Press conference by EYN president brings attention to recent Boko Haram attacks, calls on government and international community for action




EYN president Joel S. Billi
Photo by Zakariya Musa

EYN president Joel S. Billi

Excerpts from a transcript released by Zakariya Musa, communications staff of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria

A press conference was held by Joel S. Billi, president of Ekklesiyar Yan'uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) in Jimeta, Yola, on Thursday, July 2. Following are portions of the transcript of the press conference, which focused on bringing attention to the continuing insurgent violence that is affecting members of EYN and their neighbors in northeast Nigeria, and issuing a strong call on the Nigeria government:

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EYN--Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (Church of the Brethren in Nigeria)--was established at Garkida, Adamawa State, by the Brethren Christian missionaries from the United States of America on March, 17, 1923. Three years from now, EYN will be 100 years old. It is the largest Christian denomination in the northeast...with an estimated population of 1.5 million communicant members.

EYN is one of the three Historic Peace Churches in the world. The other two are the Mennonites and the Society of Friends, otherwise known as Quakers. The practical demonstration of the peace heritage of the church was displayed during the over 11 years of insurgency in the northeast perpetrated by the Boko Haram Islamic fundamentalist sect, and no reprisal attacks were done by members of the EYN....

EYN is the single Christian denomination that is worst hit by the activities of the Boko Haram. Over 700,000 members have been displaced with only 7 out of 60 District Church Councils not directly affected by the insurgency. EYN has lost over 8,370 members and 8 pastors, with the numbers increasing on a daily basis. Many of her members have been abducted, with 217 out of the abducted 276 Chibok school girls belonging to EYN. Over 300 of the 586 churches of EYN have been either burnt or destroyed, with uncountable numbers of houses belonging to our members looted or burnt.

Call on the government

The world at large is passing through one of the greatest challenges in recent times, that is the coronavirus pandemic. As a church, we commend the Federal Government under President Muhammadu Buhari and the President’s Task Force on COVID-19 for the proactive measures taken. We salute our frontline health workers for putting their lives on the line for Nigerians. We sympathize with families who lost their loved ones as a result of this global pandemic. We call on all Nigerians to adhere to safety protocols and guidelines so that COVID-19 may be defeated.

I wish to commend the renewed zeal by our gallant military and other security forces in tackling the menace of Boko Haram. However, I call on the federal and state governments of Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa States to--as a matter of urgency--rescue the remaining abducted Chibok school girls and return them safely to their families. I also call with a loud voice on the federal government under President Muhammadu Buhari to rescue Leah Sheribu Neta, Alice Loksha, and hundreds of those abducted by the Boko Haram.

While we remain committed as Nigerian citizens in supporting the government of the day in achieving its mandate, EYN was shocked at the Democracy Day Speech of President Buhari on June 12, where he said, “All the local governments that were taken over by the Boko Haram insurgents in Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa have long been recovered and are now occupied by the indigenes of these areas who were hitherto forced to seek a living in areas far from their ancestral homes.” That was unfortunate, misleading, and demoralizing.

The fact on ground is this: EYN had four District Church Councils (DCC) prior to the insurgency in Gwoza Local Government Area of Borno State, to which none is existing today. There are over 18,000 of our members who are still taking refuge in Minawao, Cameroon. There are also about 7,000 EYN members who are taking refuge in other IDP [internally displaced person] camps in Cameroon among which are Ngaudare, Bavangwala, Karin Beka, Zhelevede, Garin Njamena, Mazagwa, and Moskwata.

Yes, there are people now in Gwoza town and Pulka, but all areas behind the Gwoza hills where the concentration of the Gwoza population is, are still not inhabited. The total number of IDPs in the Cameroon camps who are over 95 percent from Gwoza is over 47,000 people, who have never received attention from the government be it state or federal. The bulk of displaced members of EYN live in Maiduguri, Adamawa, Nasarawa, Taraba, the FCT, and some are spread across many states of the federation.

Displaced communities of Gwoza Local Government Area that are not inhabited are: Chinene, Barawa, Ashigashiya, Gava, Ngoshe, Bokko, Agapalwa, Arboko, Chikide, Amuda, Walla, Jibrili, Attagara, Zamga Nigeria, Agwurva, Ganjara, Zhawazha, Balla, Timta, Valle, Koghum, Kunde, Pege, Vreke, Fadagwe, Gava West, Sabon Gari Zalidva, Tsikila, and Hambagda.

More worrisome is the fact that from the end of last year 2019 to June 2020, there had been over 50 different attacks on different communities carried out by the Boko Haram and most were either unreported or under reported by both the print and electronic media. I shall be specific with facts and figures to buttress my point.

1. On Dec. 25, 2019, Boko Haram attacked Bagajau community of Askira/Uba LGA of Borno State killing 9 Christians. Damjuda Dali, the head of the household, and his two children with their friends were burnt down in their room--Daniel Wadzani, Ijuptil Chinampi, Jarafu Daniel, and Peter Usman. Others were Ahijo Yampaya, Medugu Auta, and Waliya Achaba.

2. On Dec. 29, 2019, Mandaragirau community of Biu Local Government Area of Borno State was attacked where 18 Christians were abducted. The older was Esther Buto, 42 years old, and the youngest of them was Saraya Musa, 3 years old. The church building and foodstuffs were destroyed as well as the primary school.

3. On the Jan. 2, 2020, Boko Haram attacked Michika Community of Adamawa State and abducted Rev. Lawan Andimi, the EYN District Church Secretary, also the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Chairman for Michika LGA, who was gruesomely murdered on Jan. 21, 2020.

4. Jan. 18, 2020, was another dark day for EYN as Boko Haram attacked Kwaragilum village of Chibok LGA of Borno State and abducted six female members of EYN. They were: Esther Yakubu, Charity Yakubu, Comfort Ishaya, Deborah Ishaya, Gera Bamzir, and Jabbe Numba.

5. As if that was not enough, Jan. 27, 2020 was yet another gloomy day as Tur Community of Madagali LGA of Adamawa State was attacked by same Boko Haram Islamic fundamentalists where 10 EYN members had their houses looted and burnt.

6. Feb. 2, 2020, was catastrophic as Boko Haram again attacked Leho community of Askira/Uba LGA of Borno State, where all three of the EYN churches were burnt: EYN Leho 1, Leho 2, and Leho Bakin Rijiya.

7. On Feb. 20, 2020, Boko Haram overran Tabang community of Askira/Uba LGA of Borno State abducting a 9 =-year-old boy. Mama Joshua Edward sustained bullet wounds and 17 EYN members’ houses were razed down.

8. Feb. 21, 2020 was a black Friday for EYN as Garkida community, the birthplace of EYN, was attacked by Boko Haram. The first EYN church was burnt down. Two other churches--Anglican and Living Faith--were also burnt. The EYN Brethren College of Health Technology, EYN Rural Health Department and its vehicles, and prominent Christian houses and shops were looted and burnt. Mr. Emmanuel Bitrus Tarfa was abducted.

9. Feb. 29, 2020, was the date Boko Haram attacked Rumirgo community of Askira/Uba LGA of Borno State killing 7 persons amongst them one soldier, four Muslims, and two Christians.

10. On March 1, 2020, Boko Haram yet again attacked Rumirgo of Askira/Uba LGA of Borno State and carted away a truck loaded with foodstuff.

11. On April 3, 2020, Boko Haram attacked Kuburmbula and Kwamtiyahi villages of Chibok LGA of Borno State, abducting and murdering three persons. They were Meshack John, Mutah Nkeki, and Kabu Yakubu. Over 20 houses were razed down.

12. April 5, 2020, witnessed the attack by Boko Haram on Mussa Bri, Askira/Uba LGA of Borno State. Looted and burnt were Christian shops belonging to Samuel Kambasaya, Yuguda Ijasini, and Matiyu Buba.

13. On April, 7, 2020, Wamdeo community of Askira/Uba LGA of Borno State was overrun by Boko Haram. They burnt two vehicles, burgled stores, and killed five persons. Amongst those killed were Pur Thlatiryu, a security guard at the EYN Clinic, Ndaska Akari, and Yunana Maigari.

14. May 6, 2020 was a black day for EYN yet again as Boko Haram unleashed havoc on Debiro, Dakwiama, and Tarfa communities of Biu Local Government Area of Borno State, burnt two EYN churches, razed down the two villages and some houses in Tarfa, and killing Mr. Audu Bata.

15. May 12, 2020, was a day Boko Haram revisited Mussa Bri of Askira/Uba LGA of Borno State. They killed Luka Bitrus and Mrs. Ijaduwa Shaibu got several machete cuts.

16. On May 30, 2020, Kwabila village of Askira/Uba LGA of Borno State witnessed the dastardly acts of the Boko Haram. Dauda Bello, Baba Ya’u, and a female, Kawan Bello, were killed, while Aisha Bello, Rufa’i Bello, and Amina Bello sustained various degrees of injuries and were receiving treatment at Askira General Hospital. That was an attempt to wipe out an entire family.

17. Three days later, on June 2, 2020, Boko Haram returned to Kwabila village of Askira/Uba LGA of Borno State killing Bello Saleh, the head of the household, while Amina Bello, who had been receiving treatment, died in the hospital.

18. On June 7, 2020, Kidlindila community of Askira/Uba LGA of Borno State witnessed its own share of the Boko Haram attacks after experiencing such attacks twice in 2019. A lady by name Indagju Apagu was abducted, Wana Aboye sustained a gunshot injury, while Apagu Marau’s car was carted away and several houses were looted.

19. June 16, 2020 was a thick cloud of man’s inhumanity to man as Boko Haram devastated Mbulabam of Chibok LGA of Borno State, abducting a young girl by name Mary Ishaku Nkeke while her two brothers, Emmanuel and Iliya, went missing for three days.

20. The following day, June 17, 2020, the same Boko Haram came to Kautikari community Chibok LGA of Borno State killing three: Mr. Musa Dawa, 25 years old and married; Mr. Yusuf Joel, 30 years old and single; and Mr. Jacob Dawa, 35 years old and married. Five women and girls were abducted, all members of EYN. They are: Martha Yaga, 22 years old and single; Mary Filibus, 13 years old and single; Saratu Saidu, 22 years old and single; Eli Augustine, 21 years old and married; and Saratu Yaga, 20 years old and married.

21. Five days after that, on June 22, 2020, Boko Haram yet again invaded Kautikari community of Chibok LGA of Borno State killing Bira Bazam, 48 years old and married, and Ba Maina Madu, 62 years old. Three girls were abducted: Laraba Bulama, 20 years old and single; Hauwa Bulama, 18 years old and single; and Maryamu Yohanna, 15 years old and single. 

22. The month of June ended on a sad note for EYN as Boko Haram attacked farmers of Nasarawo, Kautikari, of Chibok LGA of Borno State, killing Mr. Zaramai Kubirvu, 40 years old and married....

There are several villages and communities not occupied by their inhabitants, communities deserted due to continuous attacks by Boko Haram besides the ones mentioned earlier. The deserted villages are:

In Chibok Local Government Area of Borno State, the following communities are deserted: Bwalakle, Nchiha, Kwaragilum A & B, Boftari, Thlilaimakalama, Kakalmari, Paya Yesu B, and Jajere.

Communities in Askira/Uba LGA of Borno State: Bdagu, Pubum, Ngurthavu, Kwang, Yaza, Bagajau, Huyim, Shawa, Tabang, Barka, Gwandang, Autha, Paya Bitiku, Gwagwamdi, Yimirali, Dembu A & B.

Communities in Damboa LGA of Borno State: Kubirvu, Bilakar, Klekasa, Kwamjilari, and Chillari.

Communities in Madagali LGA of Adamawa State: Vemgo, Gulla, and Humshe.

The persistent attacks by Boko Haram are not limited to the areas highlighted above in southern Borno and northern Adamawa States, but are also being experienced in northern Borno, Kala-Balge, Monguno, Kukawa, Mobar, etc.

Our prayer

a. We call on President Muhammadu Buhari to as a matter of urgency deploy at least a battalion of military to the deserted areas behind the Gwoza Hills as enumerated above to ensure the speedy return of the IDPs to their ancestral land.

b. The government to immediately reconstruct and rehabilitate all houses, schools, and worship places destroyed by the insurgents in the deserted villages, to be carried out by the Northeast Development Commission.

c. Government to deploy more security personnel to volatile areas to mitigate further attacks.

d. The federal government to marshal out plans to evacuate the over 47,000 IDPs in Cameroon camps back to their ancestral homes by the end of 2020.

e. Government to live up to its constitutional responsibility by putting a stop to the continuous killings, abductions, rape, and all forms of criminality across the country.

f. Government to urgently address the activities of Fulani militia, armed bandits, and kidnappers terrorizing our communities.

g. Religion is a sensitive issue in Nigeria; we therefore urge the states and federal government to ensure that Christian Religious Studies is taught in public schools in some of the northern states where it is not done. This would contribute in molding character of the citizens.

h. Appointments should reflect federal character and any breach of that is unacceptable to the church. We demand immediate reversal and correction of the imbalance in most appointments by President Muhammadu Buhari where his appointments have always been skewed to favor a particular sector and religion.

i. While we as a church support the federal government fight against corruption, we frown at the selective nature of the fight and demand that rule of law must be respected.

j. While we commend the federal government for the efforts made towards diversifying the economy in the midst of the COVID-19 challenge, we encourage the government to ensure that job opportunities are created for our teeming numbers of unemployed youths, this when done would reduce youth restiveness.

k. From the look of things, the federal government under President Muhammadu Buhari has run out of ideas and is overwhelmed with the security challenges; we call on the United Nations and the African Union to come to the aid of Nigeria in tackling the security challenges.

While we appreciate President Buhari, the Higher and Lower Chambers for the establishment of the Northeast Development Commission, we call on them to ensure that the deplorable state of our roads are reconstructed and rehabilitated.

Conclusion

As a church, though abandoned by the government, I call on all EYN members to remain law-abiding citizens, upholding our peace heritage and keeping an unwavering faith in God whom we believe will one day deliver us.

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