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Many Christians have fled Yobe —Rev Idi
Reverend Garba Idi is the chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Yobe State chapter. In this interview with Isaac Shobayo, he speaks on the security situation in the state.
What are your experiences as the chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Yobe State?
The situation in Yobe is terrible. Churches were burnt and attacked while many Christians lost their lives in the course of this mayhem. We have the records. Since 4 November last year, when the Boko Haram sect struck in Yobe, it burnt 11 churches in Damaturu and many people lost their lives. Also on 26 November, these people struck and attacked one of the local government areas called Kaitam where they burnt five churches, including 12 shops belonging to Christians who were also burnt.
Also on 22 and 23 December, 2011, they attacked three churches in Damaturu and burnt them. The following day the ECWA Church, Kadaka in Fika Local Government Area, was attacked and they burnt five vehicles belonging to members of the church.
On Christmas day, they burnt two churches in Postiskum. Houses belonging to Christians and also St Peter’s Anglican Church were also affected . On 5 January, this year, two people were killed in Damaturu in their homes by 8p.m. and three injured are on admission right now in the hospital. On 6 January, they killed an Igbo man in his shop in Potiskum.
Six people were also killed on 11 January. They killed three in Angwan Darawa in Potiskum; three in a filling station on their way from Maiduguri to Potiskum where they stopped to fuel their cars. Gun men just attacked and shot them- two men and a woman. On 12 January, there was an attack on a Christian home and two people were killed.
On 14 January, another family was attacked and two people were killed in Damaturu. On 15 January, another family was also attacked and three people were killed, all Christians. In all, from January to this moment, 15 Christians have been killed, both in Potiskum and Damaturu.
Is that why you and others fled the state?
Well, I am in Jos because the situation in Damaturu in Yobe State is not favourable and we have to leave because the sect is hunting us; that is why we had to flee. As I am talking to you right now, many Christians have left Yobe to save their lives from these attacks.
How many of your members have so far fled the state?
Close to 95 per cent of Christians have left Yobe State. We have a settlement called Jerusalem. If you go there, you will discover that only few people are still there. It is also the same thing in Potiskum. The people that ran to Jos are very few. There are those who went to the interior parts of the state.
So what is the reaction of the government to your exodus from the state?
Actually, the government did not show any concern to our plight or show sympathy for us, despite the fact that we have been making efforts with the police to see that our lives and properties are secured. But I cannot remember any time the state government called the leaders of the Christian community to show sympathy or reason with us in the situation we find ourselves. So, there is no such gesture from the government of Yobe State.
Are you suspecting any collaboration against the Christian?
Well, I cannot say anything because the situation is beyond our understanding. We are confused in the sense that what we know is that the attack is targeted at us Christians.
So, what do you want the government to do for you?
Actually, what we want the government to do is to ensure the safety of lives and properties of Christians in Yobe. I thank God for what the Federal Government did by sending soldiers to take over the security situation. There was a troop sent to Damaturu and Potiskum. So, I think that is good and gives a kind of hope and assurance to those who are still living there that they are secured with the soldiers on ground in Damaturu.
Majority of those who fled Yobe are indigenous people , do you intend going back?
Life matters in all things. When you have life, then you can possess all the lands and other things. But when you are killed,s land has no significance. I think our lives matters, then our properties. That is why people flee from the state, leaving all properties.
When do you intend to go back?
If the situation improves and we have assurances that our lives and property are protected, we will go back because Yobe is our land and we don’t have any other place.