Nigeria: Two Christians Murdered in Kaduna

Monday, October 22, 2007

Sword, wooden club attacks follow calls for violent jihad by Muslim leaders.

KADUNA, Nigeria, October 22 (Compass Direct News) -- One man has been killed with a sword and another bludgeoned to death in this city in central northern Nigeria following Muslim leaders’ appeal to wage violent jihad against youthful Christians.

Muslim extremists on October 12 murdered Henry Emmanuel Ogbaje, a 24-year-old Christian, at an area known as Gamji Gate. The following day, church leaders said, a young Christian identified only as Basil was beaten to death with wooden clubs in the same area.

Ogbaje was a Sunday school teacher with the Military Protestant Church at Kotoko Barracks in Kaduna, while Basil, church leaders said, was a member of the Our Lady of Apostles Catholic Church. He was from Kagarko Local Government Area.

Elder Saidu Dogo, secretary of the northern Nigeria chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), told Compass that Islamic leader Sheik Gumi had urged Muslims to wage jihad against Christians during Tafsir, the reading and interpretation of the Quran, in televised broadcasts during the Islamic month-long observance of Ramadan.

“I saw Sheik Gumi on the television, NTA [Nigeria Television Authority], during that period preaching this inciting sermon – in fact, the same sermon was again broadcast by NTA Kaduna, on September 21 and 22,” Dogo told Compass. “He specifically called for a jihad, and that when they go killing they should not kill the elderly people, because the elderly have spent their years already, but that Muslims should kill young Christians.”

Dogo said that Sheik Gumi justified his call for jihad by saying in the same way Muhammad captured the Arabian peninsula, and Usman dan Fodio influenced northern Nigeria. Sheik Gumi concluded that because the British took northern Nigeria from the Islamic reformer (1754-1817) by force, Muslims “should fight to take over Nigeria by going to war against Christians.”

“With these kinds of statements coming from Muslim leaders, why would the followers of Islam not attack Christians?” Dogo asked. “We believe that the killing of Henry Ogbaje and Basil are the result of such sermons of these Muslim leaders.”

Dogo expressed dismay that the NTA, an agency of the Nigerian government, could be used to air such inflammatory messages. Nor is the Nigerian government making any efforts, he said, to curb such manipulation of the media.

Left for Dead

Henry Ogbaje’s father, Sgt. Emmanuel Ogbaje, told Compass that his daughter phoned him in Abuja on October 12 with news that Muslims had beaten his son to death with wooden clubs.

“She said they attacked him around the hours of five and six in the evening in the Gamji gate area, where they left him unconscious believing they had killed him,” Ogbaje said. “Henry was left in that state for about three hours with no one helping him.”

The young man regained consciousness, and a passer-by helped bring him home, where family members immediately took him to the 44 Military Reference Hospital, Ogbaje explained.

Stationed in Abuja with the National Defense College, the elder Ogbaje rushed to Kaduna and found his son at the hospital. A doctor treated him on October 12, a Friday, and requested that he be brought back to the hospital the following Monday for further examination.

“I went back to Abuja on Sunday, October 14, to enable me get a pass before returning to Kaduna the day Henry was to see the doctor again,” Ogbaje said. “But by Sunday night, my family phoned me that Henry’s situation had become worse and that he had been rushed back to the hospital. By 8 p.m. that Sunday, Henry died in the hospital and his corpse is now at the Nigerian Air Force Hospital mortuary, because the mortuary at the military hospital is being renovated.”

Ogbaje said the attack was doubly shocking for the family as they knew the young man had no known conflicts with anyone.

“Henry was a peace-loving person. He was straightforward,” Ogbaje said. “He was not a trouble-maker.”

A brilliant soccer player, Henry Ogbaje was a high school graduate seeking admission to university at the time he was killed, his parents said.

Resisting Retaliation

CAN’s Dogo said at least one Muslim attacked Basil with a sword at Gamji Gate while the Catholic was on his way from church.

“Basil was attacked and left in his pool of blood, but died while he was being rushed to the hospital,” Dogo said. The victim’s family had traveled out of the city for his funeral in his hometown at the time that Compass was in Kaduna, the capital of Kaduna state, and was unavailable for comment.

Both murders took place as Muslims were celebrating the Eid-El-Fatr festival marking the end of Ramadan. Noting that other Muslim leaders also preached attacks against Christians during Ramadan, Dogo raised a plea for the Nigerian government to act quickly to forestall what he and other Christian leaders said was a systematic effort to wipe out Christianity from northern Nigeria.

“We are alarmed over these types of killings and plead that the government seriously do something about these security breaches,” he said.

The Rev. Joshua Magaji, assistant secretary of the Kaduna state chapter of CAN, said the killings were meant to provoke Christians into angry retaliations and trigger another religious crisis in the state, which has seen tens of thousands of deaths from religious violence in the past three decades. Violence has broken out several times since the imposition of sharia (Islamic) law in 2000.

“We thank God that Christians in the state have restrained themselves from avenging the killing of these two, and we would like to appeal that they continue in this spirit,” Magaji said.

Magaji said Christian leaders have already met with the deputy governor of Kaduna state and the permanent secretary of the state Ministry of Religious Affairs over these two murders. He called on the state to ensure that the murderers be brought to justice.

“So also, I want to appeal that Christians and the government of Kaduna state should assist the two families in this difficult time,” he said.

Government efforts at curtailing the conflicts through the establishment of inter-religious councils and interfaith dialogues between Muslims and Christians have yielded little or no results, he said, as attacks against Christians have continued unabated.

Copyright © 2007 Compass Direct