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Nigeria’s Christian Leaders Condemn Igbo Youth killings, Arbitrary Detention of Civilians

Logo of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN)/ Credit: Courtesy Photo

Christian leaders in Nigeria have condemned the “killing of innocent youths” and the arbitrary detention of civilians in the country's Imo State.

In their Tuesday, June 8 statement, the Church leaders under the auspices of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) say, “No day passes now without one form of report or the other on the arrest and killing of innocent youths by security agents, who claim to be hunting unknown gunmen.”

“It now appears that every youth in the South-East now wears the tag of unknown gunmen. This is sad and should not continue,” the Church leaders say.

Tension has been on the rise in Imo State following clashes between alleged “gunmen” and the Nigerian Police.

Last month, at least nine “gunmen” were killed during an attack on the Orlu police station, according to media reports.

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An aide to former President Goodluck Jonathan, Ahmed Gulak, was shot dead last week in Imo State.

According to the Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO, Mr. Bala Elkana, “On May 30, 2021, at about 07:20hrs, armed bandits intercepted and attacked a Toyota Camry cab, carrying Ahmed Gulak and two others, who were on their way to Sam Mbakwe Airport to catch a flight.”

He added, “Six armed bandits who rode in a Toyota Sienna intercepted, identified and shot Ahmed Gulak around Umueze Obiangwu in Ngor-Okpala Local Government Area, close to the Airport.”

According to a Thursday, June 3 by Owerri ThisDay newspaper, gunmen invaded the Orji area in Owerri killing three persons in different locations. The operation lasted for more than an hour, as the armed men moved around the area shooting sporadically. 

In their June 8 statement, CAN representatives make reference to some incidents of violence and arbitrary detention in Imo State saying, “We have had cases of people killed with reckless abandon by these security agencies, including a young girl sent to her early grave at the Imo State Government Gate, another young man murdered for violating check-point rule, whatever that means, and just recently, a Germany-based Nigerian brought down on his way to the Owerri airport.”

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“The list is endless. This is not to talk of tens of youths arrested every day and kept incommunicado; nobody knows whether they are dead or alive,” they say in their statement signed by CAN’s Chairman for the South-East, Bishop Goddy Okafor.

CAN representatives that also include members of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) pose, “In the North-East where Boko Haram is wreaking havoc every day, killing security forces and bandits kidnapping hundreds of schoolchildren, has every Northern youth been tagged Boko Haram or bandit?”

 “Why has the South-East been singled out for this onslaught?” the Church leaders further pose, and say, “enough is enough.”

They also “condemn the silence of the governors of the zone in the face of the atrocities and genocide the security operatives were committing.”

As a way forward, the Church leaders say, “It has now become imperative to not only caution the security agencies, but to also ask our governors to speak up. Their silence is not good at all, because they swore to protect the people.”

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They urge the South-East Governors to begin total implementation of the ban on open-grazing stressing, “Despite the Asaba Declaration, herds of cattle are still grazing openly in every part of the South-East.” 

“The Governors should stop barking without biting,” CAN representatives say in their June 8 statement.

Last month, the Local Ordinary of the Catholic Diocese of Orlu located within the region reassured the people of the presence of God amid fear and anxiety as a result of persistent insecurity.

“In this moment of heightened tension, fear and anxiety, I would like to reassure our people that God has not and will never abandon His people,” Bishop Augustine Tochukwu Ukwuoma said in his statement issued May 17.

Earlier this month, the Archbishop of Nigeria’s Owerri Archdiocese, which covers Imo State, expressed concerns about killings of innocent citizens by “known and unknown gunmen” and called on the Governor of the Nigerian State to “convoke a Ceasefire Meeting.”

“On behalf of the already killed and even more, on behalf of the living now threatened daily with brutal death, I charge Governor Hope Uzodimma as the Chief Security Officer for Imo People to step up and stop the killings by whoever is responsible for them,” Archbishop Anthony Obinna said in statement issued June 3.

The Nigerian Archbishop added, “I urge the Governor to convoke a Ceasefire Meeting of all Imo Stakeholders, no matter their disposition or leaning, for a concerted approach to quench the bloody fire already ravaging Imo People and destroying Imo State.”