Catholic Archbishop in Nigeria Encourages Self Defense, Cautions against Aggression

Archbishop Alfred Adewale Martins of Nigeria's Lagos Archdiocese. Credit: Courtesy Photo

Amid multiple cases of violent attacks in Nigeria, the Catholic Archbishop of Lagos in the West African nation has highlighted the fundamental right to self defense and cautioned against aggression. 

“If a person is under attack, he has the right to defend himself with equal force that he is being attacked. So in principle every human being has the right to defend himself or herself,” Archbishop Alfred Adewale Martins has been quoted as saying in a Thursday, June 3 news report.

Speaking on the occasion of his 62nd birthday Tuesday, June 1, Archbishop Adewale bemoaned the high level of insecurity in Nigeria saying, “From the north to the south, every part of the country is witnessing one form of brigandage or the other.” 


The practice of protecting oneself “needs to be examined thoroughly before putting it to use,” Archbishop Adewale notes in the June 3 report, and cautions, “I hope that as people defend themselves we recognize that we cannot be the aggressor and will defend ourselves when the need arises.”


He adds that Nigeria's crisis has been worsened by the government’s failure to meet the people’s aspirations and explains, “Give to Caesar that which is Caesar's and to God that which is God’s. When the people enter into a social contract with the state, there are obligations and responsibilities on both parties in order to strike an equilibrium in the pact. The people owe the country their civic duties while the country owes the people provision of services to retain their trust and for a better society.”

It is regrettable, the Archbishop of Lagos says, that “those salient conventions have taken flight from our polity and thereby, paved the way for mistrust, corruption, banditry, amongst others.”

“It is callous for a human being to take another person’s life while the country, under whose control it is to check such inhumanity, appears helpless," decries Archbishop Adewale.  

Religious leaders in the country, he says, will “continue to awaken the conscience of the people of our nation on the values that are necessary for the common good.”

“The Church has the moral authority that it uses in interfacing with the people and the word of God being the basis for such interaction," he further says, and continues, "The Church will assist in teaching the people about issues concerning love for one another."

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The Catholic Archbishop who has been at the helm of Lagos Archdiocese since August 2012 also says that love among Nigerians has the capacity transforming the society.

Africa’s most populous nation has been experiencing violence since 2009 when members of the Islamist group, Boko Haram, began targeted attacks with the aim of turning the country into an Islamic state.

Insecurity in the country has 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 over grazing land.

Magdalene Kahiu is a Kenyan journalist with passion in Church communication. She holds a Degree in Social Communications from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA). Currently, she works as a journalist for ACI Africa.