From Sola Ojo, Kaduna
Wednesday, August 23, 2023, will be remembered as a day the family of Rev. Meyau Jeremiah had their fair share of failure of the Nigerian Government to fulfill its constitutional responsibility of protecting the lives and property of all citizens irrespective of where they chose to live and transact their legitimate businesses.
The reverend’s gruesome murder was coming barely 24 hours after the Governor Uba Sani told residents through the immediate past Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs and Current Administrator of Kaduna City Territorial Authority, Mr. Samuel Aruwan, that his administration was committed to public safety.
Two weeks earlier, a woman was also killed in a similar manner at Ngwan Rana, Gonia Isa in the same Kujama after engaging some pastoralists, who had allegedly led their animals to eat and destroyed her farm. She was said to have been trailed and killed in her house without any arrest being made by the security agents saddled with the responsibility of protecting the lives and property of Nigerians.
The 61-year-old Meyau, who was the pastor in charge of Tawaliu Baptist Church, Ungwan Mission, Kujama in Chikun Local Government Area of Kaduna State, had on that fateful day gone to check his rice farm located at Nigerian Correctional Service Farms, about three kilometres away from his home when his attackers shot him twice in the head, killing him instantly.
When this correspondent visited the late pastor’s home a day after the incident, parishioners and neighbours were seen in mourning mood, with some putting their hands on their heads. Some of the sympathisers folded their hands across their chests and wearing long faces. The widow, whose eyes were swollen and reddish, was weeping profusely, as she was being comforted by a large crowd of women stooping all over her.
It was gathered from the mourners that the late cleric, who was of the Hausa tribe from Refawa in Bunkure Local Government Area of Kano, had been pastoring the Kujama Baptist Church for 15 years. He had also been farming rice in the swarmpy portion of the land belonging to the Nigerian Correctional Service for as long as he picked up the responsibility of feeding the local Church with physical and spiritual meals.
According to a family source, Meyau had returned from another of his farm around 1:30pm that fateful day when his wife, who had painstakingly prepared his favourite meal, asked him to eat but he declined, with the intention to visit the second farm before returning home to devour the delicious meal which he never did – no thanks to the yet to be apprehended gunmen.
Narrating the unfortunate incident to Daily Sun within the Church premises, an elder and close associate of the deceased, Deacon Joshua Bitrus described him as “a very good man, gentle and free with all people around him.
“He was a forgiving person. We have stayed with him for 15 years in this church and we have never had any problem with him. Because of how good he was to us spiritually and otherwise, we are begging the family to allow us to bury him here in the church. This is someone we were planning for his retirement in 2025.
“We were shocked to the marrow when the news of his death was heard. I’ve not been able to eat for two days and even now I’m not feeling like eating because he is a very big loss to us. We have lost a companion, a very prayerful pastor, a loving and kind-hearted man of God.
“He came to see my aged mother in my house yesterday around 4pm without suspecting that would be his last time. My aged mother is lying in bed, sick and she has not been able to come to church in the past five years. Each time the late pastor came around, he would make my mother laugh which has been sustaining her. Up till now, I have never shared this sad news with her because I don’t know how she would receive the news.
“I returned home from my farm around 2pm on Wednesday, August 24. It was the prisons that gave him that swampy land where he has been farming rice since he came here to serve God in His vineyard.”
On how they got to know about the pastor’s killing since he went to the farm alone that day, he said: “Some women had returned from the farm and a few of them gathered behind the bathroom of one of my friends, gisting that a man was shot near our reverend’s farm.
“On hearing that, he was confused and that was how he ran as fast as his legs could carry him to the mission house to meet our pastor’s wife so she could put a call through to her husband’s mobile phone.
“They also called me and as soon as I came to the house, we rushed to the farm where we discovered his body. He was shot twice in the head. I saw that with my eyes. We picked the body and took him to St. Gerald Catholic Hospital in Kaduna, pending the time he would be taking to Bishara Baptist Church, Refawa, Bunkure Local Government Area of Kano State for his final burial as planned by the family.
“This thing has been happening and we have been pleading with the government to come to our rescue but we are yet to see the end of it. As we are here, we have refugees who have been pursued from their houses by these people. They cannot go back to their homes. They cannot go to their farms either.
“Like I said, we have been calling on the government to assist us because we don’t want to acquire weapons to defend ourselves. These people will enter here, pick people and go without being challenged. As we speak, those who can afford rent have left us. They have relocated to Kaduna town.
“We are worried that security agents have not been able to help us because these people are not far. They are now occupying the houses of people they have pursued and we believe the government knows about it.
“Villages like Rafin Koriya and Buda are less than five kilometres from here while our reverend’s farm is about three kilometres. These are farming villages that produce food for the state. This is one of the reasons we are suffering food insecurity today because these people cannot go to their farms. Some of us are dying of starvation and cannot even pay rent.”
Sharing his last moment with his father with Daily Sun in Kujama, the oldest son of the deceased, Habila Jeremiah, described his late father as a lover of all and a good example of a responsible biological and spiritual father figure.
“The news of my dad’s death came to us as a rude shock. The last moment I had with him was around 1.30pm the day he was killed. I called him over something I wanted him to send to me in Kano because that’s where I am based. But, he could not answer. I then called my younger brother for the same purpose.
“But before my brother could call back, someone called around 2pm and asked me what was happening at Ungwan Mission, Kujama. Later, my brother called to inform me that some people had killed our Dad while he was checking one of his rice farms.
“Based on what those who overheard the conversation between my dad and his killers told me, he pleaded with them to even take him with them but they said no because they have been paid to come and kill him. People saw what happened and they brought the news.
“After shooting him in the head, they left him in his pool of blood and went away with his motorcycle, his bag, and his mobile phone which was why our mother could not reach him earlier.
“The government should act because this is getting out of hand. The government should not wait until people resort to self-help because that will be too bad for the country. We demand justice for our father to show if truly the government is committed to our safety.”
Meanwhile, police sources disclosed that there is manhunt for the perpetrators of the evil act.