Reported By: Chima Emmanuel
As anxiety is mounting over the activities of Boko Haram group, some Muslims are defusing the fear as misplaced. They see the group as only a new breed of young Muslim activists who have aggressively embraced a stricter version of Islam, rejecting anything Western and Christian. Boko Haram began life as a peaceful group focused on the study of the Koran, according to Abdulmumin Sa’ad, a Muslim scholar and professor of Sociology at the University of Maiduguri.
“The idea was that there is a lot of sin in the larger society and their parents had amassed a lot of ill-gotten wealth,” says Sa’ad, who taught some of the militants. “There is widespread immorality, and so the best thing to do is to remove themselves and camp elsewhere, where they can concentrate on their religion, mediate, reach out and begin to form a fellowship.” Sa’ad claims that group turned violent when authorities harassed it.
In retaliation, the group had killed about 16,000 policemen and was responsible for the death of pastors in Christian circle. Worried about the safety of Christians and pastors in Nigeria, the president of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, asked the federal government to curb the growing trend of terrorism in parts of the country. “We can no longer allow this group of disgruntled elements to get away with these acts of terrorism in Nigeria,” he said.
The catalogue of death of pastors by Boko Haram militants is raising alarm immediate change. Pastor David Usman, 45, and church secretary Hamman Andrew of the 'Church of Christ in Nigeria' in the troubled city of Maiduguri on the 7 June and Pastor Solomon Uzor of Trinity Chapel in Bauchi on the 10 May were among the latest casualties in what local Christians called "an upsurge of Islamic militancy" in these states.
Evangelical Christians said the two men were shot and killed by members of the Boko Haram sect near an area of Maiduguri, known as Railway Quarters, where their church is based. Hours earlier the gunmen also participated in blasts and attacks that left at least ten people dead, police said. A Catholic church, which was also targeted in the attacks, has been badly shattered, according to witnesses.
The same incident was reported in Lagos where Boko Haram members allegedly killed Pastor Daniel Okolu with two other people in November 2010. Pastor Michael Madugu, had just returned to his medicine store when his assailants pounced on him. Eyewitnesses said: “Two motorcyclists just stopped in front of the shop around 7.00pm and started shooting into the air to scare away people before they opened fire on Madugu. His assailants then moved immediately to the next medicine store where one Obinna and his brother were also shot to death. Unlucky James, another victim, who was about to enter Obinna’s store to buy medicine was also shot dead.
It was gathered that Michael Madugu, a district pastor in charge of Hausa church, was killed by a gang of four fundamentalists in his pharmaceutical shop while dispensing drugs to customers at about 7.05 p.m., leaving his wife and seven children to mourn him.
On December 24, armed men suspected to be members of the Boko Haram sect stormed some churches including the Victory Baptist Church at Dala-Alamderi and shot to death the resident pastor, Rev. Bulus Marwa (37), Christopher Balami, a lecturer in the state-owned polytechnic, Paul Mathew, Philip Luka and a tea hawker, Yohana Adamu. The rampaging gunmen also set the Church of Christ in Nigeria (COCIN) in Ruwan Safi ablaze. A Deeper Life pastor, 3 others were killed in Maiduguri by suspected members of Boko Haram Jan 20, 2011.
Danjuma Akawu, who survived the attack on the Baptist church, said “they hacked the two choir members using knives and petrol bomb before heading to the pastor’s residence, where he was killed.”
On 26 July, 2009 the girl identified by CSW only as Mary was in church with her pastor, his brother and an older Christian woman when a group of fifty militants broke in. She and her pastor hid as the group killed the pastor’s brother and dragged the older woman out of the room. On discovering their hiding place, the militants cut off her pastor’s hand to stop him holding on to her, then hacked him to death with machetes before setting him on fire.
The girl and the woman were dragged to Boko Haram's compound in Maiduguri's Railway district, and were placed in a room with around 100 other Christian women and girls. They were all asked to renounce their faith or face continued imprisonment, while Christian men were given the choice of renouncing their faith or dying.
Mary vividly describes how she was forced to wash the blood stained clothing of Boko Haram fighters. She was in the camp for four days, but managed to escape with a few others when military forces intensified their attack on the compound.
Mary's pastor was one of three Christian ministers targeted and killed by Boko Haram during that week's violence. "Local Christians have also expressed disappointment that some western media have disregarded the targeted nature of attacks on their community, and the brutal murders of Christian pastors. "Unless this aspect of the violence is recognised by all and dealt with effectively, people in Northern Nigeria will continue to suffer because of their religious beliefs.”
One of the victims of that week’s attack by the Yusufiya sect in Borno State has given a shocking account of how the Islamic extremists killed three pastors who were captured along with other victims on the second day of the insurgence 28 July 2009. The victim was among those held hostage in Yusuf’s enclave.
Speaking exclusively to Daily Sun in Maiduguri, the eye witness who preferred anonymity disclosed that the three pastors were beheaded on the instruction of the sect leader, Mohammed Yusuf shortly after bringing them out of his inner chamber.
“The pastors alongside one Ibo man were asked to change their faith to Islam like they did to other people taken as hostages. And there was an argument by one of the pastors which gave the others some level of confidence to also resist accepting Islam”.
“The Yusufiya men who were armed on that Tuesday afternoon were not comfortable with the pastors and they took one of them to the sect leader in his inner chamber. They came out later to the courtyard within the compound and cut their heads one after the other and thereafter, shouted allah akbar in wild celebration accompanied with several gun shots,” the eye witness disclosed.
Corroborating the account of the killing, a senior pastor with Good News Church, Wulari Maiduguri Rev. Baba Gata Ibrahim told Daily Sun in an interview that a pastor in his church, Pastor George Orjih was beheaded on the instruction of the Boko Haram leader because the clergy man refused to accept Islam.
The late Pastor George Orjih was said to have arrived Maiduguri last week from Jos where he was doing his Masters programme in Theology. Described as a fearless, hardworking, and intellectually sound, his care for the welfare and well being of his family allegedly contributed to his capture and eventual death. “He was mindful of his family and their welfare. He was really out of the house but thought to go back again. That was how he was captured by the Boko Haram before he was killed,’’ the senior pastor added.
“An eye witness who was also captured by the Islamic militants gave us details of how the pastor was killed. He told us they were persuading him to accept Islam and he said over his dead body. He was even said to have preached Christ to Mohammed Yusuf and that reportedly angered the sect leader who then as he ordered that the pastor and others be killed immediately,” he disclosed.
He said the hostages numbering about 50 within the area of the execution of the pastors and another fair complexioned man which he could not identify, were gripped with fear as non could foretell the outcome of their stay at the enclave of the fundamentalists. He was however lucky to escape as he was freed in the night with others with a warning not to mix with kafrici (infidels).
Late Rev. Sabo Yakubu, slain COCIN Church pastor, was assassinated in Bauchi by Boko Haram militants March 2011. The late pastor had once complained about the activities of Boko Haram, saying that unless the Nigerian government faced up to the challenge of its attacks, the extremist group would consume the lives of innocent persons, according to Gongchi. But Reverend Titus Dama Pona of the Evangelical Church Winning All in Maiduguri said local Christians remain concerned about their future. He told reporters that Christians can no longer worship freely for "fear of becoming targets of these unprovoked attacks" by Muslim militants.
A statement was issued by pastor Ladi Thompson, the founder of the Living Water Church, Anthony Lagos that the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) in Ogun State is an obvious target of the Islamic fundamentalist group, Boko Haram. This is not just a possibility but one of the deadly plans of the fundamentalist group, according to a Christian cleric, Pastor Ladi Thompson.
He particularly advised the leadership of the RCCG to beef up security as the fundamentalists are angry that in the build-up to the last election, President Goodluck Jonathan who visited the camp knelt down for prayer before the General Overseer of the church, Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye.
Pastor Ladi advised authorities of the church not to allow worshipers come into its worship hall with more than their Bibles. He also cautioned the church against allowing people to enter the camp with paper bags or other suspicious containers.
When the group launched its attacks in July 2009, Pastor Ladi had alerted the government that what happened then was just a tip of the iceberg and revealed that the Islamic fundamentalists had been at plan since early 1990s, fully backed by some northern former military leaders, Emirs, intellectuals and Imams.
(Source: Chidi Ahmed, Blueprint Correspondent.)