it later. I innocently said ok. While he was about leaving, the chicken cut away from the rope and was about to escape; I quickly called his attention to that regard. He came back and asked for a knife which he used to kill the chicken after he caught it. He further asked that I help him prepare the chicken and then he left, but later returned with some oil and ask again that I should help fry the chicken after I finish dressing it. I accepted, though not clear what all this was about and why I was doing that for him. He came back later when I had finished the frying and I presented the already prepared chicken to him. He asked that I take some for myself but I declined.
I heard later that after he left my place he went to meet his friend, Mohammed (name changed), who also lives on the same street and asked the friend to accompany him somewhere with his car. So they both got to a junction, there he asked the friend to allow him use his car to go and buy some things alone. The friend alighted from the car to wait for him at the junction. Instead, Aliyu went to the soldiers and introduced himself as police personnel and informed the soldiers that a Boko Haram member who has been trying to kill him is at a particular junction, if they can go there and kill him. The soldiers thanked him for that useful information.
The soldiers responded almost immediately and found that Mohamed waiting at the said junction where Aliyu left him matched the description given to them. They apprehended, beat and threatened to kill him. He begged for his life and quickly told the soldiers that Aliyu who reported to them is also an accomplice of the Boko Haram Sect. The car he left with contains the gadgets they use for their operations he said; they had a job to carry out together which has been fully paid for but Aliyu, not willing to share the money with him, decided to give him up to the soldiers so that when he is killed, he (Aliyu) can keep all the money and the car. He also informed the soldiers of how they have together with Aliyu arranged for the killings of four individuals on their street at different times including the murder of my husband. The soldiers whisked him away and when they couldn’t find his friend, Aliyu, they returned to our street and arrested Aliyu’s father, and declared Aliyu wanted.
Aliyu is still at large. He was dismissed from the Nigerian Police sometimes in January, 2012 but still parades himself as a police personnel.”
Mary further said, “I did not know why Aliyu came to me in the first place and what his intentions were. But with this revelation, I perceived that he had come to perform a ritual with that chicken at my house but thank God it failed. I am not sure of what it would be like if Aliyu resurfaces. I am not sure of my safety and that of my four children in this place anymore. I am a widow, and the only Christian living on that street amidst Muslims. I stayed on with my children after the death of my husband on that same street because that is where we live and have no other place to go to. I went to my late husband’s relations but they did not receive me and my children, so we had no choice but to return to that same house. For our safety I wish I have another place to immediately move to with my children.”
Josephine Joseph is one of several Christians in Maiduguri, mostly widows with children, awaiting relocation to safer places. Stefanos Foundation is seeking to relocate them to safer places outside the State.