Hundreds of Christians, displaced by the Islamist insurgency in Nigeria’s North, have been staging protests to express their anger over the government failure to protect them as fresh attacks which claimed scores of lives in the region.
On Tuesday, at least 78 people were killed when two suicide bombers attacked a market in northern Nigeria’s Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, one of the most affected by the insurgency. A day before, suspected Boko Haram militants disguised as traders attacked Damasak town, near the Niger border, killing at least 48.
The demonstrators, from the northern states of Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Gombe and others, gathered Nov. 17 at the headquarters of the Church of the Brethren, or EYN Church, in Jos, the capital of Plateau state, in Nigeria’s center.
One of the protesters, Hannatu Ishaku, had lost her husband and two sons in a night raid on their hometown of Damboa earlier this year. She said the morning following the raid, the villagers who had fled returned to the village to assess the extent of damage. That’s when she found the bodies of her husband, Yohanna Ishaku, and her two sons near a church building in the village.
“Maybe they had taken refuge at the church building when they fell into the hands of the attackers,” she said, sobbing.
Hannatu is left with two daughters. Along with thousands of Christians, they have sought refuge in Jos, the Plateau State capital.
The protest attempted to draw attention to the plight of internally displaced people, and to what they consider to be neglect by the federal government.
The Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria for the North Central Zone, Daniel Kadzai, said Christians in the north have lost confidence in the government’s ability to deal with the crisis.
‘‘The Federal Government has toyed with the lives and limbs of the Christians in Northern Nigeria for political gains.
“There is no explanation the government can give as to why the Federal troops will run away from the towns prior to the attack on such towns by Boko Haram without putting up any resistance, if the government does not have a hand in the whole genocide on Northern Christians as is being speculated in the local and foreign media,’’ Kadzai said.
The Church of the Brethren in Nigeria (EYN), based mainly in the northern part of the country, is the worst affected by the insurgency. Information released during the protest shows that the church has suffered heavy losses and damages over the 5 years of Boko Haram insurgency.
Over 8,000 of their members have been killed, while more than 700,000, mostly women and Children have been displaced and now scattered in places like Jos, Abuja, Kaduna and Yola. Some 270 churches have been razed completely by the insurgents.
These figures are not taking into account the most recent casualties resulting from the occupation of Mubi, Maiha, Hong and Gombi Local Governments, between September and November.
Other communities are also affected but data on their level of victimization are not available.
Kadzai also blamed what he said has been a slow response from the international community, despite the worldwide wave of solidarity raised by the April abduction of about 300 Chibok school girls by Boko Haram.
‘‘The international community has refused to notice the pogrom on Northern Nigerian Christians. Rather they have shifted their attention and resources only to Iraq, Syria, Gaza and Afghanistan as if those being killed in Nigeria are not human beings’’.
The Christian group urged the United Nations to send peacekeeping troops ‘‘to secure the lives of the remaining traumatized people.’’
In recent weeks, the militants have hoisted their flag over more than 25 towns and villages, and have declared the establishment of a Caliphate.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian senate has yet to vote on President Goodluck Jonathan’s request for further extension of emergency rule, which came to an end last week.
Some northern lawmakers reject the request, arguing that the emergency rule imposed in May 2013 and renewed once, has failed to protect civilians, still vulnerable to attack, in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states.
Nigeria is ranked fourth on the Global Terrorism Index (GTI) for 2013, issued by the Institute for Economics and Peace. According to the index, more than 80 per cent of the lives lost to terrorists occurred in five countries – Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and Syria.
The institute says Boko Haram is one of the four most-active militant organisations along with the Islamic State, the Taliban and al Qaeda.
Largely because of the violence, Nigeria ranks No. 14 on the World Watch List, a ranking of the 50 countries where life for Christians is most difficult. The list is published by Open Doors International, a global charity that supports Christians who live under pressure because of their faith.