Sultan of Sokoto Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar has lamented the incessant killing of innocent Nigerians in the northern part of the country by terrorists.
Also, the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) urged adherents of both Islam and Christianity to unite and tackle the menace of insurgency, banditry and other related crimes.
These positions were expressed Thursday during the 4th Quarter 2021 meeting of the NIREC themed ‘NIREC, security agencies and peace in Nigeria,’ Thursday in Abuja.
Speaking at the event, the Sultan, who is also NIREC co-chair, said no single day passes by without people being killed in the region.
The Sultan called on Christians to disregard the recent threat by some unknown persons of being killed if found attending churches in Zamfara state.
The monarch said Nigeria was facing series of challenges, warning that if leaders didn’t wake up and come together to understand the issues facing the country, the trend would escalate.
He, however, charged religious leaders to be wary of the kind of things they say to their followers, noting that their followers always believed they speak things from the Holy Bible and Holy Koran.
While advocating dialogue to address some of the challenges in the country, Sultan Abubakar said the elite in the country remained the nation’s major challenge.
He said: “If I continue talking about the insecurity in the North, we will not leave this room. Some few days ago, we were witnesses to the media report on how people were killed in a bus in Sokoto. Even though the figure is not correct, even one life is important. There is no single day that passes without people being killed in the North, especially in the North-west, but we don’t hear it.
“When I saw a note that the bandits are threatening Christians in Zamfara, I asked, what is the work of our security agencies? Why will they come out and make such comment, when you have not verified it, because you are making people to be more frightened?
“I will not stop going to mosque to pray because I saw in a paper that if I go to mosque I will be killed. Let me be killed. I must die. So, Christians should not be afraid of going to church to worship because an anonymous person is threatening them.
“Let’s not deceive ourselves everything is not alright. I have said this so many times. To know that you have a problem, you have part of the solution. The earlier we rise up to the occasion, come together, the better for us.
“We have to be careful in the way we handle, say and do things as religious leaders. We are not political leaders. Therefore, we have to be wary of what we say, where and how we say such things, because our followers will definitely believe in what we say. They will believe and feel that it is from the Holy Koran or the Holy Bible.
“We cannot go on telling things to people without thinking that they will believe. We cannot go on saying things that we know we don’t have full knowledge of.
“I believe in dialogue, and l believe dialogue is the best option. We can sit down and talk to ourselves and come up with possible solutions to the problems of the majority. We are the minority here. We are the elite and the elite are the problems of this country, because we always want things to go our way,” the Sultan further added.
Also speaking, Executive Secretary NIREC Rev. Fr. Cornelius Omonokhua called on Christians and Muslims to come together to fight terrorism and insecurity.
“No terrorist can be a religious person and no religious person can be a terrorist. We must come together now to pray and fight those who have waged war against humanity in Nigeria,” he said.
On his part, President Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Dr Samson Ayokunle said Nigerian roads had become a den of kidnappers and a no-go-area for travellers, wondering why persons would be kidnapped and security agents cannot trace the kidnappers to their hideout and rescue the victims.
Ayokunle, therefore, called for increase in intelligence gathering, urging the public to also volunteer information to the security agencies so that the movement of criminals could be traced and apprehended ahead of time.
He also tasked security agents to purge themselves of criminals among them “who aid and abet criminality.”
The CAN president also called for more funding for security agents to acquire modern equipment that would enhance their performance, saying “there should also be deliberate efforts by the government to create enabling environment for the employment of youth, making it difficult for criminality to be appealing to them.”
He said: “Travelling from one point to another by road in particular have become a very great risk. Kidnappers are everywhere and they don’t only come out to kidnap but also to kill. So, you don’t know who the next victim is going to be.
“Why should these people be killing and hiding people in our territory, without being challenged? Why should it be easy for them to hide people somewhere within the state and the security agencies in the state, within few days or weeks, will not be able to fish them out?” he further queried.
NEF, CNG summon stakeholders
Meanwhile, the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) would organise a one-day summit for stakeholders to address the current security challenges in the north.
Addressing select journalists Thursday in Abuja, CNG spokesperson, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, said the summit would be chaired by Convener Northern Elders Forum (NEF) Professor Ango Abdullahi.
He said: “The Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) is agitated by the recent unchecked escalation of attacks and killings across Northern Nigerian communities, cities, towns and highways that have literally exposed the entire region to the mercy of Boko Haram-ISWAP insurgents to the North East, and ruthless banditry and kidnapping rings to the North West and North Central.
“At the risk of overstating the case, we can unhesitatingly assert that, already, Nigeria’s vast land borders with its northern neighbours have been completely overrun by assortment of armed criminal gangs, turning them into dangerous conduits for drugs, arms, smugglers, illegal immigrants and foreign fighters from countries in the troubled Sahel region.
“Our forests have become ungoverned spaces inhabited by insurgents, bandits, kidnappers and other criminals while major and vital highways in the region have been taken over by bandits who kill and kidnap with audacity, at will and with ease.
“Pervasive insecurity in the region has cost the lives of thousands of people with thousands more displaced from their ancestral homes to IDP camps. People have been displaced from their farms and pushed deeper into poverty; education in the region is endangered due to school abductions. There is hunger, anger, gloom and terror in the region.”
He added: ”In recognition of the enormity of these security and socioeconomic challenges, the CNG has resolved to embark on a massive mobilisation of all men and women of goodwill in the region and beyond, to raise their voices to give voice to our voiceless people.
“Consequently, the CNG has resolved to organise a Mega Pan Northern Nigerian Summit, under the chairmanship of the convener of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Professor Ango Abdullahi, to look into and proffer definite solutions to the security challenges in the region.
“The Summit shall involve such critical stakeholders as traditional rulers, clerics of all faiths, academics, community leaders, security personnel, students, women, youth and all trade organisations, including ASUU, COASU, NUT, NUJ, NULGE, NGE, NURTW, NATO, vigilante groups as well as the business community.
“The Summit has been scheduled for December 20 -21, 2021 at the Bon Hotel, 2 Monrovia Street, off Aminu Kano Crescent, Wuse.”