Religious leaders must speak against violence – Sultan




Sultan of Sokoto Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III

Sultan of Sokoto Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar and Co-chairman Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) has said  the education of the Nigerian populace, especially the youth, would help in curbing insecurity and other social vices experienced in different parts of the country. 

Speaking Monday in Abuja, during the First Quarter 2022 Meeting of NIREC, with the theme ‘Education for peace and nation building’, the Sultan said the insecurity in Nigeria was affecting different countries of the world and that the responsibility falls on religious leaders to speak truth to power in order to combat  the menace.

He said: “The theme for this meeting is very important because we believe that education is life. Knowledge is life. You know something before you can worship almighty Allah, we are hoping to elect good leaders come 2023, insha allah.

“The media should quote me, not NIREC. You cannot borrow my mouth and say things that may not be right. We have many problems in Nigeria and the rest of the world. Nigeria is the most populous black nation in the world. The problems that affect Nigeria affect so many parts of the world. Even what affects other countries also affect us in one way or another.

“Whether in Ukraine, Russia, Syria, Yemen, and several other countries in the world, we have been experiencing unrest. We are all concerned as religious leaders. This is because innocent people lose their lives as a result of actions by either state or individuals, especially violence in Nigeria. 

“Therefore, we have to always speak against violence, whether in Sokoto or in Washington or Moscow. I believe as religious leaders if we don’t do so, we will face questions from our creator, who gave us such privilege to be who we are. As religious leaders, we must always speak the truth. We will not and should not be partial in our dealings with the rest of the world, with humanity. So, let us always look at what we can do, say and how we say things.”

Speaking earlier, Executive Secretary NIREC Fr. Cornelius Afebu Omonokhua said the provision of education by government and concerned authorities would lead to rational thinking by the youth and promotion of peaceful existence by Nigerians, regardless of religious affiliations.

He said: “The environment matters a lot in education, hence the society and the government should provide the enabling environment for the children to grow gracefully. To avoid the tragedy of street children, education is offered free in many countries. This was the case, once upon a time in Nigeria. The government ensured that no child was allowed to remain at the level of ignorance. Every child had the right and opportunity to education which the government could give freely for the sanity and security of the nation.

“Education enables the mammal in the human person to be controlled and conquered. The fruits of ignorance are crisis, intra-personal conflict, inter personal conflict, intra-community conflict, inter-community conflict, intra-religious conflict and inter-religious conflicts.

“No religion forbids education in arts, science and technology. To create a normal human society, we appeal to government at all levels to promote education that would give the children enough capacity to work for the society.

“If the youths are well trained and formed, they will be conscious of human rights. They will resist those who employ them to fight unjustly for the selfish benefits of those who finance and promote violence. They will know that peace is a virtue that is deeply entrenched in. They will know that peace is a virtue that is deeply entrenched in Christianity and Islam. 

“For the youth to promote the dignity of life, they need dialogue at all levels and in all ramifications. At the end, the well-educated person with a reasonable job would promote nation building because he has something to look up to.”

 Niger

Meanwhile, bandits Sunday raided some communities in Munya local government area of Niger state, killing scores of the villagers and  abducting unspecified number of people.

A Catholic Priest, Reverend Leo Raphael Ozigi and three other priests of the same church were also kidnapped between Sarkin Pawa and Minna  Sunday afternoon as they were returning to Minna after the Sunday mass.

Blueprint gathered that the bandits had stormed some of the villages in the local government area  Sunday afternoon and started moving from house to house, raiding members of the communities  and dispossessing them of their belongings, including money and foodstuffs.

They ended up killing several villagers, the number which could not be readily established as at the time of this report.

The bandits, who were said to be almost hundred, rode on motorcycles with sophisticated weapons and raided villages including Tsihon Kabula, Jesso, Gunu, Gini, Chibani and Injita among others.

They were also said to have presently set up a permanent camp in Kuchi town from where they carried out their operations.

Similarly, the bandits were said to have set up another camp at Chibani after blocking a bridge linking Munya local government  area and Shiroro to forestall any raid on them by the security agencies.

It was reliably gathered that no fewer than fifteen communities were raided within forty eight hours in the state unhindered.

In Zagzaga community, an octogenarian was said to have been set ablaze out of anger by the bandits as virtually all the villagers had deserted the community.

The nonagenarian, it was gathered, was unable to escape due to his old age and related challenges  and chose to remain in his room, but was set ablaze by the bandits.

The state Commissioner for Local Government and Internal Security, Mr Emmanuel Umar, confirmed the development.

“There were some invasions by bandits on some communities in Munya local government area but we are still monitoring the situation.

“I cannot say the exact number of people killed or abducted but we will issue a statement later,” he said.

Secretary of Munya local government council, James Jagaba also confirmed the incident to journalists on the telephone.

According to him, “the terrorists have been operating unhindered for several hours and presently, they are still there. Nobody can tell you the number of people already killed or kidnapped, all I know is that there are casualties.”

And when contacted, the state chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria(CAN), Reverend Mathias Echioda, simply said, “I can only confirm to you of the Catholic Reverend kidnapped. I cannot specifically say how many other priests were kidnapped along with him.”

 Military on Kaduna airport

In a related development, the military  had  cleared the air on the weekend attack on Kaduna International Airport by bandits, saying  the attack took place 6km away from the terminal and outside the airport perimeter fence.

Speaking in Kaduna Monday, the military authority said 12 of the bandits, who were immediately given a hot chase, were killed through air strikes.

This was disclosed Monday afternoon when Kaduna State Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs, Mr. Samuel Aruwan, Garrison Commander 1 Division Nigerian Army, Brig-General Uriah Opuene and Air Force Base Commander, Air Commodore Ademuyiwa Adedoyin led journalists on an assessment tour of the attack scene.

Briefing journalists at the scene of the attack, Brig-General Opuene said the Kaduna International Airport was very secure, adding that, there were several layers of security at the Airport and that, bandits could not have dared to attack it.

He said: “Preliminary investigations have revealed that the bandits were just passing through back of the Airport towards Riyawa village, when they sighted the security man engaged by the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) to watch over their metrological equipment around the axis.

“As you can see, this place is about six kilometers away from the Airport terminal. The bandits were only passing behind the airport perimeter fence when they saw the security man engaged by NAMA and they fired at him. They just took advantage of that to pass a message that they have attacked the Airport, not that they had the intention of attacking the Airport.

“There are several layers of security at the Airport, this is the first layer and even this first layer was not breached, because from the moment of hearing that shot, it took our men just about three minutes to get here from the next layer of security. On arrival, the bandits were already running away, so we engaged them through the use of ground forces. Then we called for air strike and an helicopter was deployed and from the air report, about 12 of the bandits were killed.

“So, as you can see from the distance, the insinuation outside that the terrorists took over the Airport is not correct. If the terrorists had entered, they would have met us there.”

Also speaking, NAF Base Commander Air Commodore Adedoyin said security around the Airport general area had been beefed up since the security of the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) was breached last year, adding, “bandits don’t have the audacity to attack Kaduna Airport.”

While assuring that the airport is safe and secure, Aruwa  said the state government was engaging citizens in communities around airport to scale up intelligence gathering.

He reemphasised that there was no threat to the immediate vicinity of the airport because the military personnel  were ahead of the bandits.

15 killed in fresh Kaduna attack

But a late report from Kaduna Monday night, said  15 persons were killed  during an attack on Hayin Kanwa village, Yakawada ward in Giwa local government area of Kaduna state.

The development came 4 days after the criminals attacked nine villages (Thursday) in the same local government, killing 50 people  and burning  several houses.

One of the residents in the affected community, Alhaji Mohammed Buwala, told newsmen 15 bodies were buried on Monday morning in the fresh attack.

He said: “Killings and kidnapping in Giwa are getting out of hand, as people are being killed and kidnapped daily.

 “The situation is terrible because 15 more people were killed at Hayin Kanwa just yesterday (Sunday) night by bandits. Since Thursday, these bandits have been attacking villages killing people.”

But spokesman of the Kaduna state police command,  ASP Muhammed Jalige, could not be reached for comment on the incident.

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