Borno state government, an Islamic state ruled by sharia law, says it has so far rebuilt 11 churches destroyed in Southern Borno, the predominantly Christian region of the state which has been devastated by the Boko Haram insurgency.
Speaking, on Wednesday 15 March, at the funeral service of the pioneering Bishop of Maiduguri Diocese who died last month the Borno State commissioner for health, Dr Haruna Mshelia, said Governor Kashim Shettima had a high regard for Christians and would always seek counsel from the church in decisions about state matter even though he is a Muslim.
“Borno State is for both Christians and Muslims and we must build it together.” Mshelia said.
The Borno state Governor, in September 2016 had said he would, “rebuild churches and others structures destroyed in Lassa and other communities around. We are saddened by the large scale destruction in Lassa which is a predominantly Christian community.”
The commissioner said, though Kashim Shetima is a Muslim, he is the first governor in the state “who extended a hand of fellowship to the church in times of trouble… he gave money to the catholic church and other churches to repair the buildings that were damaged,” the commissioner said,
He claimed that the governor had sent money for churches that were attacked to be rebuilt “when Gwoza was attacked and many churches were destroyed, he sent a large sum of money for the churches to be rebuilt. But because of the confusion of the crises, the (money) didn’t see the light of the day.”
The government, about six months ago, “constituted a committee of highly placed Christians to start rebuilding churches in southern Borno. So far they have completed 11 churches.” Mshelia said.
The late Archbishop E. Mani was described as a persevering church leader who, throughout the stormy years of insurgency and attacks by Boko Haram Jihadists in the region “had not left Borno even for a minute”.
Governor Shetima said he was demonstrating his appreciation to the widow of the Archbishop by donating a house to her at Legacy estate, in Maiduguri, in which she could live after her husband’s death.
Reacting to the gesture by the Borno state government, a Christian charity coordinator in Maiduguri who wanted to remain anonymous, said, “Building only 11 churches out of hundreds of churches that have been destroyed by the Islamic Jihadists in the state alone is very little compared to the hundreds of Muslim communities that have been built and very small mosques replaced by very large ones, even in places where the people don’t need them.
“This is in addition to large cattle ranches being built for herdsmen. To show equity and be just, the governor needs to understand that Christians are indigenes of the state and equal stakeholders. He needs to treat Christians as he treat Muslims. Not to make offhanded political gestures,” the coordinator said.