…Says President Buhari in article published in US magazine
…Adds slain Pastor Andimi’s faith should inspire all Nigerians
…No multi-stakeholder survey to prove President’s assertions — CAN
…Why Christians are now targets of deadly terror attacks — INVESTIGATION
By Ndahi Marama & Johnbosco Agbakwuru & Luminous Jannamike
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday declared that 90 per cent of Boko Haram’s victims in the past years were Muslims.
“It is the reality that some 90 per cent of all Boko Haram’s victims have been Muslims. They include a copycat abduction of over 100 Muslim schoolgirls, along with their single Christian classmate; shootings inside mosques; and the murder of two prominent imams.
“It is a simple fact that these now-failing terrorists have targeted the vulnerable, the religious, the non-religious, the young, and the old without discrimination,” he said in an article in Speaking Out; a guest opinion column for Christianity Today, published in US.
However, in a swift reaction, the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, rebutted the President’s claims, saying the Federal Government “has not commissioned any multi-stakeholder survey to ascertain the facts and figures.”
READ ALSO: Boko Haram: Reps resume probe of INGOs
President Buhari was reacting to the outrage trailing the murder of the Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, in Michika Local Government Area of Adamawa State, Rev. Lawan Andimi, after Boko Haram insurgents who kidnapped him rejected a N50 million ransom.
‘B-Haram targets without discrimination’
President Buhari said the perception that members of the sect were always targeting Christians in Nigeria is not completely true, adding that the terrorists have targeted the vulnerable without discrimination.
However, an investigation by Vanguard showed that the terrorists have intensified attacks against Christians and why they are doing so.
The insurgents began their murderous activities in 2009 after the killing of their leader, Mohammed Yusuf.
The Global Terrorism Index, GTI, indicates that the group since 2009 has killed tens of thousands and displaced 2.3 million people.
The President assured that his government was committed to bringing to an end the activities of the insurgents, saying: “Just as my government and our international partners quicken our campaign to defeat Boko Haram within and without our borders, we must turn our minds to the future.”
Buhari warned those seeking to divide the country through religion to have a rethink because “there is no place in Nigeria for those who seek to divide us by religion, who compel others to change their faith forcibly or try to convince others that by so doing, they are doing good.
“We may not, yet, be completely winning the battle for the truth. Christianity in Nigeria is not — as some seem intent on believing — contracting under pressure, but expanding and growing in numbers approaching half of our population today.”
President Buhari stated that the terrorists today only attempt to build invisible walls between the adherents of the two major religions in the country.
“They have failed in their territorial ambitions, so now instead they seek to divide our state of mind, by prying us from one another — to set one religion seemingly implacably against the other.
“Translated into English, Boko Haram means ‘Western teachings are sinful.’ They claim as ‘proof’ passages of the Quran which state that Muslims should fight “pagans” to be justification for attacks on Christians and those Muslims who hold no trust in them.
“They are debased by their willful misreading of scripture — at least those of them who are able to read at all. Of course, there is much of Christianity and Islam — both in teaching and practice — that are not the same. Were that not so, there would be no need for the separateness of the two religions.
Pastor Andimi’s faith should inspire all Nigerians — Buhari
President Buhari’s article in Christianity Today read: “Nigerians everywhere, those of belief and those of none, are mourning the death of Pastor Lawan Andimi, taken from us by Boko Haram for his refusal to denounce his Christian faith.
“I did not know Pastor Andimi personally. Yet Nigerians and I both know him and his church by their works: healing, caring, feeding and educating, particularly in the Northeastern region of my country —in those areas threatened for too long by terrorists. Every day, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria (EYN) places itself there bravely where the brotherhood of man is most in need of sustenance.
“Pastor Andimi’s ministry was located only 60 miles from the town of Chibok, from where in 2014 the world witnessed the shocking kidnapping of 267 schoolgirls. That even one individual — this time a man of the church — could still be taken by the terror group seven years later might be viewed as evidence the terrorists are fully functional and undefeated. But it is not.
“Since I was first elected to office in 2015, 107 of the Chibok girls have been freed. Today we seek the others. Boko Haram is no longer one, unified threat, but fractured into several rivals. These splinters are themselves degraded: reduced to criminal acts which — nonetheless no less cruel — target smaller and smaller numbers of the innocent. We owe thanks to the Nigerian defence forces, bolstered by our partnership with the British, American militaries and other countries that we are winning this struggle in the field.
“But we may not, yet, be completely winning the battle for the truth. Christianity in Nigeria is not —as some seem intent on believing — contracting under pressure, but expanding and growing in numbers approaching half of our population today. Nor is it the case that Boko Haram is primarily targeting Christians: not all of the Chibok schoolgirls were Christians; some were Muslims and were so at the point at which they were taken by the terrorists.
“Indeed, it is the reality that some 90 per cent of all Boko Haram’s victims have been Muslims: they include a copycat abduction of over 100 Muslim schoolgirls, along with their single Christian classmate; shootings inside mosques; and the murder of two prominent imams. Perhaps it makes for a better story should these truths, and more, be ignored in the telling.
“It is a simple fact that these now-failing terrorists have targeted the vulnerable, the religious, the non-religious, the young, and the old without discrimination. And at this point, when they are fractured, we cannot allow them to divide good Christians and good Muslims from those things that bind us all in the sight of God: faith, family, forgiveness, fidelity, and friendship to each other.
“Yet sadly, there is a tiny, if vocal, a minority of religious leaders — both Muslim and Christian — who appear more than prepared to take their bait and blame the opposite religious side. The terrorists today attempt to build invisible walls between us. They have failed in their territorial ambitions, so now instead they seek to divide our state of mind, by prying us from one from another—to set one religion seemingly implacably against the other.
“Translated into English, Boko Haram means “Western teachings are sinful.” They claim as “proof” passages of the Quran which state that Muslims should fight “pagans” to be justification for attacks on Christians and those Muslims who hold no truck with them. They are debased by their wilful misreading of scripture—at least those of them who are able to read at all.
“Of course, there is much of Christianity and Islam—both in teaching and practice—that are not the same. Were that not so, there would be no need for the separateness of the two religions. Yet though these unread terrorists seem not to know it, there is much between our two faiths—both the word and the scripture—that run in parallel.
‘No place in Nigeria for those seeking to divide us’
“For the Bible teaches, “Each one must give as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion” (2 Cor. 9:7), while the Quran states: “There is no compulsion in religion” (2:256). Similarly, the Bible states: ‘For if anyone is a hearer of the Word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror’ (James 1:23). The Quran concurs: “Those who believe and do good works, theirs will be forgiveness and a great reward” (35:7).
“I call on Nigeria’s faith leaders, and Nigerians everywhere, to take these words of concord—and the many more that exist—to their hearts and their deeds. Just as my government, and our international partners, quicken our campaign to defeat Boko Haram within and without our borders, we must turn our minds to the future. There is no place in Nigeria for those who seek to divide us by religion, who compel others to change their faith forcibly or try to convince others that by so doing, they are doing good.
“Rather, we might all learn from the faith and works of Pastor Andimi. There seems little doubt he acted selflessly in so many regards—giving alms and prayers to both Christians and Muslims who suffered at the hands of the terrorists. And he passed from us, rightly refusing to renounce his faith that was not for his captors to take, any more than his life. His belief and his deeds are a lesson and an inspiration to all of us.”
Why Christians are now targets of deadly terror attacks — Investigation
Vanguard investigations revealed that the terrorists have intensified attacks on Christians to make more money from their victims. Their perception is that most of the Non-Governmental Organizations, NGOs, which deal with hard currencies have more Christians as their staff and do pay a huge amount of hard currencies to get their abducted staff released.
Investigations by Vanguard revealed that the terrorists have the perception that most of the Non-Governmental Organizations, NGOs, operating humanitarian services in the area, who deal in hard currencies have more Christians as their staff, hence, the terrorists seemed to have intensified their abduction of mostly Christians who they believe can part more easily with much-needed hard currency as ransom, with which they can fund their terror business.
Vanguard further gathered that the terrorists perceived that the humanitarian actors are more eager to pay a huge amount of hard currencies for release/freedom of their captive staff, hence the target by terrorists.
It was further gathered that the ‘Hard and the Only way’ in the area are the Maiduguri-Damaturu-Biu, Maiduguri-Bama-Gwoza roads. These roads link not only some predominantly Christian communities of Hawul, Chibok and Askira Uba Local Government Areas of southern Borno state, but also some parts of Adamawa, Taraba, Gombe, Bauchi, Jos and Kano states. They are the opened routes that have a direct link with Sambisa Forest where the terrorists have found it easier to operate without confrontation.
Another factor, it was learned, is revenge for the killing of Muslims in Plateau. One of the terrorists who executed Daciya Dalep, a 200 -level student of Biology/Education, University of Maiduguri, said in a recent video: “This is the beginning of Christians’ massacre, marking revenge of bloodshed in Plateau State in recent past.”
Late Daciya Dalep was abducted recently on Maiduguri-Beneshiek- Damaturu road alongside two students (male and female). The Muslim male student was freed the following day after he prayed with his abductors, while the Christian lady is still wallowing in the terrorists’ den.
The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Adamawa State had declared a three-day fasting and prayer session over what it described the rampant killing of Christians in the state.
Making the declaration in Yola, the Adamawa State CAN chairman, Rev Dami Mamza said it is the only option left to the Christian community in view of the ‘glaring failure’ of the Federal Government to protect lives of Christians in the state and other parts of the country.
He said: “Three Christians, including two prominent Christian leaders as well as a journalist, were killed around the state within the last week.
“The three were a pastor and politician, Rev Denis Magauri, killed by unknown persons at his residence in Mayo Belwa; a broadcaster with Radio Nigeria’s Fombina FM, Mr Maxwell Nashion, killed also by strange elements; and the Michika LGA Chairman of CAN, Lawan Andimi killed by Boko Haram insurgents.
“Boko Haram had beheaded Andimi on Tuesday after they rejected a N50 million ransom offer because it fell far too low than their demand.
“Boko Haram had earlier abducted him about three weeks ago when they invaded the northern Adamawa town of Michika,” the Man of God said.
Mamza noted that in the last few years, numerous Nigerian Christians have been massacred in cold blood without the government taking the necessary measures to stop the trend, let alone bring perpetrators to justice.
The chairman enjoined all Christians in the 21 local government areas of Adamawa State to participate fully in the three-day prayer and fasting session effect from coming Monday.
Similarly, the European Union and the United Nations expressed concerns, in a joint press conference on Friday 24 January, about the recent upsurge in attacks against aid workers and civilians recorded in recent weeks in the north-eastern states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe.
Amidst a deteriorating security situation, they reiterated their commitment to work better together and strengthen efforts to provide life-saving assistance to those affected by more than ten years of crisis in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states, in north-east Nigeria, and to increase support to people rebuilding their lives and communities.
EU crisis officials visit troubled areas
On his first official trip outside Europe, Janez Lenari, European Commissioner for Crisis Management, joined by the Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Mr Edward Kallon, met with the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, H.E. Muhammadu Buhari, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hon. Sadiya Umar Farouq, and H.E. Borno State Governor, Prof Babagana Zulum, as well as various partners from local CSOs, international NGOs and UN agencies implementing the humanitarian response in north-east Nigeria.
During this two-day visit, Commissioner Lenari and Mr Kallon also met with people displaced and affected by the violence in the Borno State town of Gwoza and visited EU-funded relief projects.
Announcing that the European Union will allocate an additional €26.5 million in humanitarian aid, Commissioner Lenar
I declared: “I saw first-hand today the suffering that conflict has brought to people’s lives and how crucial humanitarian aid is to people’s survival. What matters most is that humanitarian organisations can reach all the people in need, without restrictions, including in areas under the influence of non-state armed groups.
It is vital that all States and parties to armed conflicts respect their obligation to allow and facilitate the rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief. It is also key to implement in parallel a comprehensive strategy in the region, exploring political tracks while addressing the root causes of conflict.”
Recent weeks have been marked by an upsurge in violent attacks from non-state armed groups and an increasing trend of illegal checkpoints on major supply and commercial routes directly targeting civilians, authorities and aid workers, especially in Borno State.
Twelve aid workers were deliberately and brutally murdered by non-state armed groups in 2019, twice the number in 2018. Two aid workers, Grace Taku and Alice Loksha are still being held hostage by non-state armed groups and the humanitarian community call for their immediate and safe release.
“This highly symbolic visit comes at a critical time and brings together the United Nations, international and Nigerian NGOs, local and national CSOs and the European Union, as one of the most important donors,” highlighted Mr Kallon. “We are extremely worried that civilians and those who are providing them with assistance are the direct targets of violent attacks, hindering our ability to save lives and help people rebuild livelihoods and communities.”
“All actors and stakeholders must strengthen their efforts to provide life-saving assistance to the most vulnerable people affected by the crisis, and do their utmost to guarantee the protection of civilians and aid workers, and safe, unconditional access to the people in need,” added the Humanitarian Coordinator.
‘Nigerian humanitarian crisis, one of the world’s largest’
The humanitarian crisis in Nigeria remains one of the largest crises across the globe. In a complex and volatile security environment, the United Nations and NGO partners, in collaboration with local and national authorities in Nigeria, have delivered urgent support and basic services to over 5.6 million people in the crisis-affected states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe, in Nigeria’s north-east.
In 2020, the humanitarian community estimates that 7.7 million people will need emergency assistance. Over 1.8 million people, across the three crisis-affected states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe are still living in camps or are hosted in other communities, that are themselves becoming extremely vulnerable.1.2 million people in need remain cut off from humanitarian aid in hard-to-reach areas.
No survey to back Buhari’s claims — CAN
In its reaction yesterday, the Christians Association of Nigeria, CAN refuted President Muhammadu Buhari’s claim that 90 per cent of Boko Haram victims were Muslims, saying he was being dishonest about the reality on the ground.
Rev. John Hayab, CAN’s Vice Chairman (Northern region), said in a chat with Vanguard on Tuesday that the umbrella Christian body was not surprised by the President’s claim if recent utterances by his spokesmen over the persecution of Christians were considered.
His words: “If President Buhari truly made that claim, then we cannot be surprised going by the things his spokesman, Femi Adesina said after the killing of Rev Lawan Andimi.
“We believe Adesina wrote the column on behalf of his principal to affirm the things he has said, himself, about the attack on Christians by Boko Haram terrorists.
“But there is a difference between what they say in the media and the actual happenings on the ground. In Nigeria, it will be dishonest for anyone to claim that 90 per cent of Boko Haram victims have been Muslims.
“We believe it is not true. However, this is part of the denials that have caused problems in this country.
“Instead of accepting the reality of our problems, our leaders prefer to live in denials. No serious-minded person will believe the President is being honest in his claims.
“We make bold to say the Federal Government has not commissioned any multi-stakeholder survey to ascertain the facts and figures. Let the President show us the full facts backing his claims.
“A leader who is supposed to unite the people need not exhibit certain sentiments such as have been conveyed by President Buhari in his claim.”