Daily Trust (Abuja)

25 November 2012

Nigeria: JNI Supports Christian Refugees As Camps Swell in Nasarawa After Gun Violence

Lafia — Members of the Nigerian Aid Group, an arm of Jaa'amatu Nasril Islam, a body of Muslim Ummah have been moved into various camps where thousands of persons have been staying after their communities were hit by raging communal violence in southern Nasarawa State.

This reporter visited some camps yesterday morning and observed that men in white uniforms and caps to match were attending to displaced Christian families camping at various points.

One of such places was the Evangelical Redeemed Christian Church (ERCC) at the Workers' Village section of Lafia.

Displaced persons from Agyaragu hit by a wave of gun violence from a group suspected to be members of Ombatse (an Eggon ethnic group) were there.

Agyaragu, a town of about nine kilometres away from Lafia the state capital, was last Wednesday attacked by arsonists who unleashed mayhem, killing over 10, and burning down over 50 houses, as shops and other business places.

Koro ethnic group appeared to be the target of attackers.

Ombaste, meaning "time has come" in Eggon comprises youths who claim they are out to cleane society of evil deeds.

Tribal leaders including traditional rulers have been repeatedly condemned for keeping quiet while their people carried out arson in the name of spiritual cleansing.

Hundreds have been displaced from Agyaragu, adding to thousands already displaced by communal violence between various groups in the southern part of the state in the past months.

At such camps where thousands were camped, Muslim youths working as volunteers for JNI under its Nigerian Aid Group arm, were seen aiding the administration of relief by members of the Red Cross, Peace Corps, Civil Defence and the Nasarawa State Emergency Management Agency (NASEMA).

At ERCC, a leading Christian denomination in the state, and JNI volunteers were there for their third day after the recent crisis in Agyaragu.

Most of the displaced persons are women and children.

"Members of JNI have been on ground to assist. We are impressed and happy with their assistance. Only God can reward their of kindness to our people", Reverend Moses Abaka, the pastor in charge of the church told Sunday Trust.

Sonny Agassi, the state Commissioner for Lands, Survey and Town Planning was at the ERCC camp, as well as in Doma.

The commissioner told this reporter, "My boss, the governor, sent me to visit the camps and increase the support to relieve our people, after NASEMA distributed relief materials. I have been visiting; and I discovered that JNI volunteer members are already on ground to assist."

Mazi David Nonso Ifeanyi Ezedinma, Governor Umaru Tanko Al-Makura's Special Adviser on National Integration, who also visited the camp spoke about JNI aid saying, "brotherly love is what JNI has shown Christians in Nasarawa. It is for all of us to emulate this great lesson of life."

An elderly Christian, Tabitha, said it was the second time she was supported by the volunteer group.

The first being earlier in the year when Dudugurur, a neighbouring community of Agyaragu was hit by a communal clash.

"I am meeting them for the second time. I have now come to know some of them. They are wonderful. God will reward their kindness to us. Jesus said 'Whatsoever you do to the least of my brother; that you do unto me.'"

Umar Muhammadu, who led a team of three volunteers of the Muslim group, to assist Red Cross officials in administering medication and other relief packages to the displaced persons at ERCC, could not speak English so he spoke to Sunday Trust in Hausa.

"We come to assist. That is what our organization is out for; love and support to the needy."

Dr Abdullahi Idris, Executive Secretary of NASEMA, confirmed that JNI has been helping all through the months in assisting displaced persons at camps. "They have been giving assistance," he said.

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