Former head of state, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, Saturday condemned the ongoing killings in the country and warned that if unchecked may lead to religious war. His warning is coming on the heels of the head of the Anglican Communion Worldwide and Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who had earlier expressed deep concerns about what he described as violent attacks on Christians in Nigeria, challenging the British government to take specific actions to help the President Muhammadu Buhari administration to enforce security and achieve reconciliation.
The Anglican spiritual head stated this in a second debate – titled, ‘Nigeria: Fulani Herdsmen and Boko Haram’ – held in the British parliament by the House of Lords on current violent conflicts in Nigeria, as revealed in the Hansard of the parliament obtained by newsmen on Saturday.
Also, in an interview with the Vatican News (the Catholic Church’s official news website), Cardinal John Onaiyekan has condemned the federal government’s inability to deal decisively with the perpetrators of the unrelenting killings.
During the session, Welby told the lawmakers: “My Lords, I am sure that the Minister shares my deep concern about the violent attacks on Christians. For instance, the compound of my colleague, the Archbishop of Jos, was attacked a couple of weeks back, and one of his friends was killed. The Minister has rightly said how complex the situation is.
Continuing, he said: “But can she answer more specifically on what assistance the UK Government can give in the short term to strengthen the government of Nigeria in their role of enforcing security and local mediation; in the medium term, to ensure reconciliation, which will enable the lives and economies of farmers and herders to be protected; and, in the long term, actively and tangibly to support regional efforts to combat the effects of climate change – the development of desertification, which is exacerbating ancient rivalries?”
Also speaking during the latest debate, a lawmaker, Baroness Goldie, argued that the Buhari regime had to do more to safeguard lives.
She noted, “My Lords, we remain concerned by clashes involving pastoralists and farmers…We have raised our concerns at federal and state government levels. Urgent action is needed by the Nigerian authorities to prevent further loss of life.”
Cardinal Onaiyekan in the interview which was posted on the Vatican’s news website lamented the fact that despite the Catholic bishops’ request a month ago to the government to take action following brutal attacks on Christians in Benue State, nothing has been done.
“Between last month and today, nothing much has changed. Killings are still going on and there is no sign the government is taking effective measures to change the situation…. Therefore, we are left with the only option to believe that the government is either incapable or unwilling,” he concluded.
The debate and Onaiyekan’s interview took place days after the publication of a report by the Stefanos Foundation that claimed the death toll from the Plateau attacks was about three times more than was earlier reported.
According to the foundation, 233 people were killed and 15 communities affected in the June 23/24 attacks.
It said the attacks forced more than 11,500 to seek refuge in 13 locations across the state, while an undetermined number of people were injured and hospitalised in various medical centres in Jos, the state’s capital.
The foundation’s report, however, warned that the June attacks in Plateau had created a humanitarian crisis, claiming that the 11,515 survivors spread across 13 locations are taking shelter in schools and churches.
It added that those badly injured had been left to struggle with hospital bills and that the displaced were desperately in need of food, shelter, clothing, beddings and psycho-social support.
A Former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon (retd), has expressed serious concerns over the security situation in the country, saying that the situation if not immediately addressed, could lead to a religious war.
He also called on security agencies to question the leadership of Miyetti Allah for threatening to unleash violence in Benue State.
Gowon, who spoke on Saturday at the Benue People’s House, Makurdi, when he visited the Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom to commiserate with the government and the people of the state over the wanton killings and destruction of properties in the state.
The former military head of state, who has refrained from making public statement on the killings, expressed concern over the continued killing of innocent and unarmed villagers by armed herdsmen
He said he was disappointed at the handling of the security situation in the country, saying, “Security agencies should invite and question the leadership of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore who had threatened to unleash violence on Benue State and later justified the killings and their roles.”
Gowon said he was out of the country when two priests and 17 worshipers were killed in a church in the state during morning mass.
He also expressed the condolences of his group, ‘Nigeria Prays’ to the governor.
He said, “I am sad and worried at the religious dimension the killings are assuming.
“It is worrisome to see innocent people being killed. Government should make more efforts to tackle the insecurity situation in the country before it descends into a full religious war.”
Gowon commended Ortom and the Benue State government for the way they had responded to the killings and devastation of communities.
He said, “For us to survive as a nation; we must learn to live together as one regardless of ethnicity or religion”.