By VOP Foreign Correspondent, Nigeria
Wala village is located along a highway from Maiduguri, 5 kilometers from Gwoza local government of Borno State, Nigeria. The village was divided into two sub-groups, one called WALA “A” with half the population being Christian. And WALA “B” with 55% of the population Christian.
These villages were predominantly devout Christians, living in the area of different denominations. The most prominent being the Church of Brethren In Nigeria, (EYN), Church of Christ in all Nation (COCIN) and Roman Catholics. Some had been pagans dwelling in the hills, before they were converted to Christianity. They accepted Christ as their personal savior and migrated from the hills to settle in Walla village.
Another village called Juba sat between the two WALA villages, which was predominantly 60% Christian. This village broke historical records for it’s large number of Christians not only in Gwoza, but Borno State as well. They had groomed Peter Biye Gumtha for political office. After serving as Commissioner for two terms in Borno State, he rose to the rank of National House of Representative, as the only Christian who for the first time won this type of seat. He was taken to court by his Muslim opponent who opposed the outcome of the election. By glory of God he received victory over him in court.
His emergence as a prominent politician has greatly helped in reducing the suffering of Christians in Borno State. In fact it was his influence that made the State governor increase the number of Jerusalem Seats to pilgrimage by 50%. He played a vital role in encouraging the young Christian men to become involved in politics to help the Christian community. Among his achievements was bringing unbelievers from the WALA hills, building churches for them and empowering them to hold key political positions.
Speaking to VOP’s correspondent, Ishaku Yakubu (44yrs) said, their Muslim neighbors had been abusing Christians calling them pagans and seriously persecuting them. They threatened them to convert to Islam, or they would be forced to leave the area. Markus Yakubu (26yrs.) said most of the attacks coordinated on the villages, were calculated attempts to displace the Christians.
First Attacks on the village
The violence was a result of the dramatic transformation of the Christian communities, beyond that of the Muslim dominated areas. Unknown to the Christians, they began to secretly hate them. They plotted with insurgents from the hills where they often hid to attack Christians. In the morning when the Christians were in their farm fields, 60 insurgents bearing heavy weapons came on October 7, 2013. The insurgents ambushed the farmers and caught several others heading out to their fields. Among those held captive were:
Musa Nige 58yrs married with 10 children, a member of COCIN church.
Markus Andrawus, 25yrs married with 1 child, a member of EYN church. Markus was very active in the church and dedicated to believers.
Dauda Yakubu, 42yrs married with 5 children, a member of EYN church.
Ibrahim Zurwavve 50yrs also married with 13 children, a member of EYN church.
Musa Adamu 56yrs married with 8 children, a member of COCIN church.
That fateful morning, they stormed the village. caught Musa Nige and tied his hands behind his back. They spotted Markus Aridrawa who was fleeing and went after him. Left alone, Musa struggled out of the ropes and also fled. Both men eventually escaped. The other three were caught, tied and taken to the Boko Haram camps in Sambisa Game Reserve, not far from the village. To date, nobody knows what has happened to them.
After the first attack, the Muslim community continued to gain power over the Christians. They constantly abused and insulted them. They threatened that if the Christians didn’t convert to Islam, they would experience more attacks from the Boko Haram. Since the attacks had been meted out only to the Christians of the community, they decided to flee to the mountain hills for safety. When the insurgents discovered that most of them had fled, they announced that unless the two men who had previously escaped were handed over to them, the Christian community would not find peace. After this announcement, they invaded the Christian village of WALA ‘A’ on September 27, 2013. Coming through Umdaga, they divided into three groups. They selected Christian houses, looted the valuable goods and set the homes on fire.
In the course of their destruction, they found Luka Yakubu, a boy of 16 yrs. who had recently been discharged from the Hospital. He was unable to run due to his illness. They caught the boy and mercilessly slaughtered him. Witnessing the horrific event, his younger sister fell to the ground instantly traumatized. They set the Christians homes on fire and chanted “Alhau Akbar”, meaning Allah is greater.
After ransacking the Christian shops and houses, they proceeded to the homes of prominent Christians destroying their residences. Among them were Ibrahim Nmiche, Ushaku Yakubu, Simon Zadua, Emma Zappaniya, Andrawus Ishaku, Yakubu Adamu,Titus Yakubu, Yohanna James, Ayuba Nige, Daniel Tada, Elisha Adamu, Bitrus Joshu, Adamu Kumbo, Bitrus James and Filibus Zuwavve, brother of Ibrahim Zuwavve who was captured as a slave in the terrorists camps.
Emma James was chased, his vehicle taken and his shop set aflame, but a nearby Muslim shop was spared. Yakubu Tada’s house was ransacked, everything vandalized and given to Muslims who lived nearby. After all the destruction, the insurgents went around making sure Muslims had not been affected.
Third Attack, Insurgent was caught
When they discovered that the Christian were not fighting back, they came in fewer numbers to conduct their terror operations. The Christians had enough of the killings, looting, ransacking of their shops and homes, done in the name of Islam. The young Christian men and elders had meetings and vowed whenever the insurgents attacked them, they would defend themselves with bows and arrows, sticks, stones and most importantly, prayers for the Power of God to give them victory. They prepared themselves and decreed that they would never leave their inherited land to a group of terrorists, or the Muslims hatred and envy.
When the insurgents came again, they thought they could start the attacks without resistance. This time the WALA people blew a trumpet and everybody came out in pursuit of the insurgents. God gave victory to the villagers and they chased them away. They experienced a double blessing when all the Christians belongings were recovered.
That action became a habit for the Christian community. They kept watch over all areas of the village. In the middle of one night around 3am, an armed Boko Haram member was spotted transporting petrol to the hills for the Boko Haram. One youth noticed him and alerted the villagers by trumpet. They fearfully went after the insurgent and caught him. They took the him to the village head who later handed him over to military. The insurgent was subsequently killed, serving as a serious warning for the insurgents with plans of new attacks or retaliation.
Forth Attack, December 2013
The Christians stayed alert and watchful to protect their community. When they heard that the insurgents were planning to storm their villages on Christmas Day 2013, they put all the young men at the entrances of the villages and stood watch to protect the churches from being attacked. The elders, women and children celebrated Christmas without encountering any type of attack. To celebrate Christ’s birth, the Christian community slaughtered four large cows and enjoyed their Christmas. They danced, prayed and listened to Christmas messages.
Unknown to the Christian community, the insurgents had sent some within them to spy on the village. On December 30, 2013, five days after their Christmas celebration, the insurgents came around 8:30am with heavy weapons, rocket launchers, explosive devices, ammunition and petrol to burn the village down. Vehicles full of insurgents armed with AK-47’s, attacked the area of the churches and started shooting. Because the men were already on guard with bows and arrows, they were not caught unaware. That day, three Christian men were killed, ANDRAWUS ZADVA, DANIEL DUGAJE and JAMES HABILA. All died as dedicated Christian’s persecuted for their faith in Christ. Five others were seriously wounded and some others sustained minor injuries. The remaining youths were persistent in defending themselves and succeeded in driving the insurgents away.
Major Challenges of the persecuted Christian Villagers
Our investigation has revealed that, over 300 Christians, mostly women and children have been displaced and are seriously suffering with barely anything to eat. They sleep in the open field where both wild and domestic animals graze. Worst of all, the children must sleep in the cold weather. They are often prone to illness and various diseases with no Hospitals, clinics, or medical treatment provided. During the daylight hours, the men go to oversee their properties to prevent Muslims from looting their remaining belongings.
One resident who had a terrible encounter with the insurgents, expressed his displeasure with the Nigerian Army. In an interview with the VOP foreign correspondent, he stated that the Army base which was in close proximity of the village, did not send soldiers when they were attacked.
He believed that if the military was more aware of the tactics of insurgents, they would have come to their defense. Unfortunately, it appears they are not. His plea to the Federal Government was, “If the military is unable to stop the attacks against us, the villagers should be supplied with arms to give them the ability to defend themselves, lest they all be killed.”
Another Christian lamented over the situation. He felt the army had exposed them to danger and left them without security. He said, “If the Army is not ready and able to help us, they should go away”.
Others who spoke on similar points, appreciated the Army for registering their presence, but claimed they should do more to help the victims. They clearly stated that,
“The location of the Boko Haram headquarters are well known from Dure Village to the hills. If the security was truly important, it is simply a matter of blocking the road.”
“We can only trust in God for protection and we will never leave our inherited land for any insurgents, even if they persecute us. We will never reject Christ to convert to Islam, the religion of killing people.”
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