Why Boko Haram Attacks Churches

Detained Boko Haram leaders – Abu Qaqa and Kabiru Sokoto – have told State Security Service (SSS) detectives why the sect attacks churches and schools.

Qaqa, who is the spokesman of the sect, was arrested in February after he had disguised variously with many names, such as Mohammed Shuaibu, Mohammed Bello, Abu Tiamiya, and Abdulrahman Abdullahi.

Kabiru Sokoto, who had earlier escaped from police custody, was re-arrested on February 10 in Mutum Biyu Village around Wukari-Jalingo.

The two Boko Haram leaders, according to sources, explained the sect’s mission and why churches and schools are being targeted.

It was also learnt that they opened up on why the traditional rulers in the North could not stop the sect.

Sokoto and Qaqa allegedly admitted plans by the sect to restrict the powers of the Sultan to only political leadership instead of being the spiritual leader of Muslims.

A source, who spoke in confidence with our correspondent, said: “We have had another fresh interaction with Abu Qaqa and Kabiru Sokoto on the actual mission of the sect.

“They gave useful information, which can help the intelligence community to understand the psyche of the sect members.”

The source quoted the two leaders as saying: “We had a grand plan to Islamise Nigeria, starting with the North. We felt that a lot of Muslims were not practising the religion faithfully as they should.

“Part of the plan was to reduce the powers of the Sultan to traditional rulership functions only while all religious authority would be vested with our leader (to be based in Yobe).

“We believed there were so many things wrong with the present arrangement of combining tradition with religion and on one man.

“The plans to attack churches and schools were not a reaction to any provocation. The plans had been there. You know why the churches had to go. Those schools, for instance, were not teaching the children, according to ways of our faith.

“These were part of our initial plans of allowing only Islamic schools and wiping away the so-called secular schools. Though a lot of us who had gone to school saw this approach as too rigid since we could use the medium to propagate the faith faster, but we were few and equally scared of being labelled traitors to face the ultimate consequence. We wanted to reform the schools to conform to our practice.

“On the traditional institution, any ruler that would have obstructed our plans would have regretted his action.”

Boko Haram has set more than a dozen schools on fire, Human Rights Watch said yesterday. Since the beginning of this year, suspected Boko Haram members have attacked, damaged, and, in a few cases, destroyed at least 12 schools in and around Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, temporarily leaving several thousand children without access to education.

“Boko Haram’s attacks on schools represent a new and reprehensible development since the group began its campaign of violence in 2009,” said Zama Coursen-Neff, deputy children’s rights director at Human Rights Watch. “Children and educational institutions should be left alone, full stop.”

Around February 20, the first three schools – Kulagumma Primary School, Abbaganaram School, and Budum Primary School – were set on fire. Between February 26 and 29, at least four schools were burned, and on March 1, five schools were set ablaze in what appeared to be a coordinated attack, including Sunshine Stars Secondary School and Success Secondary School, which had an enrollment of 700. As a result of the attacks, news reports state that at least 5,000 students are staying home from school.

A purported spokesman for Boko Haram, Abul Qaqa, has claimed the group’s responsibility for the attacks on schools and threatened further violence. In emails and phone calls to local and foreign journalists, he asserted the attacks were in response to attacks against Quranic schools and the arrest of local clerics by members of the security forces. Nigerian officials have long accused some Islamic teachers in this area of using their Quranic schools as recruitment and training grounds for new Boko Haram members.

On February 26, Qaqa claimed that the February 20 attacks were in retaliation for raids by the state security forces on Islamic schools in Maiduguri and “indiscriminate arrests of students of Quranic schools by security agents.” On March 5, local and foreign correspondents reported receiving a message from Qaqa that claimed responsibility for all the recent attacks on schools, including an attempt to burn a school that morning. The March 5 attack was reportedly thwarted by the Nigerian military, resulting in the deaths of three Boko Haram members. Qaqa was reported in the local media to have said, “Certainly, if Quranic education will not be allowed to continue, then secular and Western education will not continue also.”

All of the attacks have occurred either at night or in the early morning hours. On February 26, Qaqa was quoted as saying, “We are attacking the public schools at night because we don’t want to kill innocent pupils.”

Attacks on schools by armed groups not only put children and teachers’ lives at risk, but they may also deprive children of an education, Human Rights Watch said. Schools may close and children drop out entirely. Even when classes resume after an attack, the quality of education may suffer when students and teachers are afraid and learning materials are damaged. Threats of attacks may also force neighboring schools to close or parents to keep their children at home.

Nigeria is a party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, both of which guarantee children the right to education.

The Nation

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