Hundreds of family members and sympathizers on Saturday (April 27) attended a funeral in northeastern Nigeria for eight young Christians, six of them minors, who were killed when an off-duty security officer drove his vehicle into their Easter procession on April 21, sources said.
The officer, identified as Adamu Abubakar of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC), reportedly had angry words with leaders of the Christian procession that delayed him and a passenger, off-duty police officer Murtala Hassan, from proceeding at a junction in Gombe, capital of Gombe state.
The Christian leaders of the Boys and Girls Brigade, an international, interdenominational Christian youth organization, let the two Muslim men pass through, but a survivor told Nigerian news outlet The Daily Trust that the driver warned them he would return, made a U-turn, switched off his headlights and rammed the procession from behind.
Joel Nanyak, 15, said the incident happened around 11:30pm when the NSCDC officer and his friend met their procession and had argument with their leaders. “After arguing with the leaders of the procession, he was allowed to pass; however, he told us that he would come back and he made a u-turn, switched off his car’s light and rammed into the procession from behind. “I was busy with the big bass drum. I only woke up to find myself on the road and was later told what had happened. My younger brother was killed”, he said. He said the survivors got angry and “chased the civil defence officer and his friend, caught up with them and mobbed them to death.”
This was said to have doused tension and prevented a possible inter-religious crisis in the state.
The chairman of the Gombe State Battalion Brigade of the Boys Brigade, Isaac Kwadang, told Morning Star News. “This incident, no doubt, is motivated by terrorist acts, as the driver deliberately crashed into the procession . . .The driver of the vehicle is a Muslim and an official of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC), while his passenger is a Muslim police officer.”
Killed were Ruth Samson Samanja, 13; Keziah Amos Kwatam, 13; and Polina Yusuf Samanja, 11 of the Girls Brigade company in Gombe, Kwadang said. From the Boys Brigade, those killed were Sunday Samuel Gurnet, 19; Irimiya Amos Ibrahim, 14; Joseph Daniel, 21; Joseph Danjuma Paul Gavan, 15; and Jesse Markus Baka, 15, he said.
The vehicle assault also sent 12 Christians to the hospital for treatment of injuries, Kwadang said.
Also, findings at the state NSCDC command revealed that late officer was an “unofficial” aide of the commandant, Hajiya Altine Sani Umar. Those who knew him said he was a hot-tempered person. He was alleged to have attempted to kill his girlfriend over a misunderstanding.
Maybe it wasn’t jihad, in the sense of a planned raid under the aegis of ISIS or Al Quaida. But it suggests an arrogance in his superiority, coupled with a contempt for Christians and our festivals. I’d rely on the local people to know how Muslim officials really feel about them; if the leader of the Boys Brigade sees this as a terrorist attack I’m not going to pour scorn on his opinion.
Garba Shehu, spokesman for President Muhammadu Buhari, said in a press statement that the president was saddened by the killing of the youths.
“My heart is filled with the pain that the families of the victims were facing as they buried these promising youngsters,” he said. “The entire nation is with you as experience this sad, indescribable loss. May the Almighty God comfort you at this difficult time.”
The Punch has more details of the promise lost of the young people murdered.