President Muhammadu Buhari has rejected a report alleging that there is genocide against Christians in the country.
In the report, the United Kingdom All-Party Parliamentary Group on International Religious Freedom or Belief, a group made up of British parliamentarians, said Christians are being targeted because of their faith in Nigeria.
But in a statement on Friday, Garba Shehu, presidential spokesman, said Boko Haram insurgents have targeted Christians because they know it drives religious tensions in the country.
Shehu said the Buhari administration is committed to addressing these challenges and has already begun taking measures.
“The president and government of Nigeria wish to thank members of the United Kingdom All-Party Parliamentary Group on International Religious Freedom or Belief for their report, launched a few days ago,” he said.
“Although it is difficult reading, the statement also acknowledges the importance of accurate, unbiased, depoliticised and truthful information when it comes to understanding the realities and addressing the challenges for those of faith in Nigeria.
“In this regard when uncritical attention is afforded to critics with dubious intentions, it only becomes harder for both the government and people of Nigeria to engage in constructive dialogue to resolve our differences, and uphold what is enshrined in our constitution and laws: that everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
“In concert with our American and British allies, Nigeria’s military have pushed back the terrorists and largely reduced their capacity over the last five years compared to the previous decade.
“Boko Haram have targeted Christians and Churches specifically because they know it drives forward religious and land tensions already existent in the country. Similarly, they attack mosques and Muslims in order to issue the threat: radicalise, or become targets yourselves.”
Shehu said while the government is increasing efforts “to fully defeat and finally finish Boko Haram”, it has not stopped seeking to negotiate for those held captive by the insurgents.
According to him, under the leadership of Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, there are efforts to unite the country through dialogue as regards religious differences.
“The president and government have and will at all times work with those – both within and without Nigeria – with a concern for the rights to freedom of thought, conscience and religion,” he said.
“In this regard, we look forward to welcoming members of the All-Party Parliamentary Group to our country to see for themselves the work that is going on to promote these fundamental rights of our citizens.”
OPEN LETTER TO PRESIDENT, GENERAL MUHAMMADU BUHARI
I am constrained to write to you this open letter. I decided to make it an open letter because the issue is very weighty and must be greatly worrisome to all concerned Nigerians and that means all right-thinking Nigerians and those resident in Nigeria.
Since the issue is of momentous concern to all well-meaning and all right-thinking Nigerians, it must be of great concern to you, and collective thinking and dialoguing is the best way of finding an appropriate and adequate solution to the problem.
The contents of this letter, therefore, should be available to all those who can help in proffering effective solutions for the problem of insecurity in the land. One of the spinoffs and accelerants is the misinformation and disinformation through the use of fake news.
A number of articles, in recent days, have been attributed to me by some people who I believe may be seeking added credence and an attentive audience for their opinions and view-points. As you know very well, I will always boldly own what I say and disown what is put into my mouth. But the issue I am addressing here is very serious; it is the issue of life and death for all of us and for our dear country, Nigeria.
This issue can no longer be ignored, treated with nonchalance, swept under the carpet or treated with cuddling glove. The issue is hitting at the foundation of our existence as Nigerians and fast eroding the root of our Nigerian community. I am very much worried and afraid that we are on the precipice and dangerously reaching a tipping point where it may no longer be possible to hold danger at bay.
Without being immodest, as a Nigerian who still bears the scar of the Nigerian civil war on my body and with a son who bears the scar of fighting Boko Haram on his body, you can understand, I hope, why I am so concerned. When people are desperate and feel that they cannot have confidence in the ability of government to provide security for their lives and properties, they will take recourse to anything and everything that can guarantee their security individually and collectively.
For over ten years, for four of which you have been the captain of the ship, Boko Haram has menacingly ravaged the land and in spite of government’s claim of victory over Boko Haram, the potency and the activities of Boko Haram, where they are active, remain undiminished, putting lie to government’s claim. The recent explanation of the Chief of Army Staff for non-victory due to lack of commitment and lack of motivation on the part of troops bordering on sabotage speaks for itself.
Say what you will, Boko Haram is still a daily issue of insecurity for those who are victimised, killed, maimed, kidnapped, raped, sold into slavery and forced into marriage and for children forcibly recruited into carrying bombs on them to detonate among crowds of people to cause maximum destructions and damage. And Boko Haram will not go away on the basis of sticks alone, carrots must overweigh sticks.
How else do you deal with issues such as only about 50% literacy in North-East with over 70% unemployment? Herdsmen/farmers crises and menace started with government treating the issue with cuddling glove instead of hammer. It has festered and spread. Today, it has developed into banditry, kidnapping, armed robbery and killings all over the country.
The unfortunate situation is that the criminality is being perceived as a ‘Fulani’ menace unleashed by Fulani elite in the different parts of the country for a number of reasons but even more unfortunately, many Nigerians and non-Nigerians who are friends of Nigeria attach vicarious responsibility to you as a Fulani elite and the current captain of the Nigeria ship.
Perception may be as potent as reality at times. Whatever may be the grievances of Fulanis, if any, they need to be put out in the open and their grievances, if legitimate, be addressed; and if other ethnic groups have grievances, let them also be brought out in the open and addressed through debate and dialogue.
The main issue, if I may dare say, is poor management or mismanagement of diversity which, on the other hand, is one of our greatest and most important assets. As a result, very onerous cloud is gathering. And rain of destruction, violence, disaster and disunity can only be the outcome. Nothing should be taken for granted, the clock is ticking with the cacophony of dissatisfaction and disaffection everywhere in and outside the country.
The Presidency and the Congress in the US have signalled to us to put our house in order. The House of Lords in the UK had debated the Nigerian security situation. We must understand and appreciate the significance, implication and likely consequences of such concerns and deliberations.
No one can stop hate speech, violent agitation and smouldering violent agitation if he fans the embers of hatred, disaffection and violence. It will continue to snowball until it is out of control. A stich in time saves nine, goes the old wise saying.
With the death of Funke, Chief Fasoranti’s daughter, some sympathetic Nigerian groups are saying “enough is enough”. Prof. Anya, a distinguished Nigerian merit Laureate, has this to say “We can no longer say with certainty that we have a nation”. Niger-Delta leaders, South-Eastern leaders, Middle-Belt leaders and Northern Elders Forum have not remained quiet.
Different ordinary Nigerians at home and abroad are calling for different measures to address or ameliorate the situation. All the calls and cries can only continue to be ignored at the expense of Nigerian unity, if not its continued existence. To be explicit and without equivocation, Mr. President and General, I am deeply worried about four avoidable calamities:
abandoning Nigeria into the hands of criminals who are all being suspected, rightly or wrongly, as Fulanis and terrorists of Boko Haram type;
spontaneous or planned reprisal attacks against Fulanis which may inadvertently or advertently mushroom into pogrom or Rwanda-type genocide that we did not believe could happen and yet it happened.
similar attacks against any other tribe or ethnic group anywhere in the country initiated by rumours, fears, intimidation and revenge capable of leading to pogrom;
violent uprising beginning from one section of the country and spreading quickly to other areas and leading to dismemberment of the country.
It happened to Yugoslavia not too long ago. If we do not act now, one or all of these scenarios may happen. We must pray and take effective actions at the same time. The initiative is in the hands of the President of the nation, but he cannot do it alone.
In my part of the world, if you are sharpening your cutlass and a mad man comes from behind to take the cutlass from you, you need other people’s assistance to have your cutlass back without being harmed.
The mad men with serious criminal intent and terrorism as core value have taken cutlass of security. The need for assistance to regain control is obviously compelling and must be embraced now.
A couple of weeks ago at a public lecture, I had said, among other things, that: “In all these issues of mobilisation for national unity, stability, security, cooperation, development, growth and progress, there is no consensus.
Like in the issue of security, government should open up discussion, debate and dialogue as part of consultation at different levels and the outcome of such deliberations should be collated to form inputs into a national conference to come up with the solution that will effectively deal with the issues and lead to rapid development, growth and progress which will give us a wholesome society and enhanced living standard and livelihood in an inclusive and shared society.
It will be a national programme. We need unity of purpose and nationally accepted strategic roadmap that will not change with whims and caprices of any government. It must be owned by the citizens, people’s policy and strategy implemented by the government no matter its colour and leaning.
Some of the groups that I will suggest to be contacted are: traditional rulers, past heads of service (no matter how competent or incompetent they have been and how much they have contributed to the mess we are in), past heads of para-military organisations, private sector, civil society, community leaders particularly in the most affected areas, present and past governors, present and past local government leaders, religious leaders, past Heads of State, past intelligence chiefs, past Heads of Civil Service and relevant current and retired diplomats, members of opposition and any groups that may be deemed relevant.”
The President must be seen to be addressing this issue with utmost seriousness and with maximum dispatch and getting all hands on deck to help. If there is failure, the principal responsibility will be that of the President and no one else. We need cohesion and concentration of effort and maximum force – political, economic, social, psychological and military – to deal successfully with the menace of criminality and terrorism separately and together.
Blame game among own forces must be avoided. It is debilitating and only helpful to our adversary. We cannot dither anymore. It is time to confront this threat headlong and in a manner that is holistic, inclusive and purposeful. For the sake of Nigeria and Nigerians, I pray that God may grant you, as our President, the wisdom, the understanding, the political will and the courage to do what is right when it is right and without fear or favour.
May God save, secure, protect and bless Nigeria. May He open to us a window of opportunity that we can still use to prevent the worst happening. As we say in my village, “May God forbid bad thing.
In a strong open letter to the Inspector General of police, the Ohanaeze President General, Dr Nnia Nwodo warns of imminent anarchy if Fulani herdsmen are allowed to carry AK-47 on the streets of Anambra without arrests.
In his letter he raised the issue of four Fulani herdsmen carrying six AK-47 rifles while freely riding on motorcycles in Anambra state and the refusal of the police to arrest them.
Here is his letter below.
AN OPEN LETTER TO THE INSPECTOR GENERAL OF POLICE
BY PRESIDENT GENERAL, OHANEZE NDIGBO – CHIEF JOHN NNIA NWODO
Sir, THE ROAD TO ANARCHY
It is with a heart full of trepidation and responsibility that Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide brings to your notice a potentially explosive situation in Anambra State of Nigeria.
The people of Umuawulu Community in Awka South Local Government Area of Anambra State saw four Fulani boys with six Ak-47 rifles slung on their shoulders and riding two motor cycles and trailed them to Isiagu Community also in Awka South LGA where they reside. When the news of the brazen wielding of firearms spread across the council area, as law-abiding citizens, the stakeholders there convened a crucial meeting with the police and Fulani leaders in the State and raised the matter for deliberation.
The stakeholders told the Fulani leaders in the presence of men of the State Investigation and Intelligence Bureau, SIIB, Awka that they were alarmed and surprised that their boys were flagrantly displaying arms in the public, unmindful of the legal implications of unlawful possession of firearms. The stakeholders expressed disappointment that security agencies did not make any attempt to arrest the offending Fulani boys, adding that if it were Igbo boys they would have been arrested, tortured and charged to court.
But rather than explain what led to the carrying of arms by the boys, or even apologise on behalf of the boys, the Fulani leaders told the stakeholders to do their worst and walked out on them, saying that their boys must always bear arms to protect themselves against religious, ethnic or tribal attacks from any quarters, and there is nothing anybody can do. This, in the presence of law enforcement agents and nothing was actually done to arrest either the Fulani boys or their leaders for overtly declaring war on the people of Anambra State.
The Inspector General of Police sir, Ohanaeze Ndigbo is alarmed by this wanton act because of the danger it portends. This raises the following questions:
1. Is the bearing of unlicensed firearms (especially sophisticated ones like Ak-47) no longer illegal and therefore punishable in breach in the laws of this country?
2. Do we now have different laws for different ethnic groups in Nigeria? If it were to be members of IPOB or any other group other than Fulani that bear such illegal arms what fate would befall them?
3. Does the impetuous action and utterance of the Fulani leaders not a clear and definite invitation to anarchy? If everybody in this country, irrespective of tribe, carries such firearms to protect himself, will the security agencies be able to contain the mayhem that will ensue?
4. Can the IGP imagine what fate that would have befallen any Igbo leaders in any part of the North who dare challenge their hosts and the police with such impunity and callousness? Mr Inspector General of Police sir, Ohanaeze Ndigbo believes that there is enough tension in the country already to allow room for more.
But, it is only a tree that they tell it will be cut down and it remains motionless waiting for the axe. The principle of self defense is even enshrined in the statutes of the country. Peaceful coexistence is a prerequisite for development. The police is by statute empowered, equipped and expected to make peace between two warring factions and not to take sides or protect one group.
The action of the police in Anambra State is, to say the least, despicable and a tacit invitation to anarchy. Except a coward, nobody will ever run away from his fatherland and leave it for another to occupy. Ndigbo are not cowards. The behaviour of the police probably explains why it is only police commisioners from a particular part of the country that are posted to Igbo land. This also tends to lay credence to the fears being harboured by our people that even the military laying siege on Igbo land are here to protect the interest of an ethnic group.
Not only have Ndigbo been marginalised in this country, they are even being pushed to the brink. It is always said that no country survives a second civil war. Like I always say, Ndigbo are ever capable of defending themselves. They will not fold their arms and allow gun-totting marauding Fulani herdsmen to continue harassing, raping, maiming and killing them in their own homes. We are law-abiding, hospitable and always ready to coexist with others as friends and brothers but not as foes and at a supreme price. Enough is enough.
Chief John Nnia Nwodo President General Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide.
A Fulani group that calls itself the Fulani Nationality Movement on Sunday claims ownership of all lands from Sokoto to the Atlantic Ocean in the south, and also gave a notice of planned conquest of the entire territory.
The group under the acronyms FUNAM dropped the bombshell in statement in reaction to the killings in Plateau state by armed Fulani herdsmen, claiming that there is claim of the existence of a Fulani Strike Force that coordinated what it called a retaliatory attack against Birom people in Barkin Ladi, in Plateau state.
President of the group Badu Salisu Ahmadu was unapologetic about the killings, said the killings were justifiable as the Fulani had been attacked before the counter attack.
And he laid an operating philosophy of the ethnic nationality: “For the avoidance of doubt, our heritage is that ANY ATTACK ON A SINGLE FULANI IS AN ATTACK ON ALL. ANY OF SUCH ATTACKS MUST BE COUNTERED WITH TRIPLE MEASURE”
Ahmadu claimed that Plateau is an indigenous territory of the FULANI people.
“We are the first to settle in Plateau-Benue axis thousands of years ago. We shall take and possess every inch of this land; A conscious attempt to rewrite history and distort, manipulate or destroy our past will be resisted with all the might at our disposal”.
“We have said it over and over, that Nigeria is the only inheritance we have in Africa and anywhere in the world. This land belongs to us, from Sokoto to the banks of the Atlantic Ocean. This was the destiny bestowed on Uthman Dan Fodio which would have been fulfilled since 1816 if not for the obstruction of this great assignment by the British. It is no longer time to play the ostrish. Our men are waiting. We are eager to fight. We are boiling with the zeal to actualize our dream; enough of double dealing and ambivalence by FULANI political leaders who unfortunately think the FULANI can only take back what belongs to us through appeasement and elections destined to reflect cultural values antithetical to the preachings of Uthman Dan Fodio.”
According to him, there is a clear agenda to divide Nigeria and exterminate the Fulani people. “We are long aware of this plot. We call on FULANI all over Africa to prepare for this inevitable war and set our people on an offensive path rather than being weaklings that choose a defensive strategy in warfare.”
The Eropean Union in a new report released on January 16, 2020 said over 6000 Christians had been murdered by “Fulani militants whereas in Sharia states, Christians face constant discrimination and are often considered second class citizens.”
The European parliament, legislative branch of the European Union, has accused the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration of overseeing the persecution of Christians in the Northern part of Nigeria where Sharia law is in practice.
The EU in a new report released on January 16, 2020 said over 6000 Christians had been murdered by “Fulani militants whereas in Sharia states, Christians face constant discrimination and are often considered second class citizens.”
The report further adds that, “These attacks have continued with total impunity with perpetrators rarely being held to account whereas Amnesty International report has demonstrated wilful negligence by the Nigerian security forces concerning deadly attacks against farming communities.”
The report says Buhari’s poor handling of Nigeria’s deteriorating situation in the North-East has worsened as non-governmental organisations ready to help are denied access by the Nigerian Government for political reasons.
The EU condemned what it described as “extermination of human beings or ethnic cleansing” while calling on the Nigerian Government to find immediate solutions to the conflict now affecting the stability of West Africa.
Herdsmen under the umbrella of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore have expressed scepticism over the inauguration of Operation Amotekun.
Miyetti Allah, however, warned that it would not condone acts of injustice meted out to any of its members by the officials of the outfit or any other vigilance group.
The National Secretary of the group, Alhassan Saleh, said this on Friday during an interview with Saturday PUNCH.
Saleh said, “We have no problem with them as long as they will not target our herders. We have our own defence mechanisms. We fight injustice anywhere, not only in Nigeria. So, if they end up meting out injustice to us, we will fight back. That is the truth but we are law-abiding.
“And as herders, we must herd our cows until there is an alternative provided for us. If they give us alternative, we will go there and if they say they don’t want us, those that want to leave, will leave but what we will not sanction is anybody taking the law into their own hands because we have a history of fighting injustice anywhere there is oppression.”
He stated that Miyetti Allah was not in support of cows straying into people’s farms but movement, as guaranteed by the constitution, must be respected.
Saleh recalled that herdsmen suffered acts of injustice when the Benue State Government set up the livestock guard which ended up extorting money from innocent herders.
The secretary said Operation Amotekun could be used by politicians to perpetuate themselves in power by election rigging.
Saleh argued that South-West governors should have remained true to their call for state police rather than opt for the Operation Amotekun option.
He stated, “When you empower groups and give them arms, the possibility is that others will follow suit and the central government will begin losing its power. Definitely, our politicians will begin to abuse these outfits.
“When it is election time, sitting governors will use the outfits to their advantage. The first casualties of such malfeasance will be the people of that state, because when they want to impose themselves, they use these people because they are already trained and armed just like in Benue State.
“At the end, the livestock guards ended up killing people. It is on record because people have been tried and jailed. So, it is not the way forward. If they cannot push the debate for state police, they should not do such half measures.” (Punch)
“The only difference between the Federal Government and Boko Haram is that Boko Haram is holding a bomb. The Federal Government is using different methods to achieve the same goal of Islamic dominance.
They are using the levers of power to secure the supremacy of Islam which then gives more weight to the idea that it can be achieved by violence. They have created the conditions to make it possible for Boko Haram to behave the way they are behaving.
On Boxing Day 2019, ISWAP released a video beheading 10 Christians and shooting one Muslim, saying they were avenging the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghadi, Daesh, ISIS leader, and other senior Daesh members killed during a US raid in October.
The beheading of the 10 Christians followed a Christmas eve attack by Boko Haram, in which seven were killed in coldblood, adding that the United Nations estimated that over 2.2 million people have been displaced by Boko Haram’s actions between 2013 and 2015.
More than 11,000 innocent people were killed by the rampaging Islamist group. The Nigerian government, by packing key government positions with hardline Muslims, gives tacit approval to such groups.
If the people in power don’t do enough to integrate Christians, then they give oxygen to Islamism. If they have countries where everybody in power is Muslim, then you give vent to the idea that Islam should be supreme.
The western nations are not doing enough. They have shown that the resources of Africa are more important than the ordinary people.
Clearly the Western nations could have reduced the influence of Boko Haram by 80 or 90 percent. They have deliberately not done enough. The only thing preventing Nigeria from being engulfed in civil war is the peaceful tenets of Christianity”.
No fewer than 19 cows were killed by lightning at Iba in Ifelodun Local Government Area of Osun State.
It was gathered on Saturday that some Fulani herdsmen were grazing their cattle on the field around the Apala area of the town when the incident happened.
It was learnt that all the 19 cows on the field at that time were killed by the lightning.
In his reaction to the incident, the monarch of the town, Oba Adekunle Oyedeji, sympathised with the victims, while urging them to burn the dead cows to avoid an outbreak of an epidemic.
Oba Oyedeji, in a statement by his media assistant, Gbolagunte Bamigbola, called for calm among indigenes and residents of the town.
“The people of Iba, have over the years been living harmoniously with Fulani in our domain.
“The death of the cows belonging to the Fulani cattle rearers living among us was a natural occurrence occasioned by thunder that struck in the town,” the monarch said.
Also the state governor, Gboyega Oyetola, sympathised with the Fulani traders in the town.
Oyetola, who spoke through his Special Adviser for Agriculture and Food Security, Mr Biodun Ajisefini, during a visit to the town on Saturday, commended the people of the town for living peacefully with Fulani herdsmen in the town.
“We are indeed sad about the unfortunate incident.
“Lightning is a natural phenomenon that we have no power or control over.
“The traders who suffered this loss are part of us, not strangers.
“They have lived here for decades and I commend them for their exemplary contributions to peace in Iba community.
“I want to assure them of my support and indeed government’s support at a time like this,” the governor said.
The News Agency of Nigeria recalls that 36 cows were struck dead by lightning at Ijare in Ifedore Local Government Area of Ondo State in September this year while grazing on a sacred hill. (NAN)
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The five South East governors meeting with all security Chiefs in Enugu has ended with them issuing strong-worded communiqué at the end of the deliberation.
There have been tensions in the region due to the activities of the Fulani herdsmen bandits, causing many deaths and creating internally displaced persons, IDP in the communities.
Igbo youths have recently like before issued statements that their governors and other political leaders in the region are not doing enough to checkmate these attacks and stop the activities of these bandits
The communiqué reads as follows
Enugu airport to open December 2019 after renovation.
Joint air patrol to flush out bandits in all the forests in southeast.
No more foot movement of cattle and herdsmen from one state to another.
No more foot movement of cattle from community to another across farmlands.
Any cattle herder with gun or machete will be arrested.
Southeast governors never invited the army nor requested for Operation Python dance in the region.
Adequate security to be provided along the routes to Owerri airport where flights have been diverted due to closure of Enugu airport.
Southeast governors to meet with Mr President.
Commended governor Ugwuanyi for establishing forest guards and asked other states to take a cue from Enugu state government and establish forest guards.
Here is the full communique on papers.
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The Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) in the South West geo-political zone of the country has concluded arrangements to meet with all the six governors of the region with a view to ensuring security in the region.
The chairman, Ondo State chapter of the association, Alhaji Bello Garba who disclosed this in Akure said the association would soon meet on how to work with governments in the South West to tackle the issue of kidnapping and other crimes in the region.
Garba said the association had been working with security agencies in the region on the issue of security.
He said the organisation discovered that some herdsmen who were not their members were coming from Edo, Ogun and other neighbouring states to operate in Ondo State, especially along the Shagamu-Ore expressway.
According to him, the National Chairman of the association, Alhaji Mohammadu Kirwa, had directed that the Ondo State chapter should cooperate with the state governors, police commissioners and other security agencies in the South West to deal with the issue of kidnapping
This development followed the spate of kidnapping and killing on highways in the South West, especially along the Lagos-Ibadan, Lagos-Benin, Ondo-Ore, Akure-Owo-Akoko and Ibadan-Gbongan-Akure expressways.
In one of such attacks on July 12, 2019, suspected kidnappers shot dead Mrs Funke Olakunrin, the 58-year-old daughter of an Afenifere leader, Pa Reuben Fasoranti.
Garba asserted that the Ondo chapter of MACBAN and the national body had resolved to deal decisively with the scourge of kidnapping and killings in the South West region.
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