Originally published in World Watch Monitor
A female preacher was hacked to death in the early hours of July 9 near Nigeria’s capital.
Eunice Elisha, a mother of seven, had gone out to preach as was usual, her husband, Olawale Elisha, a Redeemed Church of God Pastor, told local media.
Later, two of their sons, who had been practising football, heard that a woman had been killed while preaching.
“I told my children that it couldn’t be their mother, but they insisted we should go there and check,” Elisha said . “When we got there, we didn’t see anybody, they had even covered her blood with sand.”
A police officer confirmed a killing had taken place and that the body had been taken to a police station in Kubwa, on the outskirts of Abuja.
“At the entrance of the station I saw a pickup van coming out,” Elisha said. “Inside it I saw the lifeless body of my wife at the back of the pickup van. At this point, my children and I burst into tears.”
Eunice Elisha was 42. Her surviving husband called her a zealous Christian who “rarely missed a day in church”.
Asked how he felt about the murder of his wife and her killers, Olawale said: “I see her as a martyr who died for Christ. Whether the people are caught or not, they should be forgiven.”
Police have arrested six suspects, and an investigation continues.
Recent attacks on Christians
Elisha is only the most recent of several attacks on Christians in recent weeks.
- On June 30 in the town of Obi, in the central state of Nasarawa: father of seven, Rev Joseph Kurah, was ambushed by two armed men after he arrived at his farm. His severely mutilated body was later recovered from the scene. Ethnic Fulani herdsmen are suspected in the killing.
- On June 8 in Kaduna state, Francis Emmanuel, a 41-year-old carpenter, was waiting for food when a gang of six Muslim youths stabbed him. It was Ramadan, and he was not fasting.
“They asked why I was eating,” Emmanuel told World Watch Monitor. “At first I didn’t reply, but when they asked if I was a Christian or a Muslim, I said I was a Christian. They got furious and started beating me up. One of them brought out a knife and stabbed me in my neck, on my right arm and around my right eye. A police officer rushed over to help me, and the assailants all ran away.”
- In Kano, in northern Nigeria, on June 2, Bridget Agbahime, 74, wife of Mike Agbahime, pastor of Deeper Life Bible Church in Kano, was ambushed by an angry mob for allegedly blaspheming against Islam’s prophet. Hers was the second extrajudicial killing after an accusation of blasphemy in recent weeks.
- In June, at least 81 people were killed in recent attacks by ethnic Fulani in Logo and Ukum areas of Benue state in central Nigeria. An undetermined number of churches were ransacked and burned, a local source told World Watch Monitor.
Benue State has been wracked with deadly violence. More than 500 people were killed in February in the mainly Christian area of Agatu. About 20 000 people are thought to have fled the wave of attacks.
On May 30 in Niger state: Methodus Chimaije Emmanuel, 24, was attacked and killed by a mob, after allegedly posting a blasphemous statement about Muhammad on social media. Three other people, including a police officer, lost their lives as a result of violence that followed the killing. A church and a house were burnt down and 25 shops were looted.
Incidents targeting Christians are the result of growing intolerance and radicalism among Nigerian society, said Atta Barkindo, a researcher and doctoral candidate at the London School of Oriental and African Studies.
For a very long time, the focus has been on the Islamist Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria’s north-east, Bakindo said.
Other extremist groups
“But apart from Boko Haram, there are a number of extremist Islamic groups, such as Aljana Tabas in Gombe, Madinatoul Keffi in Nasarawa or Al Kour Aniyoun in Bauchi. All these states are very close to Abuja, the capital.”
They recruit from a large pool of uneducated young people migrating toward central Nigeria from the northern cities of Kano and Sokoto in the north, and they operate with little fear of punishment, Bakindo said.
“The government has done nothing in the past. People feel they can commit these kind of killings and propagate Islam, and the government can’t do anything about it,” he said.
“So the main issues here are impunity and the lack of accountability. Look at what happened in Kano, Nasarawa and Niger States. But by the end of the day, you will hear nothing, and the attackers will be set free. Impunity is a big issue in Nigeria.”