1.1            Background to the Study

The nation Nigeria has witnessed brutal confrontation and massive assault from terrorist group which is undoubtedly the most blood-thirsty and destructive, both in term of demonic brutality, mindless savagery and flagrant disobedience to the principles of peace and stability (Yakubu, 2012:16). Nigeria has witnessed insurgency from this terrorist group called Boko Haram from 2009. They unleash terror and fear in the minds of every Nigeria. There is wanton destruction of government properties, bombing of churches, Mosques and other public places, assassination of prominent individuals, burning of schools occasioned by sporadic shooting of innocent citizens (Adamu, 2009:31-32). Religious violence has been responsible for the collapse of many nations in many parts of the world. Religion has also been found to be behind the rapid growth and might of some powerful nations today. In Nigeria, experience shows that the incidence of religious violence due to activities of some religious sects has become a yearly ritual, often leading to the destruction of lives and property, the loss of precious time, money and energy.

According to Cook (2012:1), Boko Haram’s onslaught on Christians began with a series of attacks in Yobe state late 2011, where about 100 people died. On 25 December 2011, Boko Haram carried out a suicide bomb attack on St Theresa Catholic Church in Madalla (near Abuja), in which 44 Christians were killed. The sect also claimed responsibility for bomb attacks that killed about 80 people around Jos on 24 December 2011 (Christmas Eve). On 26 February 2012, Boko Haram claimed responsibility for another attack on Christians at Christ Church (COCIN) in Jos, which killed three and injured about 38. On 11 March 2012, it attacked St Finbarr’s Catholic Church also in Jos, killing 19 people. In addition, about 20 Christian students (and a professor) were attacked and killed by Boko Haram at Ado Bayero University, Kano, on 2 May 2012. In another assault that demonstrates a direct focus on Christians, Boko Haram stormed into a church service in Maiduguri and killed five Christians including the priest. Still in Maiduguri, an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) was found at St. Michael Church in the Railway Quarters. It was detonated with no casualty before the worshippers congregated for their weekend services. But on 3 June 2012, a Boko Haram suicide bomber drove a car into Harvest Field Church of Christ in Bauchi, killing nine people and injuring 35 others. There were also thematic attacks on Christians on 5, 6, 10, 11, and 24 January and 17th June 2012 in Maiduguri, Adamawa, Plateau, and Kaduna states. Together, those targeted bombing acts have created not only a tense national environment in which Christians feel and believe that they have come under Islamist siege but also a growing sense of many observers that Nigeria is poised precariously at the precipice of political and social catastrophe.

Maier (2014:53) asserts that despite attacks on churches, Christians are not the only targets of Boko Haram assaults. Boko Haram adherents privilege a version of Islam that regards as transgressors those who do not abide strictly to the teachings of Allah. The net effect is that faithful Muslims are often targets of its wrath. For instance, it assassinated Sheikh Ibrahim Ahmed, a critic of the sect at Gomari Mosque in Maiduguri. According to Hussein Solomon, Senior Professor in Department of Political Science at the University of the Free State in South Africa, Sheikh Ibrahim’s assassination was a clear message to other Imams that the only credible interpretation of the Qur’an is the Islamist one. Also, on 13 July 2012, a Boko Haram suicide bomber attempted to kill two prominent Muslims the Shehu of Borno and the state’s deputy governor as they completed their Friday prayer. Both men escaped but ten of Muslims lost their lives. For Boko Haram, Nigeria’s national and state governments are run by non-believers. As such, Muslim political elites stand condemned for their cooperation with their Christian counterparts. Both groups are targets because they do not subscribe to Boko Haram’s ideological commitment to implementing shari’ah law in Nigeria.