By Obed Minchakpu
Local Islamists and Muslim Fulani herdsmen attacked a Christian community in Kaduna state on Monday (Dec. 19), killing five people and wounding six, area sources said, just nine days after a deadly attack on a Christian community in Kukum Gida in the same local government area.
The Muslim assailants, brandishing firearms and machetes, attacked Christians in Ungwan Rami village of Kaura Local Government Area at 10 p.m. in a manner consistent with other religiously motivated assaults in the state, which saw Christians killed last month as well, the sources said.
Ungwan Rami resident Kumai Yanet told Compass that local Muslims and some Muslim Fulani herdsmen first attacked Christians stationed to keep watch over the village.
“These Muslims attacked our community members who had assembled in the house of my elder brother, Zakka Yanet,” Yanet said. “A few minutes later, they attacked my house, which is near my brother’s house. None in my house was hit by a bullet, but as you can see, there are bullet holes all over my house.”
Ungwan Rami, with about 800 residents who are all Christians, has four church denominations: Roman Catholic, Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA), Christ Apostolic Church (CAC), and Cherubim and Seraphim. The five Christians killed were members of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, as are those who were injured. The wounded, including a 3-year-old girl cut with a machete, were being treated at the Bingham University Teaching Hospital in Jos, Plateau state.
The five Christians killed were Matthew Yusuf, 28; Joseph John, 30; Innocent Abba, 33; Mathias John, 35; and Didam Zakka, 19. Those injured were Linda Emmanuel, 3; Emmanuel Zakka, 28; Gabriel Zakka, 20; Deborah Emmanuel, 19; Dominic Daniel, 25; and Gideon Anthony, 30.
Catholic priests from the archdiocese of Kaduna held funeral service for those killed on Wednesday (Dec. 21) in Ungwan Rami.
The Rev. Francis Dauda Nni told those gathered not to despair in the face of the onslaught, as God predestined them to shed blood to help build the Kingdom of Christ, and their sacrifice was not in vain.
“The death of these five is a sacrifice and a blessing to us,” he said. “Know this, the dead of a martyr is a blessing to God’s people.”
He urged Christians in the community never to contemplate vengeance for the attack.
“No one amongst you should think of avenging the attack on you, because when we avenge there would be no end to the crisis in this country,” Nni said. “Therefore, depend on God, for He is the only one who can protect you and avenge for you.”
He said the Nigerian government is neglecting protection for Christians in such remote areas.
“There is the need for me to call the attention of the Nigerian government to the fact that security is being provided in cities and towns to ward off attacks, but the rural areas and villages are being left unprotected,” he said. “The government should ensure that security agencies are well equipped to patrol the villages too, so that the killing of innocent Christian villagers would end.”
The Rev. Richard Angolia, parish priest of St. Joseph’s, expressed sadness that within a span of two weeks, two attacks have been carried out against two Christian communities in the area, resulting in six deaths and eight injured Christians; on Dec. 10, a Muslim villager in Kukum Gida allegedly helped Muslim Fulani herdsmen attack the village, killing 50-year-old Kunam Musa Blak.
Florence Aya, chairperson of the Interim Management Committee of Kaura Local Government Council, told Compass that those attacked in Ungwan Rami included “a pregnant woman and a 3-year-old girl. The girl was cut with a machete.”
Aya said those killed had gathered to patrol and keep watch over their village as a result of attacks on Christian communities in the area.
“They were not aware that already the attackers had hidden themselves in bushes around the village,” she said.
During the funeral service, Aya said the attack was unprovoked, with the victims having committed no crimes except being Christian.
“I urge you all, my brethren, to have faith in Christ Jesus,” she said. ‘God will avenge these killings for us. Security is in the hands of God, so, if we depend on him, He will protect us.”
Kaduna Under Siege
The state has suffered a rash of attacks in recent months. On Nov. 10, Muslim Fulani herdsmen assaulted another Christian village, Apiokashi, in the Jema’a Local Government Area, killing village leader Bulus Adamu, 40, and his wife, Ladi Bulus.
Apiokashi village has about 300 Christians, all of them members of either the local ECWA church or the Catholic church.
Obadiah Adamu, 16, oldest of the eight children the slain couple leaves behind, told Compass that the Muslims sneaked into the village at night. His sister, Asabe Bulus, said that the family was asleep when the Muslim Fulani herdsmen arrived.
“They stoned the windows of our rooms,” she said. “Our dad went out to find out who was stoning the windows, and then he was shot. The sound of the gunshots forced our mother to run out of her room to find out what was going on, only for her too to be killed.”
A young Christian man in the village, Samson Joshua, sustained injuries when he was shot by the attackers, source said.
Ayuba Simon, 42, acting village head, told Compass that the Muslim Fulani herdsmen again invaded the village on Dec. 15, but villagers keeping watch repelled them.
“We know these Muslims who have been attacking us – they also do so in company of Fulani herdsmen, and they currently reside at Dangoma village, a Muslim settlement about seven kilometers south of our village,” Simon said. “Security agencies know this, but they have not done anything to arrest them.”
Asabe Bulus said the Nigerian government must find ways to stem the assaults.
“As Christians, we have been living peacefully with these Muslims, but we do not understand why they should now attack us,” she said.
With these attacks on Christian communities, Christians in Kaduna are increasingly restless as dozens have been killed and hundreds displaced in recent months.
After an explosion in Kaduna city on Nov. 7, Chukwuma Nwaejiaka, a 32-year-old Christian and member of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, said he thought the world had come to and end.
The businessman stood and watched as his warehouse went up in flames after it was bombed alongside shops owned by his fellow Christians, he said.
“I saw people being rescued out of the destroyed buildings,” he said. “Some of them had burns all over their bodies. There were dead bodies that littered the place, and everywhere was burning.”
A young Christian man identified only as Onyeka had plans to get married a week before he died in the blast, Nwaejiaka said.
Nine people lay dead when rescue workers ended their rescue operations – members of Roman Catholic, Anglican and Living Faith Church congregations. At press time the death toll from the blast had risen to 16 persons, according to the National Emergency Management Agency.
“No one sold gas in this building complex, so the claim by the police that the explosion was caused by gas is false,” Nwaejiaka said. “I think the police are making this claim just to calm frayed nerves over the unending bombings going on in the country that have left the police helpless.”
Peter Ozoemena, a Christian with a shop fewer than 50 meters from the bombed shops, said the nine shops with 15 apartments attached to them were affected.
“The shops were bombed when two men came on a motorbike and parked in front of the shops,” he said. “One of the men whom we believe was a Muslim extremist, probably a member of Boko Haram, went to speak to one of three Christian teenagers. A few minutes later, the Muslim suddenly bolted, and then a loud explosion occurred. One of these two Muslims had the bomb concealed in a carton. It exploded and killed the bearer of the carton, while the second was injured.”
In the midst of the commotion that followed, colleagues of the injured Muslim whisked him away, he said.
Ozoemena said his wife, Peace Ozoemena, was walking towards the building at the time of the explosion.
“She was thrown away by the impact of the bomb,” he said. “We were all shaken by the attack. Fire was burning all over those buildings, and the entire place was pulled down.”
He was bitter that police would misinform the public about the cause of the explosion.
“We are not happy about the lies the police commissioner has been telling the people,” he said. “How can they say that the explosion was caused by gas when no traders sell gas in these shops?”
Ismail Muhammad, 30, a Muslim phone card seller who owns a shop near the bombed Christian shops, told Compass that he saw eight bodies of Christians who were killed.
“A Christian woman who is a street sweeper was injured in the attack,” he added. “She had a baby strapped on her back, so both were critically injured and were taken to Barau Dikko Specialist Hospital here in Kaduna.”
A female Muslim student lived in one of the homes behind the shops, he said.
“Her name is Khadijat, she is a student of the Kaduna Polytechnic, she was trapped in the house and she died too,” Muhammad said, adding that a teenage Muslim boy named Abdulateef also died and a Muslim named Suleiman was injured. He also refuted police claims that the explosion was due to ignited gas canisters.
“How can police make such claims when there was no gas sold here?” he said. “In fact, what I saw are small refill-canisters of car air-conditioner. These canisters cannot cause this kind of destruction even if they explode.”
The bombing of these Christian-owned shops came on the heels of similar bombings of businesses and church buildings in Yobe state.
Leaders of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) have called on the Nigerian government to confront the growing terrorism. CAN President Ayo Oritsejafor urged police in Nigeria to properly investigate the explosion instead of spreading false information to the public.
CAN also urged Nigerian security agencies to put aside religious bias in order to end the destabilization of the country.