•15,000 dead in four years —CAN
By OLUSESAN LAOYE
The killing of Christians in Nigeria especially in the Northern parts of the country, has now heightened the fear and apprehension amongst the Christian faith in the country over the safety of their lives and properties. It has also escalated the issue of religious hostility between Muslims and Christians, which has been sustained by the ongoing Islamic insurgency in the north east and rampage of herdsmen.
In the past year, there have been killings targeted at Christians, which has raised concern in both Christian and international quarters. About nine aid workers were abducted last year and six of them, who were Christians, were killed. There is also case of Leah Shauibu who was abducted alongside 128 Dapchi girls, which remains unresolved two after the other girls were released.
What has also heightened the fear of majority of Christians across the country is the impunity with which they are maimed, massacred and humiliated. But matter came to head last week when the news filtered in that the Can chairman in Adamawa state, who had been kidnapped since two weeks has been beheaded by the insurgent group Boko Haram.
The gory murder of the chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Rev. Lawan Andini CAN chairman, in Michikah local governments in Adamawa over ransom has now heightened tension and anger among Christians and other allied associations to cry out that enough is enough and to criticise the Federal government for its alleged failure to act or apprehend culprits over the years.
The Rev. was abducted, and a ransom of 2 million pounds was demanded for his release. It was said that the Boko Haram militia beheaded him after rejecting the N50 million which they struggled to raise.
Bishop Steven Dani Manza in Adamawa state who broke the news, said Rev. Andini in their captivity pleaded but the militia insisted on 2 million pounds, which they could not raise and beheaded him along with a Nigerian soldier.
The killing of Andini was just one out the several that had taken place since the insurgency of Boko Haram and other militants sprang up in the North particularly the North East. Over 15,000 Christians in the North were killed between 2015 and 2019 in attacks targeted at Christian communities by insurgents and bandits, a coalition of Christians under the aegis of Ecumenical Youths Association, has said.
On Friday, the CAN leadership addressed a press conference to inform Nigerians and the international community of the fate of Christians in this government and the position of the Christians body to ensure religious equity and balance. The speech was read by CAN President, Dr. Samson Ayokunle.
According to him, Rev. Lawan Andimi, was killed because he refused to be converted to Islam. Although, the group initially demanded for the sum of N50m and, when against all odds, the ransom was ready, they asked for €2m.
“It was in the process that they reached out to our people in Adamawa State to notify them that since the gentleman had refused to be converted to Islam, they had decided to behead him. And that was what they did. In the same state, just last Sunday, a clergyman, Rev Denis Bagauri was murdered by unknown gunmen in his residence at Mayo Belwa of Adamawa State, all because he was a Christian. You are also aware of the beheading of 11 Christians by Islamic State in West Africa on Christmas Day of 2019 in Maiduguri including a bride to be.
“Few days ago, four seminarians of the Good Shepherd Catholic Seminary in Kakau, were kidnapped along Kaduna-Abuja Road and we have not heard anything about them. In Kaduna State, the most recent happenings were those of 35 people killed and abduction of 58 persons when bandits raided 10 communities in the Chikun and Birnin Gwari Local Government areas on January 13, 2020…Whoever claims to be a Christian is either killed on the spot or abducted and a demand for a ransom issued”.
CAN leadership therefore made the following demands:
• The President should overhaul the security council with a view of bringing in new heads of all the security agencies and the para-military which no religion or part of the country will dominate. • The Federal government should either label the Miyetti Allah Fulani Association a terrorist organisation as being regarded in the terror index.
• The Federal Government should order the arrest of the leadership of the Miyetti Allah Groups in who are sponsoring and perpertuating the crime of Nigeria and prosecute them for all the killings in Southern Kaduna, Benue, Plateau and Taraba states, among others.
• The Federal Government should publish names of all kingpins of the terrorists who are in detention and those who are being prosecuted.
• The Federal Government should stop releasing the so-called repented terrorists since they are reportedly joining their colleagues in the forest to unleash terror on the land.
• The Federal Government should reverse the recent controversial Police promotion with a view to balancing religious and ethnic divides in the country.
• The Federal Government should stop sending delegation to all Islamic international organisations and let our Muslim counterparts be doing so as we are doing in all international Christian religious organizations…among others.
CAN leadership took some decisions for immediate implementation to drive home their grievances.
*The CAN Leadership has declared Friday, 31st January to 2nd February, 2020 as days for Special Fasting and Prayer for Nigeria in all churches, home and abroad, for the gruesome killing of innocent Nigerians to stop and for our government to develop capacity to overcome the criminals troubling the nation.
*Sunday 2nd February, 2020 is declared a Special Prayer Walk by Christians in all the States of the Federation in the form of a procession to be led by States CAN Chairmen in their CAN Secretariats and pastors of churches in all churches in Nigeria.
* It appears our government is completely overwhelmed. Brutality of Nigerians is happening unabated daily. *All Bloc Leaders, Zonal and States Chairmen, Leaders of Denominations and all Christians and concerned Nigerians should support and come out en-mass for the program.
* The Church is marching on and the gate of hell shall not prevail against it!
He added, “Between 2015 and 2019, over 15,000 Christians have been killed and majority of the people that were killed are Christians. Between January 1, 2020 and now, the bandits have killed no fewer than 1,000 Christians in northern Nigeria because of attacks on Christian communities.
Initially the targets of the Islamic Militia was at Christians because of their believe that the Western Education which they were against was brought by Christians. Later their attention was shifted to others as they needed resources to maintain their operations. But they had never hidden their major objective which establishing a caliphate in Nigeria, which they had done before being dislodged by the military.
Their attitudes and the Ways Christians captives were treated made Christian leaders believed that they were carrying out the act of genocide against them with the Nigerian government not doing something concrete about it.
Although religious crisis in Nigeria was first occurred in 1953 the activities of the Boko Haram which reared its head in 2009 with their Jihadist armed rebellion targeted Christians.
Boko Haram was the first group to emerged under Abubakar Shekau, but later declared allegiance to the Al Banawi, Ansura backed by Al Quada, AQina while the latest and the most notorious is the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) which claimed that they would continue to behead captives especially,
Christians to retaliate any killings of their members and leaders in any part of the world.
The first attack in Damaturu, Yobe State, was in 2014 when churches in the local region were bombed, followed by similar incidents in churches at Abuja, Jos, Yola, with scores killed.
What made the situation worse had been incessant communal clashes over land and water ways between the Fulanis and the natives. But many people are asking why such problems should take religious coloration and why are Christians subject of persecution?
The statistic by the international Human Rights Advocacy Group Jubilee Campaign put the percentage of Christians and Muslim as almost the same while it gives Christians 66% because of their dominance in the south East, South-South Middle Belt of Benue Plateau, pockets of them in Adamawa, Yobe, Baluchi and Borno with what could be described as even numerous in the South west, it gives Muslims 46%, traditional 7.4% and the rest 0.3%
The body which is worried at the spate Of massacre sent a report to the International Criminal Court that the cases of killings of Christians in Nigeria should be treated as genocide arguing that all criteria to label it that have been fulfilled.
The killings has now put Nigeria on the human rights watch and a very big dent on the present government of president Buhari.
There is even the fear now that the sudden explosion of Fulani related violence is now threatening the existence of Christians in Nigeria. It was argued that the Christians are looking beyond the North on the attacked with the examples of some priests allegedly killed by suspected Fulani herds men in parts of the South East.
The attacks of Rev Chimeze Ani an Enugu priest driving to Roman Catholic Caritas University in Amorji Nike who alleged that his attackers were Fulani; the death of Rev. Paul Offu another priest in Enugu who was killed by gun men suspected to be Fulani. This made the priests in Enugu to match along the streets in protest of the constant killing of priests.
It was not in Enugu alone that clergy men were killed there were incidents of killings in Kaduna of Rev. John Bako Shekwolo and that of the Living Faith Church Pastor Jeremiah Omolara who and his wife and son were abducted on Abuja Kaduna Highway. He was massacred in front of his wife while the son managed to escape.
The issue of the Chibok girls whose majority are Christians. In his reaction, Chairman of CAN in Kaduna Rev. Joseph Hayab Chirma said Christians are no longer safe and chided the security operatives in Nigeria for negligence.
While reacting to all the killings the Special Adviser to CAN President, Bayo Oladeji said that discrimination against Christians can lead to another civil war which Nigeria cannot survive.
He backed the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for including Nigeria among nations suffering religious persecution. He pointed out that killings of Christians in Kaduna, Benue, Plateau, Adamawa and Taraba states could not have gone unnoticed by the government.
Also the National Director of CAN Legal and Public Affairs Samuel Kwamkur chided the Chief Justice of Nigeria, for advocating that the language of instruction in sharia law be Arabic, saying that it was a reckless statement from a public officer, a jurist and head of Nigeria’s Judiciary
Meanwhile the Sultan of Sokoto Sa’ad Abubakar while reacting to the U.S recent listing of Nigeria as one of the nation persecuting Christians at the 7th Annual Islamic vacation course by MISS Bayero University Kano claimed that it was false and partial for anyone to say all the criminal acts were carried out by Fulani herds men saying that not all Fulanis are Muslims that there are Fulani Christians too.
He said the claim of CAN was not correct because if such ever exists at all it would have been brought to the Inter-faith Forum of Christians and Muslims leaders meeting to discuss issues to promote harmonious coexistence between the two religions.
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.