EYN farmers suffer violence in northeast Nigeria, interview with EYN district secretary for Wagga

By Zakariya Musa, head of EYN Media

Clergy of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) have counted 107 farms harvested by Boko Haram said Mishak T. Madziga, EYN district secretary for the Wagga district, in an exclusive interview. In addition, he reported several deaths of EYN members at the hands of the terrorists. EYN president Joel S. Billi, who was in the area to celebrate the autonomy of a new local congregation, confirmed the report of many farmers losing their farms to Boko Haram in this critical time of harvest.

The fall is the time of harvest in most Nigeria communities, when people make the effort to bring home the fruit of what they planted during the rainy season. But it is a terrible experience for hundreds of farmers who are losing their harvest to terrorists who did not work for it.

This is what Rev. Madziga had to say:

“With what is happening, we have to say thanks, since we are Christians. There is nothing that will overpower us because the Bible has informed us, despite the fact that when talking of Boko Haram criminality in Madagali Local Government Area, Waga Chakawa Ward is the concern now.

“From the Wagga area to Tur is the place where these boys [Boko Haram] are terrorizing us. We have local churches that have been totally vacated. We lost four LCC [local congregations] in Gori, Mallum, Lukumbi, and Rugwa, that are abandoned. Rugwa has shifted to an area where they can conduct church services.

“The terrorists come daily. This year in Tur they killed nine EYN members in a series of attacks. They [the people in the communities under attack] don’t sleep at home but in the bush, and sometimes they go home only for necessary things. They hide their things in the bush to an extent that they bury some of their food stuff in the ground. That is what our people in Tur are passing through. They no longer sleep in their houses.

“In Tur area, the terrorists have harvested 29 rice farms, 13 groundnut farms. From Wagga to Limankara, we counted 107 farms harvested by Boko Haram. When they storm a farm, you will assume a flock of hundreds of cattle have passed through. Even last Sunday, when EYN president Joel S. Billi conducted a church service celebrating the autonomy [of a local congregation], they harvested 14 rice farms. On Friday, Oct. 13, they invaded 23 groundnut farms and took away everything.

“The military are doing their best because whenever the attack alarm [is sounded] they go after them. Our problem is that they don’t allow us to reach our farms early in the morning. If we were allowed to reach our farms as early as 7 a.m. to work until 4 p.m., at least we could work to reduce the destruction and the cheating on us. But when it is 1 p.m. and nobody is allowed to stay on their farm, behind us these criminals come at will to start stealing and harvesting our farms.

“I and our village head went to meet the officer in charge and we told him that it is better if they [the military] can increase our working time to enable us to harvest more during the day. If we are on the farm till 4 p.m. the criminals will not invade our farms. He said they are following instructions from the top, that farming time will be between 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. We cannot tamper with that but he promised to forward our complaints. Some parts of the communities are allowed to go on their farms as early as 7 a.m., but to our side, they didn’t not listen to us yet.

“We have eight church congregations under District Church Council (DCC) Wagga, with the new one established on Oct. 15. In the case of Gori community, they have formed a worship center at Wagga, and likewise Mallum community have organized themselves in Madagali where they conduct church services with no building, but worship under a shed. It is the grace of God because people who found refuge in Madagali still go to farm. They coordinated themselves at Limankara where the new congregation was established, since they cannot reach their initial congregation in Kwakura. They collect offerings, do farming, and are courageous. When I brought their request for autonomy, we got the approval of the Majalisa [the EYN Annual Conference].

When asked about the state of church workers and pastors in the volatile area, Madziga responded:

“Truly, they are suffering seriously. I brought our concerns to the EYN leadership. You can imagine where there are no members, pastors’ needs cannot be met. Even the 40 percent contribution I brought this year is not up to that of last year. I used to bring like a million naira, but this year, the highest I came with was N300,000. Really, our pastors are undergoing hardship. Some cannot sleep in their houses because they have to flee to the bush with their members. Not enough food and other basic essentials. No good schools for their children. I try to encourage them by coming to the headquarters with their complaints. And we in danger zones must endure because we are not government workers, we are church workers.

“Many have lost their farms and produce to Boko Haram. Secondly, since most are now worshiping under sheds, as the number of [formerly displaced] people returning home increases. I have asked the EYN president to look at those areas with his assisting hands. In those places, some have not owned the lands they occupy. Some erected just a temporary shed. Now some are asked to purchase the land they occupy, but they cannot afford it.

“In most of these local churches, they are committed to rebuilding their destroyed church buildings. They believe they will not experience such widespread church destruction again. But few have gone far in rebuilding their churches. Some have finished the block work but roofing is the matter of concern. At the new congregation, they have built a beautiful pastor’s house but are now struggling to acquire the land where they were settled for free. Now the owner wants to sell it, but there is no money.”

Boko Haram kills EYN delegate in Chibok

On Nov. 14, church officials in Chibok reported the killing of EYN district delegate Joshua Kwakwi by Boko Haram. He was killed that night at Kwarangulum community, Chibok Local Government Area, Borno State. Three members of the community were on routine village guard duty when he was shot dead, while the other two fled for their lives. The attackers looted shops and went away with eight bicycles belonging to community members. The farming community there is coping with bad experiences in the struggle to harvest their farms and many have abandoned the area to flee to various locations for safety, leaving behind their belongings. The same village was attacked several times in 2021, when Kwakwi’s elder brother was killed.

— Zakariya Musa serves as head of EYN Media for the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria.


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