, 03 August, 2020 / 11:45 PM
In the wake of the recent spate of violence in Nigeria’s northwestern state of Kaduna, a Cleric in Africa’s most populous nation has called on the country’s Federal Government to embrace a “grassroots approach in handling” insecurity in the affected regions of the country.
In his homily during the July 29 Mass organized by the Northern and Middle Belt Forum of the Catholic Institute of West Africa (CIWA) to seek God’s intervention following killings in Southern Kaduna (SK), Fr. Benjamin Yakubu Bala described the situation as a “large scale of genocide” and urged the Government to accept criticism in its handling of insecurity.
“Government needs to rise above pettiness, show sincerity of purpose and adopt a grassroots approach in handling the security problems in Southern Kaduna (SK) instead of the Government house approach, which has not yielded any fruits,” Fr. Benjamin who lectures at CIWA in Port Harcourt said in his homily shared with ACI Africa at the weekend.
He added, “Government must treat criticism as feedback instead of threatening people who tell them the truth on the killings.”
The southern part of Kaduna State has been experiencing violence since January. Media reports indicate that 43 people were killed between July 21 to 24. A total of 178 people have lost their lives since the violence started.
In his homily, Fr. Benjamin described the situation in SK as “a very sad narrative” adding that the region “has become a killing field and the land has become a burial site with mass graves littered here and there due to the large scale of genocide going on.”
“The situation now makes the SK people feel very unsafe and highly endangered,” the Nigerian Priest stated.
He went on to highlight factors contributing to the spate of violence and murders in SK, apportioning blame to the Government.
“First, the government is perceived to be lop-sided in dealing with the situation,” Fr. Benjamin said and explained, “SK has 11 out of the 23 LGAs (Local Government Authorities) in the State. The near level of promptness and the seriousness with which the Government responds to attacks in the Northern part of the State is not replicated in the Southern part.”
He also said that “the government virtually speaks for the attackers” and explained, “We hear other Governors of states with crises like Zamfara, Borno, Taraba, Benue, etc, speak tough on behalf of their people. But the Governor of Kaduna State rather makes himself the spokesperson of the attackers. He peddles narratives that many believe fervor and emboldens the attackers.”
“There is the Levity of security agents. Wide outcries led the government to set up an army operation base in SK (Kafanchan). However, they are largely active only on a few checkpoints. There are no records that they have ever responded promptly to any attack,” Fr Benjamin lamented.
These reasons seem to indicate, Fr Benjamin noted, the “the government does not care about the SK people.”
“This is why the people believe they must not relent in whatever little efforts they need to put in to defend their lives on the spot of unjust and unprovoked attacks,” he further said and continued, “This is a right to self-preservation which both natural and divine laws endow us with and which no one needs an approving human authority to embark on.”
He cautioned against retaliation saying “it is not Christian and not constitutional.”
“We, however, thank God for the spirit of resilience and the courage with which the people resist the evil attackers. Testimonies abound of the bravery of the SK youths who usually come out armed with faith and courage to repel the attackers who come with assault rifles,” the Nigerian Priest said.
Meanwhile, Members of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) condemned “in totality the recent gruesome and barbaric slaughtering of unarmed Christians in the area during a curfew imposed by the state government.”
“It is puzzling and appalling that the carnage took place in the very presence of heavily armed security agents,” the Bishops in Nigeria said during the Episcopal ordination of the Auxiliary Bishop of Umuahia Diocese.
“As a matter of urgency,” the Prelates called on the government to “rise up to its responsibility and put a stop to the mindless killings of innocent citizens in our country.”
They added, “If it fails to do this, it is silently encouraging the total breakdown of law and order in the country.”
The members of CBCN expressed solidarity with the people of Southern Kaduna who “grow in anguish hearts amid senseless bloodshed.”
“While we pray for the repose of the dead, and the consolation of the bereaved families, we urge the government to unmask those behind this massacre and bring them to book,” the Bishops concluded.
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