By Rev. Dr. Dachollom Datiri, President COCIN
Your Excellency, we acknowledge with profound gratitude your magnanimity in granting us audience with you today. This speaks volumes about your desire to interact with your people from the grassroots.
The Church Of Christ In Nations (COCIN) is a Christian denomination that came into being as a result of the missionary work of Dr. Helmann Karl Kumm who came to Nigeria from the United Kingdom and set up a mission station in Wase, Plateau State in October 1904, a little over a hundred and fourteen years ago. From the word go, he came with the express purpose of establishing an indigenous church that is self-governing, self-propagating, and self-supporting. Our membership has grown to about 3 million across Nigeria. We also have Churches in UK, Malawi, Uganda, Kenya, South Africa etc.
From inception the church envisioned to not only address spiritual needs of humanity but also their intellectual, physical, and social needs. Our educational institutions, especially the Gindiri secondary schools among many others, have produced great minds and leaders that have served in strategic positions in the leadership of this country. Currently, our Karl Kumm University project is at an advance level, only awaiting NUC approval. The Vom Christian hospital established in the early 1920s has provided medical services of the highest quality serving not only Nigeria but also neighboring countries.
The church has also contributed significantly in rural development through her defunct Faith and Farm programme and now through her COCIN Community Development Programme (CCDP).
Our primary goal is preaching the pure gospel of salvation to mankind, focusing on the spiritual and moral transformation of our society. Our current theme is “Attaining the Righteousness of God”, a veritable ingredient and tool in the fight against corruption, violence, wickedness, injustice and all the ills bedeviling our dear country. Today, COCIN has a strong presence in many parts of the world including the UK, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, to mention a few and all States and the FCT of Nigeria.
Your Excellency, your emergence as winner in the 2015 general elections was greeted with high expectations of better days ahead by Nigerians. You promised us many good things, and we believed you. We had high hopes that corruption would be squarely dealt with, insurgency would be a thing of the past, the economy will grow more than ever before, and significant improvements will be recorded in many other sectors of the country like the health and the education sectors.
We are committed to obeying the injunction of the Holy Bible to pray for those in leadership:
“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy2:1-4NIV).
We are here to tell you the truth with the hope that it will help you to make adjustments and take appropriate action.We are aware that you might have received several false and misleading information regarding the perennial crises.It is our hope that you will oblige us to tell you our concerns and pains affecting us and make suggestions that will bring about positive impacts on your government.
Mr President, we wish to confirm to you that COCIN has her headquarters in Jos with about 65% of the population of Plateau State being her members. This we believe gives us first-hand knowledge of the true facts on the ground.
Your Excellency, in the last eighteen (18) years, COCIN as a denomination has suffered destruction of lives and property more than any church or any community. The devastation in terms of massacre of lives and destruction of property is unimaginable.
a) Pastors and members in their thousands have been killed in cold blood, either shot dead or slaughtered like animals or burned to death. Houses and businesses have been burned or looted and farmlands have been destroyed.
b) In the North East, COCIN has suffered losses more than anybody in Yobe, Borno(Maiduguri, Gwoza, Chibok, etc.) and in Adamawa States. And yet, despite the huge government intervention in that area, very little relief has come to COCIN and her members, if any. We are aware that a lot of government intervention in terms of relief material has gone to the North East. Unfortunately, our members in that zone have been left out of the distribution.
c) In Tafawa Balewa and Bogoro LGAs of Bauchi State where COCIN boasts of more than 90% of the population, lives lost in their thousands and property destroyed estimated in billions of Naira. We have also suffered heavy losses inTaraba, Benue, Nasarawa, Kaduna States, etc.
d) In Plateau State, the lives lost have been in thousands, and property destroyed have been in billions of Naira. This year alone, the devastation has not only been enormous but unbelievable. Even on the day you visited Jos in March and launched the Peace Roadmap, Your Excellency, lives were being massacred in Bokkos and Bassa Local Government Areas. And in June, over three hundred people (about 350) were massacred, slaughtered in cold blood over a period of three days in Barkin Ladi and Riyom Local Government Areas. Since then, almost on a daily basis, people are either ambushed and shot dead or attacked in their homes and killed in cold blood, or killed on their farms.
The narrative has been that these people are killed by unknown gunmen, or suspected herdsmen, or that there have been farmer-herders clashes. All these are deceptive narratives deliberately framed to conceal the truth and continue to perpetrate the evil. The truth is that our people have been attacked and killed by Fulani Militias heavily armed with sophisticated guns including AK47, machine guns, and Rocket Propelled Grenades. After the attacks it is the Fulani herders that settle and graze their cattle on the farms of the victims. Are we to believe that the armed forces sent to keep peace go with the instructions to protect them? The implication is that they protect the aggressors and leave the victims mercilessly helpless. The proficiency and mode of operation in all of these attacks, as testified by the surviving victims, leaves us in no doubt of the complicity of the military being used as hired mercenaries by the Fulani militias. On this, we are disappointed, and sadly so, that Government has not delivered on her constitutional responsibility of protecting lives and property.
Your Excellency, we suspect that you may not have these facts and statistics. We are therefore leaving with you a CD of graphic details of the devastation that backs up the statistics we are attaching to this speech. Hereunder is a summary of some of the affected areas
Barkin Ladi and Riyom Local Government Areas From 23rd – 25th June 2018
i. Number of Displaced persons – 1714
ii. Number of Houses burned – 474
iii. Number of farmlands destroyed – 1430
iv. Number of Churches destroyed – 12
v. Number of persons killed – 350
Bokkos Local Government Area March, 2018
i. Number of Displaced persons – 5,617
ii. Number of House destroyed – 2,513
iii. Number of villages dislodged – 7
iv. Number of Churches destroyed – 9
v. Number of persons killed – 43
Bassa Local Government Area September 2017- October 2018
i. Number of displaced persons – 11, 457
ii. Number of Houses destroyed – 1,345
iii. Number of villages dislodged – 16
iv. Number of Churches destroyed – 9
v. Number of persons killed 253
On the Plateau, with the attacks on communities in Barkin Ladi, Bassa, Bokkos, and Riyom; as well as in Jos North Local Government in the recent past as seen above, there are not less than thirty-eight thousand (38,000) refugees in over ten IDP camp, with very little or grossly inadequate government intervention. The church has been overstretched trying to provide succor to these poor victims of man’s inhumanity to fellow human beings.
Death of Major General Idris Mohammed Alkali:
The Church strongly condemns this act of criminality that resulted in the death of the General, or any act of criminality for that matter. We wish to condole the family, praying for God’s comfort. The perpetrators of this wicked act should be made to face the full weight of the law.
We urge the Government to prevail on the military hierarchy to follow the due process and the rule of law in the investigation and prosecution of the offenders.
There is also the case of the ongoing constant harassment of innocent citizen of Jos South on account of the death of the retired army General. We believe that the extent to which people in the communities of Latya, Dura, and Kwang including those traveling through the area have been dehumanized by the military can never be justified as whole communities cannot be persecuted for the crime of a few.
a. Recovery and Resettlement: We have a lot of our members in the IDP camps and others living with relatives in other communities. There is an urgent need for them to return to their homes to continue their farming activities which is their main source of livelihood. Their lands and homes needs to be recovered and rebuild.
b. Rehabilitation: The IDPs and very depressed and broken, there is need to rehabilitate them. They need to be reassured that the government is concerned of their welfare. Economically, they need to be re-equipped with farming tools, fertilizers and seeds.
c. Our Churches and Institutions Destroyed: The Church has always been the last hope for the poor, downtrodden, depressed and broken. It is the first place for rehabilitation. If the IDPs are resettled in their various communities, their usual meeting points are their Churches, schools and hospitals established by the same Church. The Church buildings and institutions should be rebuilt.
d. Release of Leah Sharibu and other abductees: The continuous captivity of Miss Leah Sharibu and others because of their faith as Christians is most unfortunate. We call on the Federal Government to take every adequate measure in ensuring their safe release from their abductors.
e. Land allocation and approvals of Land titles to Churches in Northern States: We call on the Federal Government to prevail on the State Governments in the North to approve allocations to Churches and to grant them title over their lands.
f. Teaching of Christian Religious Knowledge in Schools in Most Northern States: We implore the Federal Government to direct the Federal Ministry of Education to allow the teaching of Christian Religious Knowledge in public schools in most of the Northern states particularly Kano, Borno, Sokoto, Katsina, Kaduna among others.
We wish to once again appreciate Mr. President for his warm reception and patience. We Pray for God’s wisdom and strength as you preside over the affairs of the Nation.
Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
▪Dr. Datiri presented this speech when he met President Muhammadu Buhari on 6th November at the Aso Rock Villa on the 6th of November, 2018.