Local authorities have demolished a church building in the Maduganari area of Maiduguri, Borno State, Nigeria, leading to the death of Ezekiel Bitrus, the son of a pastor. The Borno Geographic Information System (BOGIS) conducted the demolition on 5 August as church members gathered to protest.
It is alleged that the Civilian Joint Taskforce (CJTF) accompanying the BOGIS demolition group then opened fire on the protesters, killing 29-year-old Bitrus and injuring five others.
It is further alleged that the CJTF had confiscated the phones of church members in order to prevent documentation of the demolition process or the subsequent shooting. The CJTF operative accused of shooting Bitrus has been arrested as part of an investigation ordered by Borno State Governor Babagana Zulum.
Williams Naga, the chairman of the Borno branch of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), condemned the killing and demolition in a press conference on 7 August. “Officials of BOGIS 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 Naga.
“The entire Christian community has been thrown into mourning as our brother – who was the bread-winner of his family – was sent to his early grave by zealous BOGIS head and CJTF,” he continued. “It appears BOGIS with these latest activities is out to ensure no church is allowed to exist in the state, fuel tension, and caused dissatisfaction among peace-loving Christians and Muslims in such a fragile state as Borno.”
Naga called for CAN to be represented on a panel of inquiry into the incident, and demanded that the church, along with other demolished church buildings in Borno State, be rebuilt. Representatives of the church argued that they have all the necessary documents to prove that the church building is lawful, and said that they have never received any notice of demolition.
A Barnabas Fund contact reported that, “Last Sunday (8 August) the church members still held their Sunday worship service in the demolished building, singing and dancing and praising God, and also in defiance of the attempt to take the Christians out of the area.”
From Barnabas Fund contacts and other sources