Security Situation in Nigeria “getting out of hand, nobody is safe”: Cardinal

John Cardinal Onaiyekan. Credit: ACI Africa

Nigeria is facing unprecedented security crisis and the situation “is getting out of hand”, John Cardinal Onaiyekan has said, and regretted the fact that “nobody is safe” in the West African nation. 

In an interview with ACI Africa, Cardinal Onayekan said Christians as well as Muslims are victims of cases of violence perpetrated by “criminals who go around illegally killing innocent people”.

“There is massive insecurity. People are being killed every day. The bandits and the terrorists seem to have a free hand. We don't know where the security forces are,” Cardinal Onayekan told ACI Africa July 29 on the sidelines of the 19th Plenary Assembly of the Symposium of Episcopal Conference of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) in Accra, Ghana.

The Nigerian Cardinal who retired from his Episcopal Ministry as Archbishop of Abuja in November 2019 added, “Nigeria’s security situation is getting out of hand. Not as if only Christians are in trouble in Nigeria; nobody is safe.”

He underscored the unprecedented levels of insecurity in Africa’s most populous nation, saying, “It is as if the government has lost control.”


The West African nation of Nigeria “is grappling with a wave of violence by armed gangs who frequently carry out killings and kidnappings for ransom – mostly in unprotected rural communities,” BBC News reported in April.

Since 2009 when Boko Haram insurgency emerged with the aim of turning the country into an Islamic state, Nigeria has been experiencing insecurity.

Boko Haram, one of largest Islamist groups in Africa, has been orchestrating indiscriminate terrorist attacks on various targets, including religious and political groups as well as civilians.

The insecurity situation has further been complicated by the involvement of the predominantly Muslim Fulani herdsmen, also referred to as the Fulani Militia, who have been clashing frequently with Christian farmers.

In the July 29 interview with ACI Africa, Cardinal Onayekan said that not only Christians are being targeted; Muslims are also being killed.

More in Africa

“When a Priest is killed, the whole world hears. But when 50 villagers are killed somewhere in the middle of Katsina state, nobody hears,” he lamented.

The 78-year-old Cardinal who started his Episcopal Ministry in January 1983 as Auxiliary Bishop of Nigeria’s Ilorin Diocese further said, “We have it in good record that in the midst of all these, more Muslims are dying than Christians because the center of the violence is in the Muslim dominated northern states.”

“They are killing more of Muslims than Christians, which confirms that this is not a war of Muslims against Christians. Many Muslims are suffering as much as we are suffering,” he said.

Cardinal Onayekan continued, “As Christians, we have every reason to complain because the perpetrators happen to be largely Muslims that is why we see the religious dimension in what is happening.”

“We cannot continue like this,” he told ACI Africa, adding that “Either those who are ruling us make a clear change of heart or something else happens.”


He further said, “If the government doesn't rule well, then there is open space for all types of non-state criminal elements whether they are Boko Haram or whoever.”

“This is not a matter of Christians and Muslims. It is a matter of respect and defense of human life,” Cardinal Onayekan said, and lamented, “Unfortunately many of the perpetrators have continued to carry the banner of Islam.”

As a result, he went on to say, “the issue of an Islamic element and some even talk of Islamic agenda is being raised.”

“My own response to it is that whatever anybody may have as an agenda, the Christian must remain firmly Christian and know how to be faithful in your religion,” Cardinal Onayekan told ACI Africa during the July 29 interview.

He added, “When it comes to defending one’s self, we must start working at ways and means of defending ourselves against criminals who go around illegally killing innocent people.”

(Story continues below)

“Our religion does not say that we should sit down and allow ourselves to be killed. We have every right to defend ourselves,” the Nigerian Cardinal said.

He encouraged followers of Christ to remain faithful to their calling, saying, “Be a good Christian wherever you are. If you are a Christian and you are in the armed forces, do your good work to protect people.”

Asked about next year’s general elections in Nigeria, Cardinal Onayekan said, “With the present state of affairs, even the election doesn't seem to make sense.”

 “You need a minimum of a peaceful environment to hold elections,” he said, and added, “That is not the case right now; but we are praying.”

Nigerian voters will be expected to vote for the President, Vice President, Senators and Members of Parliament in polls that are scheduled to take place between February and March 2023.

Jude Atemanke is a Cameroonian journalist with a passion for Catholic Church communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Buea in Cameroon. Currently, Jude serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.