Pastor Killed In Ethnic Violence In Nigeria

Friday, May 11, 2001

by Obed Minchakpu
May 11, 2001

KAMURU, Nigeria (Compass) -- Ethnic violence between the Bajju and Ikulu ethnic groups in the Zangon Kataf region of Kaduna state in northern Nigeria have led to the killing of a pastor and two others.

The ethnic violence exploded on Saturday, April 7, as a result of a long-standing disagreement between the two ethnic groups over the control of Kamuru town. Thousands of people were left homeless when more than 140 homes were burned, and other properties worth millions of dollars were razed to ashes.

Rev. Sankey Shabayan of the Evangelical Church of West Africa (ECWA) was shot to death in his home during the clash. His daughter, Ms. Ruth Sankey, the director of Spaces 2000, a non-governmental organization, told Compass in Kamuru town that her father was killed when the tribal agitators found him lying ill in his house.

"I was told a mob came to the house. He confronted them, came out with his Bible, and tried to pacify them. They had set his brother's house ablaze. They shot him," she said. "I was told they burned his body." She said her father, an ethnic Bajju, was one of the first Christian evangelists to settle in the area.

Mrs. Laurentia Mallam, chairperson of Zangon Kataf Local Government Area, said that the violence was ignited by a desire for land control by both ethnic groups.

"The problem is with the name of a town. Some call it Kamuru Station, some call it Kamuru Ikulu, that is one thing. And when districts were created, the Ikulus wanted an Ikulu man to be the district head. The Bajjus wanted a Bajju man to be the district head. So it is the issue of name and ownership of land," Mrs. Mallam said.

The conflict over land between the two communities has remained unresolved for more than 30 years, Mallam said. "You cannot talk of who owns the land. I have always said that no human being owns any land. God owns the land, and He entrusts it to government, and then government entrusts it to individuals or communities."

Mr. Charles Bonnet, secretary of the Kaduna state government, told Compass that the state has organized a panel of inquiry into the crisis.

"We are doing everything possible to resolve it," Bonnet said.

Copyright © 2001 Compass Direct News Service. Used with permission.