•I married to mark my near decapitation by terrorists six years ago – Joseph
•Habila, sole survivor of Christian males’ massacre, graduates from seminary

By Sam Eyoboka

IN this annual season of thanksgiving, we feature victims of terror who not only survived but also strived to thrive against overwhelming odds.

Joseph and his wife (left) taking oath during their wedding.

One of them recently marked the 6th anniversary of the attack on him.

In November 2012, Jacob’s hands were tied and armed Boko Haram operatives slit his throat like a ram and left him to die. But against all odds, he survived.

To mark the 6th anniversary of his survival, Jacob got married at a location in northeast Nigeria!

Due to the painful medication he had to take daily, he deferred getting married to ease the hardship it would put on his new bride.

When he received his National Certificate in Education, NCE, nine years after graduation (his school penalized him for the period he was hospitalized), he decided to marry by faith.

Jacob says he has not received any support from the Nigerian government for his travails. Instead, last year he was briefly held by the Nigerian Army as a suspected terrorist because of his scars.

Jacob has undergone multiple surgeries over the years to rectify his slit throat.

Following his inability to obtain assistance from the Victim Support Fund for the surgeries last year, he turned to a Dutch NGO for assistance. The group helped with the first surgery.

This year, due to lack of further sponsorship from the Dutch NGO, the US Nigeria Law Group (USNLG) intervened through its network of partners to help with the second surgery which was performed at the Jos University Teaching Hospital, JUTH, and the US-based group of Nigerian human rights lawyers were thankful to all those who helped to achieve the successful outcome.

The Boko Haram survivor is hoping to find a job so that he can earn a living to sustain his new family.

The Habila touching story

Habila is the sole survivor of the massacre of Christian males in his neighbourhood in Gombe State and has testified on the attack in the US Congress as well as the EU parliament.

He continues to live in self-exile from the northeast.

In addition to the terrorist attack in which he was a victim, his own state in northern Nigeria fired him from his government job while he was recuperating from kill shots to his head. When Christians fled the state in droves, the government decided to conduct a work census and, in the process, many Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) who were Christians lost their jobs.

Habila enrolled in a seminary and, without sponsorship or even scholarship from the Assemblies of God denominational proprietors of the institution, he recently graduated. He had earlier abandoned a post-graduate programme in international relations in a university due to lack of funds.

Recently he saved the life of a Muslim during a reprisal that followed an attack in a Christian community in Plateau State.

Habila, who was riding in his car with the Muslim man, had run into a road block mounted by irate youths in the area.

His vehicle was smashed before he was interrogated on his religion and when he identified himself as a pastor, the rampaging youths asked him to confirm the details of his denomination.

Incidentally, one of the youths recognized him as having preached in his church on an occasion. The youths then attempted to interrogate the Muslim man in Habila’s car.

Habila told them he was his son and, on the basis of this, the Muslim man was spared.

On the basis of the Habila encounter with the irate youths, USNLG stressed the pervasive precariousness of life for IDPs even after they flee the conflict theatre in the northeast.

“We commend Habila for his bravery and compassion in shielding a Muslim man and rescuing him from harm despite what he himself suffered at the hands of Islamist terrorists. We note also that in addition to his personal tragedy, Habila subsequently lost his sister, niece and nephew in a suicide bombing of a church in Bauchi State as well”, the group said.

“We condemn reprisal attacks and urge the Federal Government to hold terrorists to account and stop the massacres so that vulnerable victim communities do not resort to self-help”.

The Head of USNLG, Emmanuel Ogebe, commended Jacob for persisting to collect his NCE nine years after his graduation.

“We urge Yobe State government to reinstate the IDPs who were retired due to their flight during the height of the conflict”, Ogebe added.

“We call on CAN Victims Trust Fund to draw attention to the needs of such victims and mobilize resources for their continuing emotional, physical and spiritual support”.

He noted that both victims were amongst those “we met during a relief mission by the Christian Association of Nigerian Americans (CANAN) to the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) five years ago”.

The USNLG Head went on, “Although CANAN made a corporate donation on behalf of Nigerian Christians in the US Diaspora to CAN, we in USNLG chose to maintain contact, monitor and assist where necessary, their progress on an individual basis over the years.

“We note that apart from small intermittent support from USNLG during the period, there has been no significant ongoing support for these victims from CAN.

“We therefore call on the Victim Support Fund (VSF) to be more proactive in support to victims instead of institutions. While VSF donated N75million to the National Defense University for research despite the institution having its own budget and the recent establishment of another military university in Borno State, ordinary victims such as these are yet to benefit in any way from the VSF.

“We urge people of goodwill to adopt and invest in victims to help them gain beauty from ashes and turn mourning to dancing”.

According to the group, the same way that near total state failure has turned individual Nigerian homes into self-governing entities producing their own electricity and infrastructure, Nigerians must also now assume responsibility as “emergency aid agencies” to fellow citizens.

“IDPs have witnessed the worst deprivation and theft of their supplies under the current administration and many more have died from malnutrition in the IDP camps than in the previous administrations,” Ogebe contended while wishing the new couple marital bliss.

 

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