A former Minister of Education and ex-Director-General of the Due Process Office, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili and others, broke down in tears on Monday in Abuja after listening to Pastor Sarana Chinda of All Saints Protestant Church, Hauran Wanki, Barracks, Kano, recount how 17 members of his church were killed for refusing to renounce Jesus Christ.
Ezekwesili also heard from a 45- year-old Deborah Shetima from Borno State how her husband was butchered on April 25, 2012 and how her two children-aged seven and nine-years were abducted by Boko Haram members.
Shetima, who was speaking at a press conference organised by the Christian Association of Nigerian-Americans, said while still moaning over the fate of the abducted children, the sect members came back three months after and killed her third child.
Ezekwesili, wiping tears with her bare hands, described Nigeria as a country that placed no value on human lives.
She said, “Whatever happens to one of us happens to everyone of us. So if we have become a nation that does not put value on human lives, then we are really in a bad place. Listening to these women particularly and seeing what they have to carry alone, you almost feel a sense of abandonment for them. It is almost like they are invisible to the rest of us and that worries me.
“We must get ourselves back to a drawing table and figure out who we really are; what are we and what we have become as a people and as a nation.”
Turning to the journalists present, she asked rhetorically, “Is it right that a mother would watch her husband killed and her two children taken away and does not know where they are up till now and nobody is concerned about them?
“Three months after, they came and killed her son. I know a nation where this thing happened before. It’s called Rwanda and it didn’t end well.”
Pastor Chinda on how Boko Haram killed 17 members of his congregation
“On February 23, 2013, eight out of the 13 people that were killed were my members who worked in a factory. They accompanied one of their relatives to look for work in Kano. It was around 7pm and one of them escaped because he was on night duty. Those who died were on morning shift and as they were relaxing outside that night, four men wearing babariga (flowing gowns) came in a taxi cab and parked in front of our church.
“They asked, “Are you not supposed to be in church praying? Why are you not in the church with others. They answered that some of them were Muslims. The four men then ordered that Christians should go to one side and Muslims to the other side. So they separated them. They were not satisfied and wanted to make sure that no Muslim was harmed .
“They decided to make inquiry about their names; but the Boko Haram members realised that the names of some of them were Muslim names and they asked, are you people Muslims?We’re you not here when we separated Christians from Muslims. When they finished getting their names, they sprayed bullets on them. But one was lucky to have escaped because he was inside the room.
“After gunning down the 13 people, they ordered that that one that ran inside should come out from hiding or else, they would kill all the women and children in the house. The man became afraid and told them to give him an assurance that if he comes out they won’t kill any woman or child. They swore by Allah that they won’t kill him if he surrenders. The guy came out and they shot him dead.
“The only one that escaped among the 14 factory workers was the one that went to fetch water. He ran to my house and informed me that they had killed our people. As I prepared to drive to the scene, my wife wanted to follow me but I refused. But when I got there, I saw the corpses everywhere . I made some calls and policemen came and took the corpses away. I started looking for the identity of the people and it was then I saw somebody who said he sent for them to come and look for work.”
The Christian Association of Nigerian -Americans berated the Jonathan administration’s lethargy in seeking an end to the spate of bombings and killings by the religious sect.
The President of CANAN, Dr. James Fadele and the Executive Director, Mr. ‘Laolu Akande, who addressed a press conference in company with the General Secretary of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Dr. Musa Asake, in Abuja, therefore advised the government to be proactive and seek foreign intervention in fighting the sect.
Boko Haram, an Islamic fundamentalist group, is believed to have killed over 1,000 persons since it began its onslaught on military formations, places of worship and relaxation centres in 2009.
Government is helpless
Akande, who first spoke, said, “I think government itself has expressed helplessness. President Jonathan had said on several occasions that this(Boko Haram) problem is big. We believe that the Nigerian government cannot handle this problem anymore.”
Buttressing the groups’ belief that the Jonathan administration had not shown the political will to end the sect’s activities, Akande said government should be more determined to prosecute members of the National Assembly that had been found to have links with Boko Haram.
He added, “There are instances of lack of political will on the part of the Federal Government. There are cases of some supporters of Boko Haram in the National Assembly .
“Government can become more aggressive in going after members of Boko Haram and those supporting this sect. The government is not proactive; the government should be proactive and also seek support from other countries like the United States to deal with Boko Haram because this is an international problem.
“I wish the government can do more in protecting the lives of Nigerians. Some of the cases are not even reported. How can somebody be going to another person’s house to kill . It is sad and it also speaks of the breakdown of law and order in the country. If government cannot provide law and order, it then becomes worrisome.”
$50,000 donation for Boko Haram victims
In his comment, Fadele said Nigerian Christians in the US had taken notice of the impact of the actions of Boko Haram and therefore wanted all Nigerians to “rise up by providing financial and material support to the victims of Boko Haram attacks in northern Nigeria.”
He said, “We are concerned about the widows and are touched by the plight of the orphans. We reckon that many of these individuals are left without a source of livelihood.
“We have heard that CAN is setting up a Relief Fund where Nigerians can donate money and materials to support the victims. For instance, victims’ children can benefit from scholarships taken out from such a fund. Towards such a fund, CANAN is making an initial widow’s mite of $50,000.
“If backers of terrorists are raising the money to perpetuate acts of terror, supporters of and advocates for peace can no longer look the other way. We want to join hands with CAN today to call on Nigerian philanthropists, businesses, and captains of industry, well-to-do individuals and all people of goodwill to consider the apparent financial plight of Boko Haram victims and lend a helping hand.
CANAN not a political group
“CANAN does not conceive itself as a political group. We are an advocate for innocent and helpless people being slaughtered in their places of worship. Christians are being killed, churches are being attacked and destroyed, health workers and doctors are being assassinated, markets are being ravaged, police precincts are being vanquished, and neighborhoods are being tormented. This wickedness must stop. We commend the bold leadership of CAN for speaking up in a categorical and courageous manner.