President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria has lashed out against those who criticised his inability to stop the massacre of Christians in Nigeria by Islamist Fulani Cattle herdsmen and the terrorist group Boko Haram.
The president, who described “the recent killings in Benue, Zamfara and lately Plateau” as “wicked, condemnable and completely unacceptable acts.”
But he also blasted Christians who had suggested that his government was doing nothing about the killings. He said that they had said, “That I, being Fulani, must be encouraging these satanic acts. It seems to me that there is no limit to the evil in the minds of men.”
Buhari, speaking in Abuja to the leadership of Christian Association of Nigeria from the 19 northern states of the country on Thursday, 5 July, firmly rejected criticisms.
“We, Nigerians, are religious people and no religion or culture accepts the killing of people for any reason whatsoever. This is why we must all rise as one to condemn these vile and wicked acts to ensure that all the culprits are brought to justice.”
Rev Yakubu Pam, Chairman of the northern christian group said he addressed President Buhari “with tears on our faces because of the renewed attacks on innocent Nigerians especially in Northern Nigeria and in particular Christians in the north of the country where hundreds of persons mostly children, women and the aged have been maimed and killed in night raids by armed herdsmen.”
Pam demanded that the government halts “this senseless blood shedding and massive destruction of lives and property in the land, a situation which could lead to a state of anarchy leading to an unpredictable future.”
The Christian body also presented its expressed its concerns about “the continuous abduction of underaged Christian girls who are forcefully converted to Islamic religion and given out for marriage without the consent of their parents (which) breeds religious disharmony” and not only violates “the fundamental human rights of the girls but is also a call to anarchy if such actions were to get an even score by the Christian population.”
Christian leaders called for “intensive and speedy actions… for the release of girls in captivity, especially Leah Sharibu.”
President Buhari, stressing that government was working to stop the killing of Christians, said, “In recent weeks, we have beefed up (the strength of security) with the deployment of extra Special Forces from the Defence headquarters. Besides, we currently have no fewer than three special military intervention forces in the troubled zones,” Buhari told the Christian leaders.
“Operation Safe Haven to secure Plateau State, Operation Whirl Stroke1 to secure Benue, Taraba and Nasarawa and Operation Whirl Stroke1 to secure Benue, Taraba and Nasarawa and OPWS 2 to secure Zamfara and Kaduna States 2 to secure Zamfara and Kaduna States. These forces are supported with investigative and intelligence gathering capabilities from the Nigeria Police Force, Department of State Services and other agencies.”
Buhari added that “Government can achieve lasting peace only with the sincere and active cooperation of communities, religious leaders, youths and other stakeholders.” However he wants the clerics to join the government to “collectively shame those who are stoking the fires of ethnic and religious conflicts for their short-term political gains.”
Hassan John is West Africa Editor, GCN and priest of the Anglican Diocese of Jos.