, 17 June, 2020 / 7:24 PM
A Catholic Bishop in Nigeria says that the government in the West African nation is overwhelmed in the fight against insurgency that has wreaked havoc in the country, and is now calling on the international community to step in and help restore law and order.
In an interview with the charity organization, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Bishop Matthew Kukah of Sokoto said that insecurity was spiraling out of control in Nigeria under the watch of the government that has become helpless.
“Our government is quite overwhelmed. The situation is getting worse and the numbers being killed are overwhelming,” Bishop Kukah said Monday, June 15.
He added, “The government is putting a brave face on it but nobody seems to have the faintest idea what is going on.”
Referencing the Boko Haram insurgency and attacks by Fulani herdsmen, with Christians as the main target of the attacks, Bishop Kukah urged the UK and the international community to work with relevant authorities in Nigeria to stamp out violence and impose the rule of law in Africa’s most populous nation.
The Bishop agrees with the content of the report, “Nigeria: Unfolding Genocide? An Inquiry by the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief,” which was launched Monday, June 15 in the House of Commons in London.
The report assesses the causes of the conflict, the Nigerian authorities’ response, and proposes recommendations dealing with humanitarian aid, information-sharing, security and peace-building, education and the role of the international community in the conflict.
The protracted attacks by the militant group Boko Haram who frequently abduct and kill those who refuse to conform to their extremist brand of Islam and the reported killings by the Fulani herdsmen seem to characterize the conflict in Nigeria.
“Unfortunately, Boko Haram is not the only threat that Nigerian Christians face. Attacks by armed groups of Fulani herdsmen have resulted in the killing, maiming, dispossession and eviction of thousands of Christians,” the report, which sought responses from people who have been affected by the violence indicates.
Individuals and organizations who gave oral or written testimonies in the 51-page report include the Forum on Farmer and Herder Relations in Nigeria, the UK Government, the Nigerian National Christian Elders Forum, Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust, the Muslim Public Affairs Centre Nigeria and among others.
Respondents in the report note that a combination of poor resource management, climate change, population growth and insecurity has led to enormous pressure on resources.
“This pressure has forced herders to drive their cattle to wherever water and grass are available which, in many cases, has been the land of settled farming communities resulting in increasing conflict,” the 2020 report shows.
It notes that historically, village chiefs and herder leaders have kept the peace, mediating between parties and coming to mutually accepted decisions, which were kept by sending anyone who defied them to face local authorities.
The increased conflict has, however, strained the capacity of these leaders to reduce tensions and amicably resolve conflict, a situation that has led to the breakdown of historical dispute settlement mechanisms and in turn, facilitated conflict turning to violence.
These militias, who are often backed by ethnic, political and religious leaders, have been forming in much greater numbers recently and have also been engaging in increasingly premeditated attacks.
In the case of the Fulani, militia are now also utilizing sophisticated weapons such as AK 47s, the report notes.
In his ACN interview, Bishop Kukah said the international community can play a significant role in stopping the supply of arms to militant groups, adding that at present, Nigeria’s security services are “too over-stretched” to deal with the crisis.
The bishop further said that religious hatred and discrimination are essential in understanding the root causes the conflict in Nigeria.
He said that many Muslims in the country “persist with their claim that there is to be no separation between the state and religion and it is this that has enabled Boko Haram and other groups to try to impose their moral authority.”
According to the Nigerian Prelate, “It is very difficult for (Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari) to have the moral authority to condemn Boko Haram if he has decided that Christians are living in a state where so many of those in positions of power are Muslims.”
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa