Monday, June 3, 2019 12:13 am
Ahaji Abubakar Abdullahi, 83-year-old Chief Imam of a mosque in Yelwa- Gindi Akwati village, Barkin Ladi Local Government Area of Plateau, said he risked his life to save some people in the June 23, 2018 Barkin Ladi attacks in Plateau.
Abdullahi protected over 200 people fleeing from attacks by suspected bandits in Yelwa-Gindi Akwati, Swei and Nghar villages in Barkin Ladi Local Government Area of Plateau.
Abubakar, who was speaking while receiving award from the U.S. Mission in Nigeria, said on Sunday in Abuja that his action saved those who took refuge in the mosque and in his house.
The cleric, who spoke through an interpreter said that the unfortunate incident happened on Saturday June 23, 2018, after the mid-afternoon prayers at about 4 p.m.
“After the prayer, we started hearing some gunshots first from the nearby village known as Gidan Akwati up to Yelwa, my village.
“The entire village was engulfed in violence the kind we had never experienced before; the villagers were confused running for their safety.
“We then encouraged people to come in, women, men and children to all come in; and we closed the doors afterwards,” he said.
According to him, the attackers surrounded the mosque, they were trying to force the door open.
“We then overheard them (attackers) saying there are Berom and Christians who are in the mosque.
“Later, we heard the attackers were targeting the Berom’s and Christians in the community, we came out through the window and asked why they wanted to harm the people who came for refuge in the house of God.
“Soon we heard some of the attackers had also gone to my house trying to gain access because some people are also taking refuge in my house at that time,” he said.
The Imam said that he told the attackers at some point that they had to kill him first before harming his ‘guests’ and this went on for about four hours.
“We also informed them not go ahead and destroy the people’s crops. The attackers asked all the women to come out, that they did not want to harm them, but I refused.”
“The ploy is to know who is a Muslim and who is a Christian. ”The Muslim women then donated their clothes and hijab to the people, saying if it comes to that, we will all die with them.
“When that did not work, they said they are going to set the house ablaze, that is when I went down and told them to kill me first,” he said.
According to him, those in the mosque stayed there for five days, they were fed and taken care of.
“It lasted for about five days and in order to keep them protected the, Muslims were praying outside the mosque until they were evacuated to the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp,” he said.
The cleric, who expressed shock at the level of the attack, said that such had never happened in the past 17 years of crises in the state.
He said that the villagers had been living together in peace before the crisis.
“There are intermarriages between us and exchange in ceremony both Christmas and Muslim festival, there are seven different languages in those communities and we have been living in peace before the crisis.
“Islam has taught us that when someone comes to us in distress you have an obligation to protect such a person until the situation becomes normal,” he said.
The U. S. Ambassador, Stuart Symington, who presented the Peacemaker Award, described the act as heroic for saving the lives of those who took refuge in the Mosque.
He urged citizens to emulate the cleric’s virtue of kindness to promote peace and brotherhood, saying the act had raised hope of cohesiveness in a society faced with growing distrust.