The Christian Association of Nigeria in the north has summoned an emergency meeting over Monday’s killings of eight persons in Talata-Mafara community in Zamfara State and the death of a pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Luka Ubangari, by suspected Fulani herdsmen in Unguwan Anjo, Kaduna State.
The meeting is being called as an islamic organisation, Nasrul-Lahi-il Fathi, also condemned the killings.
The Northern CAN, in an interview with The PUNCH, said it summoned the emergency meeting to discuss the incidents and the failure of government to bring the perpetrators to book. The meeting is expected to hold in Maiduguri on August 26.
Eight people were killed on Monday, when a mob set the house of a man ablaze for rescuing an undergraduate, who was accused of blasphemy. Also on Monday, gunmen suspected to be Fulani herdsmen killed three persons, including Ubangari, at Unguwan Anjo in the Jema’a Local Government Area of Kaduna State.
CAN said the failure of the government to punish the perpetrators would mean collaboration between government agencies and Islamic extremists.
The Borno State Chairman of CAN and spokesperson for the 19 northern states’ CAN chairmen, Bishop Abubakar Naga, stated this on Tuesday while answering an enquiry by The PUNCH.
He said Christians would resist any plan to Islamise the country under any guise.
He said, “Islamisation of Nigeria is not possible. Christians will never allow that, Nigeria is a secular country and no religion will dominate others.
“Christians have become targets of attacks. So, we are having an emergency meeting in Maiduguri on August 26.
“The government must take action and if it does not take any action, it means there is collaboration between the government and the perpetrators of the killings.”
No place for violence –Buhari
However, on his Twitter handle on Tuesday, President Muhammadu Buhari condemned the violence.
He stated, “I received news of the mob killings in Zamfara with great dismay. It is barbaric and unacceptable. I assure Nigerians that the law will take its course. Under my watch, we will work to ensure that there is no place for violence in the name of religion, ethnicity, or in any guise whatsoever.”
Blasphemy not unlawful, says NASFAT
Also, the Chief Missioner, Nasrul-lahi-li Fathi Society, Alhaji Abdullahi Akinbode, described the Zamfara killing as a crime against God and humanity, and called for a proper investigation into the incident.
Aknibode told one of our correspondents on the telephone on Tuesday that blasphemy was not a crime in Nigeria, being a secular state. He added that the perpetrators of the act should be brought to justice.
He said, “I have not been fully briefed about the incident. But whatever the case may be, life is sacred. God has not given anybody the right to take life, except the authority and the authority is the government of a nation if one has committed a crime that carries the death penalty.
“No religion preaches that life should be taken except there is war. But there is no war and there can never be war. The stand of NASFAT is that life is sacred. The culprits should be apprehended and be made to face justice.
“Nigeria is a multi-religious country. You can only talk of blasphemy where there is one religion. A blasphemy case will only be established in jurisprudence if the state makes a rule that the state shall be a state of one religion. Blasphemy is not unlawful in Nigeria because it is a multi-religious state.”
The President, Campaign for Democracy, Abdul Usman, also condemned the Zamfara killings.
He said, “Those who fight the cause of religion should understand that Almighty God says in many chapters and verses in His holy book that He will protect His religion.
“In the days of the holy prophet, he was cursed right to his face without any reaction from him. Rather, he continued to preach peace.
“Today, ignorance has bedevilled the religion. The government should investigate the act and the perpetrators be brought to book. No religion preaches violence.”
On his part, the National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin, said it was a shame that people were getting lynched for blasphemy that is unknown to the laws of Nigeria.
He said, “Are these barbarians saying their God is not powerful enough to handle those who disrespect him.? The full weight of the law should be brought to bear on these murderers to end this nonsense.”
‘Security agencies not doing enough’
A retired Commissioner of Police, Alhaji Abubakar Tsav, blamed security agencies for the rising incidence of hate crime and religious bigotry, saying they were not doing enough to check it.
He added that the police lacked the requisite manpower to deal with the issue.
Tsav stated that the police no longer had personnel on street beats to deal with cases of mob attacks and other crimes.
He said, “It is my view that our security agencies are not doing enough to deal with cases of religious bigotry and herdsmen’s continued attack on farmers. The police may not be blamed for this, due to the acute shortage of manpower plaguing the force.
“The few policemen left are sent as orderlies and security to politicians. Accordingly, the police are left with insufficient manpower to provide security for the rest of the people.”
Tsav stressed that unless there was a substantial increase in manpower and improvement in training, “our policemen may be reduced to the status of boy scouts.”
A security consultant, Max Gbanite, attributed the killings to “primitive thinking and lack of enlightenment.”
He called on the Christian Association of Nigeria, Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, Catholic bishops and other religious bodies to enlighten the people on religious bigotry and hate crime.
Gbanite advised the families of the deceased to file a lawsuit at a Federal High Court or the International Criminal Court against the Federal Government, the Zamfara State Government and the Abdul Gusau Polytechnic for not protecting the victims.
The security expert also urged the National Assembly to promulgate a law against hate crime and religious bigotry.
He said, “I think the National Assembly should have a hate crime bill. This is an opportunity for CAN, NSCIA, JNI and Catholic bishops to enlighten the people that when two people are quarrelling, it should be seen as an issue between the two individuals.”
Gbanite carpeted Buhari for not showing enough concern over the spate of religious killings in the country, adding that the government should consider setting up police stations on campuses.
“The President is behaving as if it is okay for Muslims to kill Christians. Security agencies cannot do much in this situation because they were called after the act, that is why we should begin to think of having police stations on campuses so that problems can be nipped in the bud,” he said.
A Lagos-based lawyer, Mr. Fred Agbaje, said there was no justification under the law for extrajudicial killing under any guise.
He said, “By now, the perpetrators should be in court fighting for their bail. It is a clear case of murder, extrajudicial killing. Religion is a personal thing. What they have done is the suppression of the right to life and right to property. It is outlawed by the constitution and it is also outlawed by the penal code.
“Unfortunately, the government is not taking a decisive action because it believed that what happened is justified under a certain religion. No. No religion tells anyone to go and kill.”