How Sambisa Forest community celebrated Christmas

IT was unexpected and scary. Hence, most of them froze as soon as the letter was dropped. The peace they had enjoyed until then immediately took flight. With danger staring them in the face, all thoughts of the fanfare that usually pervades the neighborhood prior to Christmas evaporated like hot air.

The reasons for the apprehension and confusion were not far to seek: The Islamic State of West Africa Province ISWAP, working in tandem with the malevolent Boko Haram terrorists, had a few days back served a message of impending invasion of the community and its environs bordering the dreaded Sambisa Forests, which is believed to harbor a large army of terrorists, bandits and kidnappers and their captives.

Also lying along that axis are many communities in Michika and Madagali local government areas of Adamawa State. They all received the strike notice from Boko Haram and ISWAP, their partner-in-crime, with great trepidation. The threat letter sent jitters across the entire neighbourhood. It was all gloom for those concerned as they struggled to secure some foodstuffs and arrange their compounds for Christmas.

Majority of the inhabitants, who could not stand the challenge posed by the terrorists, simply fled the area during the yuletide for fear of possible invasion by the bandits and their accomplices. Many relocated to Mubi, while others ran to the state capital to seek temporary accommodation with their kith and kin. But, the terrorists never showed up before, during and after the Christmas celebrations, but the fear of the unknown persisted.

But following the failure of the bandits to carry out their planned attack and with no threat to lives and property, the natives went about celebrating openly the birth of their saviour-Jesus Christ, with normal church services and cultural displays, though under security watch. There was no threat to lives and property during the Christmas festivities as normal church services were held without hindrance, though under heavy security watch. As a result, cultural displays of all sorts, acrobatic shows and traditional sports were all on display during the yuletide.

The all communities were alive with different traditional dances and carnivals as the people gave expression to their joy at having to celebrate in a peaceful atmosphere.  But some of the community members are still worried about the threat letter sent to them by ISWAP and Boko Haram and the attendant confusion in the area. A leader in one of the communities, Comrade Shehu Yohanna, lamented that as a result of the threat letter from the terrorists, some natives fled to    nearby towns such as Michika, Bazza, Garta, among other communities, when the threat letter was spotted in some places. “But people did not flee enmass, they just sneaked out of town with some of their family members and belongings. They fled to other nearby villages to celebrate the Yuletide; they quiet about it because they didn’t to cause panic or make other people to run helter-skelter.”

Another local, who identified himself as Milka John, told Arewa Voice that Boko Haram or ISWAP usually strike at random and without notice. “They may come before then or even after everybody might have forgotten about the threat,” John added.

“We are handicapped to withstand the superior fire power of the insurgents, and that is why anytime we hear gunshots the only option is to try and escape from our location. It is an escape that you do not announce; but you will see people running in all directions, especially towards the mountainous areas to take refuge,” another added.

Ishaku Job, who claimed he had   witnessed more than four Boko Haram attacks   on Michika Town and its environs, said that the insurgents usually deceive the people they serve with notice of attack so as to make them more vulnerable.

“If they tell you they will come on a given day, forget it; it  will not happen that day. They will wait until everybody in the area has forgotten the threat, then they will strike. Now we are keeping faith in God to protect us as we continue to celebrate Christmas, and the New Year is around the corner,” Job stated.

“Now that Christmas has been celebrated in peace, we pray and hope the New Year will be more peaceful,” another local resident stated.

The Commander, 23 Armoured Brigade   of the Nigerian Army Yola, Brigadier Gen. Aminu Garba said, the area was not under his command. “Please contact Commander 28 Brigade Chibok. They are not under my Brigade. I am not aware. The issue of threat letters has now become a routine affair but let them come and see if they will go back,” he said.

Michika has been an epicenter of terrorists’ attacks in Adamawa State. It will be recalled that the Chairman of Christian Association of Nigeria Pastor Lawan Andami was kidnapped and later killed last year by ISWAP fighters. There have been other attacks in the neighbouring local government areas of Hong, Mubi North, Gombi, among others, of recent.


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