University Re-opens Following Christian Student's Murder

Bauchi, Nigeria - The Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University (ATBU) in Bauchi re-opened on February 28 under tight security and without meeting the demands of Christian leaders who sought prosecution of the murderers of a Christian student in December and reinstatement of five other Christians expelled for conducting an evangelistic outreach.

ATBU and Federal Polytechnic in Bauchi were closed after Muslim students attacked Christian students and murdered Sunday Nache Achi, an evangelical campus leader at ATBU, on December 8, 2004. (see Compass Direct, “Nigerian Student Murdered in Clash over Evangelism,” December 20, 2004.)

Christian leaders said the murder was carried out because Muslim administrators incited Muslim students against their Christian counterparts. They issued a statement on February 28 asking for the immediate removal of the university administrators from their positions, so as to safeguard the lives of students in the institution.

In their statement, the council leaders of Nigeria’s Fellowship of Evangelical Students (NIFES) described the killing of Sunday Nache Achi as “tragic” and “unnecessary.” They condemned the brutal killing as “a crime that was perpetrated under the guise of defending a different religious point of view.”

Christians Accuse Vice Chancellor and Dean of Inciting Violence

The statement also said, “The council’s attention has also been drawn to inciting statements credited to the vice chancellor of ATBU, Professor G.A. Babaji, and the university’s dean of post-graduate studies, Dr. A.O. Ibrahim, which they made on the floor of the university’s senate.

“The council is concerned that the university administration has abdicated its responsibility to protect the lives of students committed to its care.”

Prof. Jerry Gana, chairman of the NIFES trustee board; National Director Mike Adegbinle; and the Rev. Canon Igein Isemede, chairman of the Governing Council of NIFES, issued the joint statement.

Following Achi’s murder, representatives of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Bauchi said the schools should not re-open unless the Nigerian government prosecuted the Muslim militants who killed Achi. CAN leaders also wanted the university’s vice chancellor removed and the five Christian students who were expelled in November 2004 re-admitted.

In January, Muslim militants pronounced a death sentence on the five expelled Christian students. The families of two of the students, Miss Hanatu Haruna Alkali and Abraham Adamu Misal, were attacked on January 26 when militants went to their homes in the northern state of Gombe, Nigeria, intending to kill the students. (See Compass Direct, “Muslim Militants Target Expelled Christian Students,” February 3, 2005.)

Violence Devastates Church in Plateau

Leaders of the Church of Christ in Nigeria (COCIN) said the religious violence that has engulfed the central state of Plateau over the past four years has destroyed over 200 churches, killed 84,000 people and destroyed about 225 Christian schools.

Previous official estimates put the four-year death toll at just 10,000. According to sources in Nigeria, the new estimate of 84,000 appeared in a report released last year by the Plateau state government while emergency rule was in effect.

Clashes between Muslims and Christians broke out on September 7, 2001, and continued to the early part of this year. Most of the casualties were Church of Christ members living in the predominantly Muslim areas of Wase, Yelwa, and Dengi.

The three-million member church is reportedly experiencing the darkest moment in its 100 years of existence.

“It was a period in which hell appeared to be leaking directly right [in Wase] where the first church was built [in 1904],” said the Rev. Dr. Pandang Yamsat, president of the church. Yamsat told Compass in Jos that all the churches in the Muslim-dominated areas of Plateau state have been completely destroyed.

In addition, he said, most of the pastors of these churches have been killed and surviving members displaced to other parts of the country. About 225 Christian schools were also destroyed.

Yamsat became president of COCIN in January. He decried the indifferent attitude of the Nigerian government to the attacks in the northern part of the country, saying the Nigerian government is not doing anything to safeguard the lives of Christians.

Japan Offers to Help Rebuild Schools

Meanwhile, the government of Japan in conjunction with the Japanese International Corporate Agency has offered to rebuild the 225 schools that were destroyed by Muslim militants in Plateau over the past four years.

A representative of the embassy of Japan in Nigeria, Mr. Mizotani, delivered the news to the Plateau state government, stating that his government will rebuild the schools in 14 local government areas of the state affected by religious violence.