Hundreds of family members and sympathizers on Saturday (April 27) attended a funeral in northeastern Nigeria for eight young Christians, six of them minors, who were killed when an off-duty security officer drove his vehicle into their Easter procession on April 21, sources said.
The officer, identified as Adamu Abubakar of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC), reportedly had angry words with leaders of the Christian procession that delayed him and a passenger, off-duty police officer Murtala Hassan, from proceeding at a junction in Gombe, capital of Gombe state.
The Christian leaders of the Boys and Girls Brigade, and international, interdenominational Christian youth organization, let the two Muslim men pass through, but a survivor told Nigerian news outlet The Daily Trust that the driver warned them he would return, made a U-turn, switched off his headlights and rammed the procession from behind.
"This incident, no doubt, is motivated by terrorist acts, as the driver deliberately crashed into the procession," the chairman of the Gombe State Battalion Brigade of the Boys Brigade, Isaac Kwadang, told Morning Star News. "The driver of the vehicle is a Muslim and an official of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC), while his passenger is a Muslim police officer."
Killed were Ruth Samson Samanja, 13; Keziah Amos Kwatam, 13; and Polina Yusuf Samanja, 11 of the Girls Brigade company in Gombe, Kwadang said. From the Boys Brigade, those killed were Sunday Samuel Gurnet, 19; Irimiya Amos Ibrahim, 14; Joseph Daniel, 21; Joseph Danjuma Paul Gavan, 15; and Jesse Markus Baka, 15, he said.
The vehicle assault also sent 12 Christians to the hospital for treatment of injuries, Kwadang said.
"Both the dead and injured Christian youths are members of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) and Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN) in Gombe," he said. "Seven of the dead are from ECWA, while one is from COCIN."
The two officers were also killed when crowds that survived the vehicle assault reportedly chased them down and mobbed them.
The killed and injured ECWA members were from congregations in Gombe and the Barunde, Tabra and Madaki areas of the town, while the slain victim from the COCIN was from the church at Y/Bogo, Kwadang said.
The incident occurred on Biu Road at Alheri Junction in Gombe, he said.
Chief Medical Director Shuaibu Muazu of the Gombe State Specialist Hospital told Morning Star News by phone that the hospital received eight corpses in its morgue.
Later the funeral service was held at the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Center in Gombe. Attending was the deputy governor of the state, Charles Iliya, and other government officials. The bodies were buried at the Christian cemetery in Gombe.
The Rev. Nicholas Okoh, primate of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), noted that the assault was directed at people celebrating the resurrection of Christ.
"It is unfortunate that such a thing should happen on Easter Day," he said. "It also shows that our country has not arrived [at the point] that people tolerate others. People are marching, showing joy, showing happiness, and somebody decides to crush them and kill so many for no reason."
Garba Shehu, spokesman for President Muhammadu Buhari, said in a press statement that the president was saddened by the killing of the youths.
"My heart is filled with the pain that the families of the victims were facing as they buried these promising youngsters," he said. "The entire nation is with you as experience this sad, indescribable loss. May the Almighty God comfort you at this difficult time."
Nigeria ranked 12th on Open Doors' 2019 World Watch List of countries where Christians suffer the most persecution.