7 July 2020
The devastating toll of murder, abduction and rape inflicted on mainly Christian communities by Boko Haram terrorists in northern Nigeria was detailed at a press conference by the president of one of the region’s largest Christian denomination on 2 July, as he called for increased government action to halt the relentless violence.
Pastor Joel Billi, head of the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria (EYN), said that more than 700,000 EYN members had been displaced, over 8,370 church members and eight pastors had been killed and countless abducted during the insurgency, “with the numbers increasing on a daily basis”.
There were more than 50 murderous attacks carried out by Boko Haram on different communities from the end of 2019 to June 2020, most of which were unreported, or under reported, both in print and in electronic media, he added.
Of the 274 girls abducted in April 2014 from their school in Chibok, 217 are EYN members. More than 300 of EYN’s 586 churches have been burned or destroyed “with uncountable number of houses belonging to our members looted or burnt”, he said. Only seven out of 60 District Church Councils were not directly affected by the insurgency.
Pastor Joel described as “unfortunate, misleading and demoralising” a statement by Nigeria’s President Buhari on 12 June in which the politician claimed that “all local governments” taken over by Boko Haram insurgents in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States “have long been recovered” and their people returned to ancestral homes.
“The fact on the ground is this; EYN had four District Church Councils prior to the insurgency in Gwoza Local Government Area of Borno State to which none is existing today,” said Pastor Joel. “There are over 18,000 of our members who are still taking refuge in Minawao, Cameroon. There are also about 7,000 of EYN members who are taking refuge in other IDP [internally displaced people] camps in Cameroon.”
While some people have returned to Gwoza town and Pulka, “all areas behind the Gwoza hills, where the concentration of Gwoza population is, is still not inhabited”, he said, listing 29 villages of Gwoza that remain deserted.
The pastor urged President Buhari urgently to deploy a military battalion to Gwoza to ensure the speedy return of IDPs. He called for the reconstruction of houses, schools and churches and urged the government to send more security personnel to deter further attacks.
The government should “live up to its constitutional responsibility by putting a stop to the continuous killings, abductions, rape and all forms of criminality across the country,” said Pastor Joel, adding it should also take action to “address the activities” of Fulani militants, armed bandits and kidnappers.
From Barnabas Fund contacts