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Church leaders restate demand for self-defence, state police

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• CAN wants Buhari to break religious monopoly of security architecture
• Allow citizens to defend themselves, Ondo Anglican bishop, Taraba CAN say
• Ortom: Terrorist attacks on churches, attempt to frighten Christians, restrict religious freedom
• Threat to Christians: Private security offers to assist government

A leaked memo from the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), yesterday, raised the alarm of coming attacks from the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP).

The fresh threat is targeted at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), worsening the heightened tension and fear that had already enveloped Abuja after last week’s terrorist attack on Kuje Medium Security Custodial Centre.

According to the memo labelled NSCDC/CMOT/FCT/INT/VOL. X/188 and dated July 8, 2022, “certified intelligence reveals that members of the decimated terrorist group, ISWAP, have concluded plans to launch more coordinated and spontaneous attacks on selected targets within the FCT and had declared war against Christians in Nigeria.”

Recall that the Federal Government had linked the dreaded ISWAP to the Owo massacre in Ondo State, where scores of worshippers were killed at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church on June 5, 2022.

The document further stated that the group has claimed responsibility for the attack on Kuje jailbreak, which set free their members in custody, has been emboldened and is now setting its sights on bigger targets.

Part of the document reads: “Intelligence abounds that ISWAP has claimed responsibility of the July 6 attack on Kuje medium security custodial centre. The foregoing is to enable them to hibernate in targeted communities in the FCT and strategies for further terrorist activities, especially on soft targets like churches, to keep the agenda of the group alive.”

The memo also highlighted that the Kuje attack went unhindered for two hours without any security intervention.

Meanwhile, attempts to confirm the veracity of the document from the NSCDC were not successful. The Corps Public Relations Officer, Olusola Odumosu, did not respond to messages and phone calls made to his line.

HOWEVER, in its reaction, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to break the religious monopoly of the security architecture, alleging that the nation’s security has been compromised by those who see terrorists as their brothers.

CAN again oppose any attempt by any political party to fly a Muslim/Muslim ticket in the 2023 presidential election, arguing, “if the terrorists are killing, maiming and kidnapping Christians and their leaders with impunity when we have a pastor as the Vice President, it wonders what they would do when there is no one representing Christianity in the State House.”

Reacting to the leaked memo purportedly written by NSCDC to the Permanent Secretary of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) on ISWAP planned attacks on Christians, Personal Assistant to the CAN President on Communications, Pastor Bayo Oladeji, told The Guardian that Nigerians are under a government that has failed to protect life and property, adding that the same government is against self-defence.

He said: “The question should be to those who are in charge of the security architecture, what are they doing with the intelligence gathered since the information was released? Have they done anything differently from what has been on the ground before the Kuje prison attack? What can the church do other than intensify prayers for divine protection since the government has failed to provide security?

“We warned them to break the religious monopoly of the security architecture but they turned a deaf ear. Now, the security architecture has been compromised by those who see terrorists as their brothers. History is there to tell the unborn generation what the country is going through. We are under a government that has failed to protect life and property.”

President of the Baptist Conference in the FCT, Rev Dogara Raphael Ghana, lamented that the situation where repentant terrorists who have caused so much pain to families and institutions in the country are now being reintegrated into society and even enrolled in the military was a very dangerous move.

Ghana said it is within the capacity of the military to contain the situation if there is government willpower and true commitment to the fighting insurgency.

MEANWHILE, the Archbishop of the Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, Akure Diocese, Rev’d Simeon Borokini, has flayed government at all levels for its inability to protect the citizenry from ravaging insecurity.

Expressing concerns for the safety of worshippers in the state and nation at large, he advocated that churches should protect and defend themselves against marauding bandits that roam about to kill harmless Christians. Borokini stated this yesterday during the synod at St. Andrews Anglican Church, Oyemekun, Akure.

According to him, members of the church should be ready to defend themselves against attackers.

“I won’t oppose the call for churches to defend themselves because the government seems to be insensitive to the security situation in the country, so, anybody that is willing to get something to protect himself should get the license if it is a gun.

The Anglican Archbishop rallied support for the creation of state police to curb insecurity in the country, saying it remains a better option than community policing.

Referring to the directives by the state government that CCTV should be installed in churches and public places, he disclosed that the Anglican Church has ordered that the devices should be installed before August 1, 2022.

IN the same vein, the leadership of CAN in Taraba State has decried the alarming rate of killings in the Takum and Ussa councils of the state. Apart from the killings, valuables worth millions of naira, have been destroyed by the rampaging militias.

Disturbed by the development, the body, in a statement yesterday, said: “if the government cannot guarantee the security of the people, then the people should be allowed to protect themselves.”

Stressing that the attack on innocent communities stands condemnable and unacceptable, CAN said, it “cannot fold its arm and watch innocent people being killed.”

The statement, which was signed by the CAN chairman, Rev Dr Isaiah Magaji Jirapye, said, “the attacks, which have been taking place unabated, have resulted in the death of many innocent persons, while several commuters also fall victims.”

BENUE State Governor, Samuel Ortom, has again condemned the incessant terrorist attacks going on across the country. Ortom described Nigeria as being under siege due to the activities of terrorists who have been killing, maiming, kidnapping and raping Nigerians, and recently attacking churches and Christian clerics.

The governor stated this in London, at the weekend, while addressing Nigerian nationals in the Diaspora and friends of Nigeria at the Freedom of Religion and Belief International Ministerial Fringe Events on Nigeria, organised by Para-Mallam Peace Foundation and the International Peace-Building and Social Justice.

He said: “Nigeria’s Constitution guarantees freedom of religion or belief. This is not the reality on the ground. We are under siege by terrorists. Nigeria is on the verge of collapse.”

He advised that Nigeria should uphold certain freedoms for all people as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, the constitutions of most nations, including Nigeria and other rights documents to end the menace.

He said: “The bombing of churches and killing of worshippers was a calculated attempt to send fear into the living to restrict their religious freedom.”

REACTING to the threat by terrorists to Christians, the President of Nigeria Private Security Practitioners, Dr Wilson Esangbedo, has said it will be difficult for the government to avert it, with the present security architecture. “Government must embrace private security companies now before it is too late. The government is focused more on the use of armed security forces but unfortunately, our manpower is too low because of the way the armed government security personnel are being utilised.
  
“Private security can provide effective surveillance systems that can report enemy advance many kilometres away. Drones can be used to engage the enemy leading to more victories for government security forces.

“Every intelligence should be used to harden the security of soft targets. I am surprised that even at the international Airport Abuja, there is no security cordon as vehicles are allowed to pick up and drop off passengers right by the departure and arrival hall.

“Most soft targets are acting as if there is no threat because we wait for a soft target to be hit before we activate our security measures. Big estates should activate their protective measures, which must include armed men to repel attacks from the invaders.

“Hotels and banks must improve on their security measures now to prevent attacks. There may be more kidnapping and bank robberies to fund their terrorist activities. Everyone must be involved in the fight against terror in Nigeria. This is the only way we can win this war.”

National Coordinator of Human Rights Writers Association (HURIWA), Emmanuel Onwubiko, has urged the government not to take the threat with a pinch of salt.

According to him, “The Federal Government is not committed to the counter-terror war in Nigeria because the President has done nothing to prosecute Boko Haram terrorists that were arrested and detained while the President has a policy of releasing arrested Boko Haram terrorists as repentant terrorists.”

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