JOS, Nigeria—For embattled Christians in Nigeria’s Plateau State, the best hope for many is a civil rights attorney with a knack for cheating death.
Barrister Gyang Zi, 43, is no stranger to controversy in court or to danger in the North Nigerian city of Jos.
The attorney, who earns less than $5000 annually, is among 254 Lawyers in Plateau State using personal finances to fight for victims of violations, said Mr. Panmak Lere, the leader of the Christian Lawyers Federation of Nigeria (CLASFON) in Plateau State.
“The cases range from religious freedom cases for converts undergoing persecution; molestations and government recklessness; appeals against judgments or trials that are unjust or perverse, intervening for widows, orphans, indigents, inmates without legal representation, IDPs, as well as victims of injustice and religious violence,” Lere said.
Zi has won suits for over 500 victims of violations, mostly against the Muslim-dominated Nigerian military, said his partner, Solomon Dalyop. “The latest was a suit between the Army and 28 villagers arrested over the disappearance of an Army general in September 2018,” Dalyop said.
“There was an attack in [Sept. 11] 2018 in Lopandet village, a Christian community on the outskirts of Jos, and 13 people were killed on the spot, while three people died in the hospital. The following day one [Major] General [Idris] Alkali was reported missing, and a group of people from nowhere said it was the people of that community that killed the General.
“The Army Headquarters was moved completely to that village. People were arrested randomly from the street, from their houses and business locations. Even journalists were arrested. There were more than 60 [detainees]. Many had to flee from their homes, but Zi challenged the Army authorities. He brought some of us in, and we kept writing to the General Officer Commanding the Third Division of the Nigerian Army [in Jos] where they were detained.
“About 40 were later released, while 28 were arraigned before the State High Court, and we stood for them. The case is still ongoing, but by the grace of God, before he [Zi] handed the defense to the Christian Lawyers Federation of Nigeria (CLASFON), we filed several bail applications, and as of February this year, all of them were released,” said Dalyop.
Zi recently hinted to friends of plans to sue local authorities over the killing of more than 70 people in Northern Plateau under the watch of the military. The attacks from July 31 to Aug. 2 near Third Division Headquarters of the Nigerian Army were jointly carried out by soldiers and Fulani terrorists, a risky case to try, said Zi, but “I don’t have any option.”
“Whether I like it or not, one day I will give way, one day I will die. The only thing that will speak for us when we leave this earth is our deeds,” he said
“By the grace of God I am over 40. I do not have any reason to back down from doing right simply because I am afraid of what will happen,” Zi said.
By Masara Kim