Christians in Nigeria’s Borno State are protesting the killing of a pastor’s son as he was trying to stop his church’s demolition by a government agency.
The victim, identified as Ezekiel Bitrus Tumba, was shot and killed last week allegedly by “security men” from the “civilian joint task force,” or CJTF, a local group formed in 2013 to support the Nigerian security forces in the fight against the Boko Haram terrorist group in northeast Nigeria, according to the local online newspaper Vanguard.
The 29-year-old man was killed last Thursday when he, along with other youth, attempted to stop the demolition of the Church of Brethren in Nigeria, or EYN, in the Hausa area in Borno State’s capital city of Maiduguri by a government agency called the Borno Geographic Information Service, or BOGIS, which maintains land.
“Officials of Borno Geographic Information System, led by its executive secretary, Engr Adams Bababa, brought CJTF to the church not only for demolition but also ended up killing our brother and son,” said Bishop Williams Naga, the chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria, in a statement, according to the U.S.-based persecution watchdog International Christian Concern.
“The entire Christian community has been thrown into mourning mood as a brother, who was a breadwinner of his family, was sent to his early grave,” Naga added.
On Sunday, congregants gathered around the ruins of the church to hold their weekly service.
“They demolished the building, thinking it is the Church. (But) the Church is forever unstoppable and indestructible,” Hausa Christians Foundation wrote on Facebook.
Authorities have demolished four other churches in the area, alleging a “failure to formalize land titles and property tax,” ICC said, adding that state governments in northern Nigeria prohibit the construction of church buildings and often tear down existing structures without warning.
The other demolished churches include Jubilee Sanctuary Church, Total Gospel Mission International, Sanctuary Church and Christ Forever Land, according to CAN.
“If you want to build a church, they will not give you a permit, because the government will (fire) anyone who proposes/signs a document to build a church,” a church leader in northern Nigeria was quoted as saying.
Christians in Nigeria face severe persecution also on the hands of Islamic non-state actors, including Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen.
The Anambra-based International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law estimated in May that as many as 1,470 Christians were killed in Nigeria during the first four months of 2021, the highest estimate in the first four months of any year since 2014. The number also surpasses the estimated number of Christians killed in 2019. The report estimated that as many as 300 people had been killed in Kaduna in the first four months of 2021.
In the first four months of this year, the organization estimates that at least 2,200 Christians were abducted. Kaduna state recorded the highest number of abductions at 800.
The Global Terrorism Index ranked Nigeria as the third-most affected country by terrorism and reported over 22,000 deaths by acts of terror from 2001 to 2019.