Investigative Report: By VOP Foreign Correspondent, Nigeria.
An overview of the village
Ngoshe Samma is located in the hills and mountainous region of the Mandara Mountains in Gwoza local government area of Borno State, Nigeria. The people living in this area were the first reached by missionaries with a vision for church planting. The outreach was very successful and many traditional herbalists, native authorities and the people practicing paganism were converted. Churches were quickly built and the work of the missionaries expanded. Multitudes found their way to the new churches and accepted Christ as their personal savior. Close to 90% of the indigenous people converted to Christianity.
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Ngoshe Samma is sometimes mistaken for Ngoshe Glavda village. The two villages were originally called Ngoshe, but later separated with Ngoshe Samma located at the top of the mountains and Ngoshe Glavda located on surface land. Fifty percent of the Ngoshe Glavda population was Christian.
The Christian communities continued to grow and expand. They built sturdy houses, sent their children to school and specialized in large scale farming and other various businesses. Ngoshe Samma had over 400 Christian families, the majority attended the Church of Christ (COCIN) and the Church of Brethren, (EYN).
But Muslims in the area grew intolerant of them and their Christian faith.
MAJOR ATTACK ON THE NGOSHE SAMMA VILLAGE: (FIRST DAY)
Sharing his experience with our correspondent, Mr. Irmiya Dangawa (52 yrs) lamented on the situation as not only persecution, but rated the destruction as a deliberate agenda by the Muslim community to force out Christianity from the entire Gwoza local government. Other eye witnesses of the three day terror operation spoke on the same issues. They said on the first day of attacks, about 34 insurgents came around 6:45pm with heavy weapons such as AK-47’s and explosives. They stormed into the town and started shooting into the air chanting, “Allahu Akbar” meaning Allah is great. They separated to different areas of the villages, killing, looting anything of value, destroying and burning houses and the churches. Their operations were well staged and organized, as they carried out their attacks systematically, one after another.
Stage One (November/17/2013)
The first stage of the operation started from Angwan Lawan, which was also called (Ngalamaham) ward. They set explosive devices and bombed the Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN), they killed two Christians and broke into houses looting any valuable property inside. Afterwards, they set the houses ablaze. They proceeded to Kololo ward, ransacked all the houses, removed everything and set the houses on fire. Eluding the terrorists was extremely difficult for the villagers. Most had to crawl face down on their stomachs to escape.
The rebels invaded Ngulok ward and captured two young men, slaughtered them and threw their remains into a cave. They searched all the houses and removed all their contents. They ransacked Christian shops and took any money that was found. This concluded their first phase of the attacks and the Christians were left in pools of blood and serious agony.
Stage Two (November/17/2013)
After the insurgents had rested, they stockpiled the looted items and headed to Zerande Village. They stormed into the ward, burnt houses and shot at anyone who came out, including animals. They separated into two groups; the first group went to COCIN church, the other went to the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria (EYN). While chanting, “Allahu Akbar” they threw bombs into the churches. The explosions brought down the church buildings, which collapsed and destroyed the many food items and documents stored inside.
They then went to the Christian Dispensary which had been established for many years. They removed medical equipment, pharmaceutical drugs and apparatus, planted two bombs and the building came down in a pile of ashes. Not far away, a clinic quarters that was built for the hospital workers, was also destroyed by multiple bomb blasts.
Stage Three (November 17, 2013)
After securing all the looted items, they proceeded to Ngarale ward. They first packed up all the Christians belongings, then set their homes on fire. From there, they went to Angwon Dangwawuhw, but most of the Christians had already fled. The insurgents shot the animals, burnt the houses and dragged away goods.
A resident wishing to remain anonymous, was hiding and watching the event take place. He told our correspondent, the insurgents could not carry away all the items and wanted to enslave some of the Christians to carry the heavy load. They started running after the villagers, but were unsuccessful to capture anyone. Out of their frustration and anger, they slaughtered 22 goats. He added, “It was only God that kept me hidden from the insurgents, or else they could have set fire to my location and killed me.”
He grieved, “I saw them with my own eyes. The animals and livestock were shot and killed, because they could not find any of us to carry their loads.” The rebels ransacked homes and confiscated 13 motorcycles. Everything was either taken or destroyed. As night fell, they sent some of their members to take the looted goods to their camps in the hills. Others stayed behind and slept in the village waiting for daybreak. In the morning, they gathered more livestock and sent them to their camps.
CHRISTIANS NEGLECTED AFTER REPORTING ATTACKS TO AUTHORITIES
While the attacks, looting and killings continued; some of the Christians ran to the District head of Gwoza (Alh. Ibrahim Abbas) pleading for help. They begged for security men to be deployed to the area. They were given lame excuses that the Military and Police were not in joint operation. He said even if they were informed, they would never go to end the violent attacks. Desparate, the villagers reported the matter to the Emir of Gwoza (Alhaji Shehu Idrisa Timta) who sympathized with them and said to seek protection from the Cameroon government. He remarked that the Nigerian security would only delay and not come to their immediate aid. Even so, he advised them to report to the military checkpoint with their request for help. The military men said security forces could not be deployed, because Ngoshe Samma was not part of their jurisdiction. Crushed, they left disillusioned and abandoned by those they had thought were there to protect them.
With no where else to turn, they mounted up the courage to travel through an area where insurgents had waited to ambush them. One insurgent on guard and tired, was unexpectedly caught by the returning villagers and they severely beat him. They tied him up and took him to the Army men, who executed him when bullets were found in his pocket. Elsewhere, the insurgents were busy planning their second attack for the following morning.
MAJOR ATTACK – DAY 2 (November/18/2013)
Before the rebels restarted their attacks, they designated an area of the village as an emergency Mosque to pray and thank Allah for giving them success over the Christians. The villagers hiding nearby, said the rebels vowed to carry out a three day operation. They claimed with confidence that no security forces or their weapons could stop them, because Allah was leading their mission. They even invited the security forces to come and attack them. Emboldened, they set out to begin their planned attacks to be carried out phase by phase on the Christian communities.
Phase One (November/18/2013 )
The rebels started with a house of HAMSA, packed up all the property and set it ablaze. They advanced to the house of a wealthy, prominent christian who spoke for Believers in the community. They took some of his belonging and burnt the rest. They chanted, “Allahu Akbar” in the centre of the village, while roaming about with the Christian’s property. When they discovered most of the Christians had evacuated, they set over 100 houses ablaze hoping to flush out those in hiding and shoot them.
Phase Two (November/18/2013)
They detonated explosives in strategic locations and set up an ambush for security men, expecting to engage them in battle. They waited for the forces to show up, but they never arrived. They took livestock, food items and anything of value, then sent them to their camps. Before leaving they set off bombs which burnt 6 churches, killed 4 people and set fire to the entire village where 400 families had resided.
THE SITUATION FOR CHRISTIANS AFTER THE ATTACK
It was heart wrenching when our correspondent interacted with some of the women and children, now homeless and displaced in the open cold weather. The majority had nothing to eat and many were sick with no medical attention, because everything had been destroyed.
Our reporter’s investigation revealed that all in the Christian community had been scattered. Some fled to the Cameroon refugee camps, others stayed in the Nigerian camps. Most who spoke to our reporter believed that God Almighty had helped them to forgive their enemy. With all the persecution they had endured, the Christians were not holding it against the attackers.
Their village head equally displaced, visited all the camps on 11/19/2013. Accompanied by a Christian brother called Irmiya, they went together to sympathize with the refugees, as they considered it all as a test of faith. They also thanked the Cameroon authority for keeping the refugees in a safe area.
CAMEROON INTENTIONS FOR THE CHRISTIAN REFUGEES
Due to the terrible attacks on the villages and perpetual hunger that bewildered the people, they were taken to refugee camps in Cameroon. They were taking care of the woman and children and assured their safety. They fed them daily and provided drugs for the sick.
A prominent leader of the village told the VOP correspondent, that some of the refugees were taken from the nearest camp on the Cameroon border to almost 120 km towards Mokolo Town in Cameroon. Their explanation for doing this action was that they were free to change their citizenship, if they were willing. When the leader of the displaced villagers heard the news, he warned that the Christians wanted to one day return home. The refugees have refused the proposal to become Cameroon citizens.
GOVERNMENT’S NEGLECT OF THE REFUGEES IN GWOZA
When the devastating attacks became overwhelming, the Gwoza Christian Community Association (GCCA) petitioned the Governor in an open letter about plight of over 14,000 displaced Christians. Instead of the governor looking into the matter for a proper assessment, he neglected the association and inaugurated a committee of twenty Muslims, including two Christians. The committee was under a state legislator who was known as a fanatic who supported the rebel insurgency. Another prominent committee member was the Commissioner of Commerce in Borno state, who had converted to Islam. Though her father is a Christian, she was cited to be bias in dealing with the Christian community.
Part of the responsibility of the committee was to look into plight of the Christians and disburse ₦100,000,000 ($626,364.83) to the affected Christians. Concerned, the Christians questioned how Muslims can effectively chair a committee that affects a Christian community. Not a single Pastor or church leader was among them. To pacify the people for Christian representation, the two Christian political figures were added to the committee. Some members of the community told our correspondent that the two Christians were not known for strong faith, and were being used to achieve a malicious agenda.
AGENDA OF THE COMMITTEE
While the committee was compiling the list of villages affected, they deliberately omitted the name of Ngoshe-Samma and other badly affected Christian villages. They were recommending only Muslim areas who had been looting the Christian properties, while they had been displaced.
This action provoked the Christians of Ngoshe Samma to call a meeting. Irmiya Dangwa blasted the committee with insults, accusing them of self centeredness with a motive to push the Christians out of the area. In his speech, he assured them that nobody abuses Christians without being accountable to God, including the committee members. He as well lambasted the so-called Christians that joined the committee, telling them to their faces that God would also judge them. Afterwards, they asked him to give them some time to reconsider the options.
Later, they apologized to him and promised they would review the plan. They also contributed ₦100,000 ($626.00) out of their own pockets and bought 20 bags of maize for him to take back to his people, before the final decision was made. It was later noted that the State Governor dissolved the committee for a reason unknown to the populace. As of this date, nothing has been given to Christian communities.
PRESENT SITUATION OF THE CHRISTIANS
Our correspondent who visited the five refugee camps, was able to gather that the Christians were seriously suffering and receiving no type of help. They are appealing to international organizations to come to their aid, to give the displaced Christians a little comfort and means for survival.
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