As the insecurity crisis continue to rock Nigeria, Nigeria, Catholic Bishops of the Ibadan Ecclesiastical Province have charged the Federal Government to be decisive in tackling the various evils bedevilling the country, saying “if we do not find a credible solution to the problems, Nigeria might face a most uncertain future.”
Similarly, Ekiti state Governor, Ayo Fayose has called a meeting with Fulani herdsmen under the aegis of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, farmers, local hunters, security agencies and representatives of the Tiv community in the state, where he warned Fulani herdsmen and Tiv farmers against turning Ekiti to a war zone and ordered security agents to quickly fish out the killer of cattle rearer.
The Catholic Bishops of Ibadan Archdiocese; Ilorin, Ondo, Ekiti, Oyo and Osogbo Dioceses had also in a communique at the end of their meeting, challenged “the government and competent authorities in Nigeria to be more responsive” to the numerous crimes and ills they said were bedevilling the country, which they described as “irresponsibility.”
In the communiqué signed by Most Reverend Gabriel ‘Leke Abegunrin, president and Most Reverend John Oyejola, secretary, said they noticed signs of persecution of Christians in Nigeria, adding “on a general level, time has come to firmly and sincerely protect religious freedom as the fundamental right of every citizen in Nigeria and make it impossible for anyone to take it away from another by acts of violence and destruction.”
They hinged their contention on what they described as “the mindless attack and vandalization of the Catholic Cathedral of St. Joseph’s in Ilorin, and with the Methodist Church and Christ Apostolic Church which suffered the same fate, in the same vicinity in Ilorin in the early hours of New Year day by armed youths chanting anti-Christian slogans.”
They said: “If we do not find a credible solution to problems of unemployment, human trafficking, terrorism, kidnapping, nepotism, religious bigotry and corruption, Nigeria might face a most uncertain future. We call on our people to continue to work and pray to bring about God’s kingdom of justice peace and love.”
In the communiqué entitled: “Whither Nigeria!”, the clerics noted that “Nigeria is still going through very hard times. We may be able to point out areas of improvement in power supply, agriculture and other matters in some parts of Nigeria. Unfortunately, our woes today seem to weigh far more than these blessings.”
The clerics also decried what they said was “the menace of fake news” in and outside the country, saying the effect had destroyed homes and even communities.
“We also urge all institutions of the Nigerian society to promptly and effectively disseminate necessary information that can build up, not destroy society.
“Ineffectual clichés like being “on top of the situation”, being on the trail of hoodlums or attributing serious tragedies to “communal clashes”, simply will not do, because whenever meaningful information is lacking, fake news manufacturers seize the initiative to cause havoc,” they stated.
On Benue killings, the Ibadan Ecclesiastical Province bishops decried the development and charged the government to improve on what they said was its “siddon look attitude” in tackling the menace of the killer herdsmen.
The bishops said: “The unfortunate, by-now-familiar “siddon-look” attitude of the Federal government to such tragedies involving cow-herders in parts of the country has made many Nigerians to question whether animal rights could indeed be placed above human lives.
“Most people wonder who owns these “sacred cows” anyway, because of which farmlands and human life could be so wantonly destroyed.
“As we offer our deepest condolences to our bereaved compatriots in Benue State, we fervently pray for the repose of the souls of the dead and divine comfort for those left behind to mourn them. All hands must be on deck to put a stop to the bloody charade witnessed so frequently from encounters with Fulani herdsmen.
“Lack of pre-emptive action and delay in reacting to crises all over the country, on the part of government and the security agencies, must be rectified so that innocent lives may henceforth be protected.
“We also call on the government at all levels to support the legitimate yearnings of peoples all over Nigeria to live and thrive in peace within their rights as citizens of Nigeria. Surely, cattle-rearing is practiced in other countries in Africa and the world.
“We therefore urge that our governments consider improved ways of catering for cattle with minimum stress to other legitimate professions, as is done elsewhere in the world and apprehend and prosecute all those who have brought so much pain upon so many people in Nigeria.”
There has been tension between the herdsmen and farmers from Benue state, predominantly Tivs, in Ekiti over allegation of farm destruction and killing.
A Fulani herdsman, Babuga Dengi, was on Monday killed in a bush between Irele and Oke Ako in Ikole Local Government by people suspected to be from Benue.
On Thursday in Benue, there was mass burial of 73 victims allegedly killed by the Fulani herdsmen.
Fayose said, “I can’t accept anybody to be killed. If anybody killed anyone I will make sure you are killed by ensuring justice. I’m sad about the killing in Benue but we don’t want brutality in Ekiti.
“I won’t accept any killing here, the only thing acceptable here is peace. I therefore plead with everybody to cooperate with us.”
“I want peace in my state and everybody living here is from Ekiti whether you are Fulani, Tiv, Yoruba or anybody. Cow matter can’t cause problem between us. Oke Ako-Irele issue should not be allowed to fester. Cooperate with us and whoever kills would be fished out.
“When you are entering Ekiti, drop wherever you are coming from at the boundary. You can’t kill Yoruba, Fulani, Igbo or Tiv here. From information so far, the deceased died as a result of clash between Fulani herders and some Tiv people, but at that we can’t condone lawlessness. We don’t want that type of Benue issue here.”
A communique read by Fayose at the end of the meeting summoned leaders of the herdsmen, farmers, hunters, council chairmen and traditional rulers from Oke Ako and Irele to an expanded meeting.
The meeting while noting that the problem in Oke Ako was between Tivs and Fulani, resolved that the people must live in peace.
The meeting also ordered security agencies to fish out the killers of the herdsman in the area.
It also agreed that Committee on herdsmen should be expanded to include Fulani herders while urging the committee to be more proactive and report immediately to security committee when they see strangers in their communities.
“We ask security agencies to do more in intelligence gathering, information and prevention, while we thank them for what they have done so far,” the communique added.
By GBENGA SODEINDE, ADO EKITI