Mrs. Ada Chukwukelu tells a chilling story of how the dreaded Boko Haram insurgents nearly cut short the life her younger brother Ikechukwu Nebedum, a former staff of Shell Petroleum, Port Harcourt, and an assistant Pastor in one of the fast-growing Pentecostal Churches, reports CHUKWUDI EJIMOFOR, in Port Harcourt.
My younger brother had no premonition of danger to his life that fateful day. Ikechukwu Nebedum, who worked as an instrument safety engineer with Shell Petroleum, Port Harcourt, Rivers state capital, and a preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, will never forget the ordeal he passed through in the hands of suspected Boko Haram insurgents, who initially disguised themselves as Fulani herdsmen.
A native of Nawfijah in Orumba South Local Government Area of Anambra state, Ikechukwu, a Lay Reader and Assistant Pastor, in one of the fast-growing Pentecostal Churches, had travelled to Owerri, the Imo state capital South East Nigeria, to attend a church crusade that held in the city the previous day.
And on his way back to Port Harcourt, his car ran into some Fulani herdsmen believed to be members of the religious fanatics called Boko Haram operating from bushes on both sides of the Port Harcourt- Owerri Expressway.
The AUTHORITY gathered that as soon as Ikechukwu’s car screeched to a halt, three suspected Boko Haram insurgents wielding AK-47 riffles, pulled him out of the driver’s seat, and bundled him inside the booth of his car.
Thereafter, the armed men jumped inside the car, with one of them taking over the driver’s seat.
But due to divine intervention, the car refused to start; having perhaps, developed electrical problem.They pulled him out from his car trunk and forced him to start his car. And amid the confusion that ensued along a bush path, people has started approching to the scene of the incident, Ikechukwu opened the car trunk, and managed to escape into safety.
According to Ada Chukwukelu, the dreaded Boko Haram insurgents have established a base in the area the incident took place. They initially disguise themselves as herdsmen, and after settling down, they transform to Boko Haram – torturing, maiming and kidnapping their victims, especially Christians.
Mrs. Ada Chukwukelu, Ikechukwu’s elder sister, told The AUTHORITY in an interview that the Boko Haram suspects planned to kill Ikechukwu because of his Christian belief.
“Before the suspected Boko Haram insurgents left the scene of the incident, they vowed to kill Ikechukwu any time they set their eyes on him. They accused him of disturbing them with his preaching of the word of God,” says a visibly disturbed Mrs. Chukwukelu.
She described Ikechukwu’s encounter with the suspected Boko Haram insurgents as a “very bitter one,” adding that her brother was “traumatized,” to the extent that his psyche was deeply affected.
She called on both the Federal Government and the international community, to ensure the safety of lives and property of the citizenry, adding that the President Muhammadu Buhari-led All Progressives Congress (APC) administration should create a conducive environment for both Christians and Muslims to practice their religions as provided for in the country’s constitution.
“ It’s obvious that many Christians in Nigeria have either been intimidated or killed by Boko Haram insurgents/ Fulani herdsmen and for propagating their f ate, and it is high time the security agencies and the Federal Government provided enough security to guarantee freedom of religion as enshrined the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended),” pleaded Mrs. Chukwukelu.
Ikechukwu’s ordeal is not an isolated case. Two weeks ago, about five girls returning from a church crusade in Oji Local Government Area of Enugu state, were reportedly kidnapped by suspected armed Boko Haram insurgents operating in the area as Fulani herdsmen.
It was gathered that the hapless girls were released from their captors den after their relatives had paid ransom to the kidnappers running into several millions of Naira.
“This high level of insecurity has forced many Nigerians, especially Christians, to flee the country to live and work in other countries where security of lives and properties are guaranteed,” said Mr. Odoemelam Okwuanu, a community leader in Oji River LGA.
Indeed, a recent security report on Nigeria released by Open Doors, a non-denominational mission supporting prosecuted Christians in over 70 countries, concluded that the federal government has ”historically failed to protect Christians, particularly women and children, from Fulani violence.
According to the report, more than 700 Christians had been killed in an 18-month period ending in October 2017. .
A previous report released by Open Doors, concluded that attacks on Christian communities by Fulani herdsmen was “evidence of ethnic cleansing.”
The report said that an attack during a morning Mass at a Catholic church in central Nigeria left two priests and at least 17 parishioners dead, adding “to the hundreds killed by herders in the region so far this year.
“Police suspect Fulani herdsmen were responsible for the shooting rampage at Saint Ignatius Catholic Church in Mbalom, where about 30 attackers also ransacked a burial ceremony and burnt dozens of homes in the community.”
According to report, “in areas like Benue state, most of the settled farmers living there are Christians. The Fulani herdsmen, mostly Muslim, are semi-nomadic and fighting for land and resources.
“In Taraba, which neighbors Benue state, 38 members of a United Methodist Church were killed during a village-wide siege that same month.
According to Open Doors, “the government has failed to address the situation justly and provide security for Christian majority communities,” adding that over time, Muslims and Christians have settled into communities determined by religious affiliation, which distrust each other, with each community placing “sectarian division over and above the common interest.”
Open Doors researchers compared the reports of the many government-commissioned inquiries set up to help bring the conflict to an end, and said that recommendations for heightened military presence “were compromised by corruption, such as awarding lucrative security contracts to associates, or real fears that security personnel had become part of the conflict.”
According to the report, “the resurgence of violent conflict in southern Kaduna (a state in northwest Nigeria) towards the end of 2016 has drawn attention to the urgent need to understand the root causes and to give voice in particular to the affected Christian communities.”
Within the research period, 709 Christians and 16 Muslims were killed, 130 Christians were injured, and 3,459 Christians and 219 Muslims lost their properties.
According Open Doors, many of the attacks by the herdsmen on Christians happened at night, adding that poor infrastructure in the remote villages has led to Christians being vulnerable when it is dark.
The report notes that while analysts blame the conflict on politics, and competition over land (because of the problems of environmental degradation), they avoid talking about “the Islamic war of expansion” played out in southern Kaduna.
The report further said that “the herdsmen are well armed compared to Christians, who usually defend themselves with sticks and stones,” adding that to date, no Hausa-Fulani Muslim herdsmen have ever been arrested.”
And as the country inches towards another electioneering year, Mrs. Chukwukelu called on the Federal Government to ensure that the lives and property of Nigerians, especially Christians are protected from the attacks of marauding Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen.