•Govt should come to our aid
•Fear bandits ‘ll carry out their threat
•Police create special squad to protect worshippers
•CAN directs churches not to hold activities beyond 5pm
By Nasir Muhammad Gusau
Christians resident in Zamfara state are now living in fear while some are considering leaving the state following a threat letter by a group of bandits asking the Christian community to stop worshiping and close their churches. They expressed worry over imminent attacks from the bandits saying they could no longer sleep with their eyes closed and cried to the security personnel to come to their rescue.
The Zamfara State Police Command confirmed the threat letter and said they were “on top of the threat.” Spokesperson for the command, DSP Mohammed Shehu, told an online medium, SaharaReporters that the police were aware of the threat letter.
He said, “Yes, I can confirm that it’s true, a threat letter was sent to the Christians in Zamfara State to stop worship and to close churches. Actually, the police informed the Christian leaders about the threat.
“Accordingly the CP has invited the leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in the state to discuss security measures around the churches. In that regard, a special squad has been created by the CP to patrol and protect worshippers, especially on Sundays. Additionally, plain-clothes personnel have been deployed for intelligence gathering and to unravel those behind the threat letter,” he said.
A Christian leader in the state who spoke on condition of anonymity said, “Christians in Zamfara State were issued a three-month ultimatum to close all churches in the state. Some churches were listed for attack between now and the end of December, though the churches that would be attacked according to the bandits are located on the outskirts of the town, but we believe it’s just a trick. Same letter was also copied to the Police, Department of State Services (DSS), Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and other security agencies and they all confirmed receipt of the letter. Christian Association Nigeria (CAN) in Zamfara State has also directed all churches not to hold church activities beyond 5pm for the next three months,” he said.
In their reactions, members of the Christian community said they were taking the threat seriously and called for protection.
According to one Mr Ikenna Ndubusi, a ceramics seller, “the threat letter is real and government at all levels need to do the needful in order to protect lives and property of Christians in the state. The letter should not be ignored because these hoodlums are capable of carrying out the threat. It has become a tradition for the bandits to write letters to communities, serving them notice of imminent attacks and they would carry out the attacks as they have said”. Mr Ikenna, stressed that Christians in Zamfara were law abiding citizens and would not do anything that would truncate the on going peace initiatives in the state and the country in general”.
In his own reaction, another Christian, Mr Monday Ogar who hails from Anambra state and residing in Gusau said, “Christians in the state are now living in fear and we are worried following the threat letter sent by bandits. Already, people are going through severe suffering, deprivation and intolerable level of hardships caused by these monsters across the state. We therefore call on government and security agencies to come to our aid and protect us from this menace of banditry in the state”.
Another Christian, Miss Chenyere Okafo, a business woman in Gusau, explained that she was shocked and became afraid when she heard about the letter sent by bandits. She said, “Christians can no longer sleep with their two eyes closed”. She nevertheless maintained that, “as a devoted Christian, I will never stop going to church but I appeal to the authority to rise to the occasion and fulfill their obligation of protecting lives and property of Nigerians wherever they are”.
When contacted for his reaction on the issue, the Director General, Media and Public Enlightenment Malam Yusuf Idris Gusau, who is also Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), stated that the government was aware of the letter and was putting all machinery in place to ensure that lives and property of Zamfara indigenes and whoever is residing in the state are protected”.
He then urged the Christian community in the state to live in peace and continue to carry out their day to day activities without any fear as the state government was doing everything within its power to address the menace of banditry in the state.
The leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria CAN Zamfara state chapter did not comment on the threat letter saying that the national body had already commented on the issue.
Meanwhile, the police in the state have directed Christians to intensify security in all places of worship, pastors’ houses and other Christian centres.
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