A father who was shot point-blank in the face by Boko Haram recounted how the militants asked whether he was "prepared to die as a Christian" and then left him for dead.
Habila Adamu, 40, was so badly wounded in the attack that he said goodbye to his wife as blood poured from a gaping wound.
Jubilee Campaign; U.S. Congress
Habila Adamu in the hospital after he was attacked by Boko Haram militants in 2012, left, and giving evidence to a House Committee on Foreign Affairs in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 13, 2013.
The father-of-one said the April 15 capture by Boko Haram of more than 200 girls from a boarding school brought back painful memories of the night he was shot and beaten in his home.
“When I heard about those girls I started to pray,” Adamu told NBC News on Tuesday. "Boko Haram have no mercy. All they want to do is drive the Christian community out of northern Nigeria and they won’t stop until they do it."
Many of the minority Christians in Yobe province were fearful of Boko Haram because the militants had attacked homes and businesses in the region, according to Adamu.
"They asked whether I was prepared to die as a Christian ... My wife was crying but I could not deny Christ"
The businessman initially thought they were soldiers on patrol near his home one night in November 2012.
“But when I saw their robes and AK-47 rifles I knew they were not from the army," he said. "They told me they were there to do the work of Allah."
With his wife Vivian and son David, now aged seven, looking on, four men forced their way indoors and asked whether he was a member of the police force or army. He told them he was not.
“Then they asked me whether I would convert to Islam and when I refused they asked whether I was prepared to die as a Christian. My wife was crying but I could not deny Christ. I felt powerful, unafraid, I don’t know why.”
Before he could refuse a second time, a bullet pierced his neck.
“I fell on the ground,” Adamu said. “They thought I was dead because they stomped on me twice and shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’ or ‘God is great.’”
Adamu mustered the strength to talk to his wife before slipping out of consciousness.
“She was crying so many tears,” he said. “Neither of us thought I would survive so I told her that to live in this world was to live for Christ. I told her to look after our son and herself.”
"A doctor told my wife there was no point in treating me"
Recovering her composure, Vivian ran to find help from fellow members of the Christian community - only to find that militants had killed 12 others.
Too scared to leave the house, she tended to her husband for eight hours. At first light, she was able to arrange transport to a nearby medical center.
“When they saw the wound, a doctor told my wife there was no point in treating me,” Adamu said. “I had lost so much blood.”
However, they gave him painkillers and transferred him to the Jos University Hospital, hundreds of miles further south, where doctors funded by the non-profit organization Voice of Martyrs were able to treat him.
Adamu’s condition gradually stabilized and he was discharged about two weeks later.
During his time in the hospital, Adamu met U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), who was on an official visit to Nigeria. He was later invited to share his experiences in America.
Almost a year after the shooting, Adamu told his story to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. He also visited the White House.
“Not bad for a small man from a village in northern Nigeria,” Adamu said. “I feel that God saved me to give a voice to the oppressed people who can’t stand up for themselves.”
However, Adamu felt that he could not return to his village because of the publicity surrounding his case. He has moved to a different part of Nigeria to avoid reprisals.
Last year, he also became a father for a second time, to Gladys, now aged one.
“I survived, I am alive and I am safe,” he said. “It is a miracle that I am alive. I am praying that we will be able to say the same about the schoolgirls. I think they have got more extreme since they attacked me over a year ago. Today I feel they would not only have shot me, but my family too."
First published May 13 2014, 7:37 AM