1. First Report of Landmines in Nigeria

 

In what appears to be a threatening escalation of the conflict in Nigeria, the first reports were received of persons killed by landmines (Landmines kill 2 in Kaduna – Vanguard News (vanguardngr.com). Vanguard reports:

KADUNA—A landmine allegedly planted by terrorists reportedly killed two persons around Zangon Tofa, in Kabrasha general area, Chikun Local Government Area of Kaduna State. The state Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs, Samuel Aruwan, who disclosed this, yesterday, said the incident occurred around 2 pm when the victims’ vehicle drove over the landmine. He said the citizens were transporting farm produce when the incident occurred. The two persons, who lost their lives, were identified as Babajo Alhaji Tanimu and Safiyanu Ibrahim.

Meanwhile, Governor Nasir el-Rufai has condoled with the families of the victims over the unfortunate incident. The governor who, prayed for the repose of the souls of the victims, appealed to residents of the area to remain calm.

 

2. Women now also victims of Police atrocities in Rivers State

 

At least 150 women have been accused of being members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and Eastern Security Network (ESN) by Nigerian security agencies in Igbo speaking areas of Rivers State. This is according to the International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law Intersociety. in a statement signed collectively by their board chairman, Emeka Umeagbalasi, Head of Democracy and Good Governance Programme, Chinwe Umeche, Head of Civil Liberties, Rule of Law Programme, Obianuju Igboelu, and Head of Public Campaign Publicity Department, Chidinma Udegbunam: In two years, October 2020 to October 2022, army, police, others arrested 150 defenseless women in the South East, falsely labeled them pro-Biafra group members, tortured and degraded them for six to eighteen months without trial, or securing a single

conviction against them. Defenseless women in Eastern Nigeria belonging to Judeo-Christian Igbo Ethnic Nationality, mostly in their non-menopausal age brackets have continued to bear the brunt of the Nigerian military, police and DSS atrocious conduct. The atrocities against members of the defenseless civilian population in the old Eastern Region in the past two years or October 2020 to Oct 2022, have been unspeakable and unbearable. Generally speaking, not less than 300 defenseless women have been arrested in connection with false ‘Biafra membership’ accusations, and out of this number, no fewer than 150 were brutally tortured, degraded and others paid through their noses to secure their freedom.” Some of those accused are Melody Anyanwu, Ifeyinwa Egolu, Maria Ezediau, Ngozi Umadi, and Oluchi Madumere. https://www.vanguardngr.com/2022/10/over-150-igbo-women-labelled-ipob-esn-members-arrested-by-security-agents-intersociety/

 

3. Catholic Church attacked in Benue State

 

A Catholic church in Benue State, was attacked by Fulani herdsmen in a violent raid on 19 October. The attack was retaliation for the killing, earlier in the week, of four Fulani herdsmen in a clash between them and farmers. County chairman, Kartyo Tyoumbur, said at least 71 residents of Gbjeji, were killed in the attack. At least 35 of those were found immediately after the raid, and another 36 recovered later in nearby fields. Included in the casualties were women, children, and two policemen. “The Fulani terrorists came at 6:00am. And began shooting indiscriminately. The village is currently deserted,” so says Fr Samuel Fila, detailing that at least 200 attackers took part in the raid, by burning houses and attacking villagers with weapons including machetes. However, disputing this, Wale Abass, the Benue State police commissioner, says instead that the death toll is “no more than 10, including one policeman. The higher figures may be due to newspaper exaggeration or by the fact that some of the families take the corpses of their family members away from the killing zones before an official count may be made. We have a combined team of 20 police and 15 soldiers pursuing leads as to the whereabouts of the attackers and the local men who killed the herders.” however, to date no arrests have been made. according to Fr Fila, on 17 October, local farmers got into a clash with Fulani herdsmen, who they accused of threatening their crops, after which, “herdsmen threatened an attack on the village.” a Fulani politician, presidential candidate Atiku Abubaker, had this to say: “My deepest condolences to the families that may have lost a loved one and to the people and government of Benue State. The continuous escalation of intercommunal violence does not bode well for our national unity. (However) When our people (Fulani’s) are well integrated into the communities where they live, work, pay taxes and raise their children, they’d be obligated to reciprocate the love and acceptance,” hinting that Fulani’s feel ostracized out of the communities and retaliate. In data released by the Council on Foreign Relations, at least 1484 people were killed in the Middle Belt states in the first half of 2022. https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/252688/dozens-of-catholic-villagers-reportedly-killed-in-central-nigeria-raid

 

4. South Eastern Governors speak out against ongoing violence

 

Governments in the South East of Nigeria have called on the Federal Government to provide better security to the region, which has been besieged by a spate of kidnappings and random killings. This call came after a closed-door meeting at Government House, in Enugu. The meeting was attended by Enugu State Governor, Rt Hon Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State, and David Umahi, Ebonyi State Governor, who is also the Chairman of the South East Governors Forum. Also represented were the governors of Anambra and Imo states, by Dr Onyekachukwu Ibezim and Prof Placid Njoku respectively. At that meeting, the governors agreed to set up a 24 hour joint patrol along all major highways within the South East, particularly targeting the Christmas season. Governor Umahi revealed that the “South East governors decried the state of insecurity on the region,” and that economic activities have come to a stop “while kidnapping and wanton killing have become the order of the day.” in a hat tip to the Federal government, the governors commended the Federal government on its efforts to alleviate the sufferings of victims of the recent flood in the country, and expressed hope that a long term solution would be fielded soon. The governors also agreed to contributing funds to further assist the victims of flooding in the five states, and also to “plead with the federal government to please initiate action in the dredging of rivers in the South East, to check the destruction of houses, farmlands and properties. We request the Federal Government to come to the aid of the victims in terms of rehabilitation of the internally displaced persons.” https://www.vanguardngr.com/2022/10/south-east-governors-raise-the-alarm-over-insecurity-in-region/

 

5. Bishop Kukah presents to G20

 

On 2 November 2022, Bishop Matthew Kukah (Bishop of Sokoto) presented an incisive analysis of the Nigerian situation to a meeting of the G20 in Bali (Indonesia). See the full text below:

THE WEAPONISATION OF RELIGIOUS IDENTITY:

A VIEW & EXPERIENCE FROM NIGERIA

Matthew Hassan KUKAH*

(Presented at the G20 RELIGION FORUM(R20), International Summit of Religious Leaders on November 2-3, 2022 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, Bali, Indonesia)

1: In a presentation elsewhere, I summed up my great country Nigeria in the following words: From its inception as an independent nation, Nigeria has remained a volatile country. Home to over two hundred million people……..Highly

resourced, but endemically corrupt, a combination of serious governance missteps, series of military coups, years of maladministration, a culture of violence has seriously slowed down what should have been one of the greatest nations on earth. It has left its people vulnerable to poverty, disease, violence and death. Here is the enigma: Amidst all of this, in 2014, The World Value Survey ranked Nigerians the happiest people on earth.

2: Today, a combination local and global factors of terrorism, have further pushed the country to the precipice. After well over ten years of battling Boko Haram, insurgency, banditry, and ethno-religious violence, our weary citizens are absorbed in self-doubt, their natural happiness clouded by a dark and deep despair. Every day, news of abductions, armed robberies, kidnappings for ransom, murders and assassinations of our innocent citizens persists. Our sacred spaces have become killing grounds. Hundreds of worshippers have been murdered in mosques and Churches across the country. In response much of the world shrugs its shoulders and moves on, as if this cauldron of violence in Africa’s most populated country will never reach comfortable people elsewhere.

3: Against this background, I applaud this Conference for taking the historic step to address these issues directly. I specifically commend the goal: to prevent the weaponization of identity and combat the spread of Hatred. In the reality which confronts so many of us here today, hatred feeds on the weaponization of identity, marginalizes the other, and creates the conditions for their dehumanization, and inevitably takes us down the dark road to the justification of violence, and ultimately murder. I speak now to this theme against the backdrop of my own country.

4: The Nigerian story of the weaponization of religion has been characterized by the manipulation of historical narratives between Christians and Muslims and setting ethnic groups against one another. Most Muslims in northern Nigeria have continued to re-echo sentiments of the old caliphate (1804-1903) which views Christianity as a foreign religion – while dismissing that that Islam itself originated from the Arab peninsula – and instead treating Islam because of its relative longevity (present in some parts of Nigeria since the 11th century) as an African religion! In northern Nigeria, Muslim elite have tended to see the institutions of the modern state as an alien imposition that attempts to displace their own religion, with western education as a foreign enemy to Islam. They thus consider the present Constitution and secular laws as fundamentally subordinate to Islam, and in practice ignore the written laws of the land as they see fit. The Nigerian elite, even at a political level have not been able to find consensus around how to address key issues of the sacredness of the Constitution.

5. The result amongst Christians in Northern Nigeria today is that their faith is very much in danger, both physically and socially, even within developed municipalities. Christian religious tradition and history is prohibited in most public schools, whereas Islamic religious fundamentals are everywhere required in these same schools. Therefore, except for the very poor, Christians do not send their children to public schools. Occasionally deserving Christian students complain that they are often denied admission to university placements of their choice. In cases of employment and promotion even indigenous Christians suffer discrimination while

other non-Muslims in the state civil services are often offered contract employment. The result is that conditions are created for self-doubt, fear, and anxiety among children of diverse faiths.

6: Compounding this structural persecution of Christians in northern Nigeria, we have also witnessed a growing culture of overt Islamic violence spanning over the last decades, a form of violence that now threatens much of Africa. This violence has been manifested in Nigeria in two distinct phases. First, is the intra-religious violence such as that between the different sects in Islam, namely: Sunni, Shi’ites, Izala, Boko Haram, ISWAP and a few others. Second is the violence by Muslim extremists that directly target Christians or their infrastructure such as Churches, presbyteries, Convents, schools, hospitals and even social infrastructure for public use such as Pastoral Centres. We suffered this fate most recently in my Diocese of Sokoto in the aftermath of the brutal mob-killing of Ms. Deborah Samuel, a young Christian

student accused of blasphemy and publicly murdered on campus on May 13th, this year by her fellow Muslim students for having complained of the forced introduction of religion into an academic study group. Far from universal condemnation of this horrific act, many Islamist extremists applauded the murder, claiming it was justified, and calling for additional violence against any who might ask for legal justice against the perpetrators. This is despite the condemnation of the act by the Governor of the State, the Sultan of Sokoto, and my humble self.

7: With this rise of Islamic extremism, we have seen a spread in the abductions and kidnapping of clerics across the board. While we have had cases of the abductions of very visible Muslim clerics in parts of the North-East and North-West, the abductions of senior Christian Church men have been far more pronounced, targeted and vicious. In the course of all this, in my Diocese of Sokoto, we have had one of our Priests and a Seminarians murdered by bandits. Four were priests and two pastoral agents have kidnapped for ransom not to speak of many members of the Laity. These persons have been held for various spaces of time, depending on how quickly ransom money can be raised and negotiations with the bandits concluded. In all of these, huge ransoms were paid to secure their release. Security agencies often just look on or make promises that come to nothing. This is the violence which we face today, a violence which degrades us all and robs us of our fundamental dignity as human beings whether as Christians or Muslims.

8: In conclusion let me make a few particular and then general comments about the way forward as I see it for my country, other parts of Africa and the world.

First for us in Africa, the weak infrastructure of the state has predisposed our public office holders to corruption on a truly monumental scale. Governance is seen as state capture where the politicians share patronage based on their cynical exploitation of the fault lines of religion or ethnicity. Nepotism becomes a weapon of mass corruption. In Africa when politicians present themselves as champions of their ethnicity or religion, naturally, their supporters expect that the rewards of winning an election would mean power to their base alone. This exploitation prevents the true democratization of development across the board.

Second, governments must develop the culture of a strong legal basis for common citizenship with the Constitution as the supreme law of the land. In this case, innocent citizens cannot lose their lives due to cultural or religious claims that are contrary to the laws of natural justice, or subjected with impunity to spurious religious claims when we are not in a theocracy. So, as we see in Nigeria and elsewhere, no citizen should have the right to take the life of another or cause injury on grounds of any sort of divine claim. Decisive punishments must be meted out to those who kill in the name of faith! Religious leaders of the faith being used must put pressure on their states to follow the rule of law and not be afraid of being targeted by extremists. Silence in this case is taken for approval, whether intended or not.

Thirdly, it is clear to us now that we are all at risk from the hands of these terrorists who use ethnicity or religion to destroy humanity. Whether they are Boko Haram, ISIS, or other ethnically or racially based groups, we must all stand together to insist that injury to one is injury to all. We must all accept that we are all citizens of one human nation, that no religion or ethnic group is superior to the other.

Fourthly, a comprehensive, integrated programme of education remains the cure for extremism. It is not enough for leaders of faith to continue to engage in mere moral rhetoric or meaningless “dialogue” designed to appease donors while leaving our people as victims. As I have seen in Nigeria and elsewhere, the first victims of religiously inspired violence by extremists is always their own people. In today’s world, these victims are so often Muslims. In Northern Nigeria, majority of those who have died in the hands of Boko Haram, ISWAP, bandits or kidnappers have been Muslims. In the ISIS war in Iraq, the majority of victims were Muslims. This should sound the alarm that it is not about just religion but about our common humanity. We must admit that even if mass killings of people of faith may not be an overt state

policy, still, we cannot ignore situations where there are people in the highest levels of government whose inaction and impunity clearly align with genocidal intentions.

In closing, I again commend this initiative. However, beyond Conferences, we must develop a coherent programme of lessons and agreed principles that we can learn and accept from one another. This cancer of the weaponization of religion threatens us all. History shows us that empires and emperors have had their day. The world will always be full of men and women with grand delusions about how they have been divinely sent to create a new world at the cost of human blood. However, we must work hard to cure them of their delusions by taking them out of circulation. Here, developing nations must do more than merely append their signatures to international laws that protect human rights. Religious bodies, in collaboration with civil society must work together to ensure a fairer world for all.

Given the plurality of our societies, relations between Christians and Muslims can be better improved if governments avoid open discrimination of based on religion. Whereas our religious beliefs and cultures must remain sources of law, the secular Democracies must focus on the provisions of the national Constitutions. Thus, religious leaders should avoid the manipulation of identities and encourge areas of integration through education, common citizenship, intermarriages and other platforms of social cohesion anticipated and enshrined in our Constitutions.

A fundamental belief in human dignity and the sacred nature of the family binds us all together, every one of us here today. Weaponising identity through dubious and false religious and ethnic triumphalism as the world has seen with apartheid, racism, Nazism and only recently, the tragedy in Rwanda only diminishes our common humanity. The continued weaponization of identities in plural societies will only make progress impossible, national cohesion elusive and development a dream deferred. Leaders of world religions must unite in the face of the forces of secularism and extremism. There is a sense in which our silence in moments of severe rupture of our society in the name of our religion offers the greatest opening for extremism.

 Bishop, Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, Nigeria.

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