The city of Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, which has been at the centre stage of Boko Haram attacks over the years may be building up another tension from within, as the state government intensifies effort to demolish about 25 churches and schools, according to Vanguard.
The proposed demolition, the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, told Vanguard might heighten insecurity challenges created by the Boko Haram.
Vanguard reliably gathered that “the state government will embark on the demolition any moment from now,” fueling speculations that the Borno State government was carrying Boko Haram’s agenda to Islamize the country, beginning from Northern Nigeria.
Although there are conflicting figures of the number of churches and schools to be affected, sources confirmed that it would be close to 25.
The leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria and owners of farmlands in the area had been served quit notices by the state government, intimating them of the plan to acquire the structures to construct 1,000 housing units.
A leaflet from the office of Borno State Ministry of Lands and Survey, dated August 20, and signed by one Musa Ummate (O/C Land Administration) on behalf of the commissioner, was obtained by newsmen, yesterday, in Abuja.
The leaflet is entitled, “Notice of acquisition and assessment/valuation of structures on proposed site for 1,000 housing units along Gubio road.”
It read: “I am directed to refer to you farmers and holders of structures on the proposed site for caption matter above and regret to inform you that the executive governor has on the power conferred on him by Section (2)b of the Land Use Act 1978 has directed through high powered committee on Construction Ref. no: HPCC/2500/HE/S/TEC/1 to notify you of his intention to acquire your farmlands and assessment/valuation of the structures on the proposed site situated along Gubio road, Maiduguri.
“The acquisition is necessary, in view of requirements of the land by the state government for overriding public interest to construct housing estate. The affected farmers and holders of structures are to take note and appear on site for the above exercise, please.”
However, investigation revealed that the state government had no plan to develop any housing estate, but to destroy the churches and over 20 private schools built by the churches.
A source told Vanguard: “Over 20 churches and many schools will be affected. The lands on which the churches were built were bought from farmers and have the authority and certificate of the District Head in Maiduguri, popularly called Bulama. The land was not under the ministry when it was bought.
“The Christians went for the meeting called by the governor and for several hours, the governor didn’t come out to see them. It is always difficult for Christians to get a land in Maiduguri. Even after getting the land, the government won’t give you Certificate of Occupancy. They compensated Borno Muslims who are victims of Boko Haram. But how many Christians were compensated?”
Meanwhile, the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, yesterday, said the demolition was another plot under the guise of public interest to persecute Christians in the state, saying it would not take it lightly.
The General Secretary of CAN, Dr. Musa Asake, who confirmed the development when contacted, called on Borno State government to have a rethink.
Dr. Asake said: “We have seen the eviction notice from Borno State government. We are Nigerians and there are other places where the state government can develop. The areas being earmarked for demolition are already developed with churches and schools.
“We condemn the action and I think government should be sensitive to what the Christians in that state are going through not to come and add another problem, through demolition.
“Christians have suffered enough in Borno State. If the state government wants to destroy churches and build any housing estate, no Christian will see it as a sign of progress.”
Although, Asake disclosed that they had not been able to authenticate the source of the letter, he added “we are going to reach out to the state government to make sure that Christians don’t lose their churches and lands.
“But we have no reason to doubt the source of the letter. We have suffered enough in Borno State and enough of all these things which are coming in another disguise.
“Borno State government should reconsider the decision to demolish churches and property because in Borno State, there are many vast lands. They should do that instead of going to these areas where Christians have settled. We are asking the Borno State government not to try it.” [Vanguard]