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Monday, 22 January 2018

*Herdsmen’s Killings: DSS claim of Islamic State presence is unbelievably stale: - HURIWA: *Advocates judicial inquisition on Herdsmen's killings:

A notable pro-democracy and Non-governmental body – HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) has faulted the reported claim by the Department of State Services (DSS) which accused Islamic state terrorists of the Benue killings.

HURIWA said the claim coming nearly twenty four months after the international media reported the affiliation of the breakaway faction of Boko Haram terror network with the then Iraq and Syria based global terror network known as Islamic state, is unwarranted and suspicious.

The Rights group has therefore tasked the Benue state government to set up a judicial panel of inquiry on the widespread killings by suspected armed Fulani herdsmen even as the National Assembly should organize a transparent, open and an independent investigation of these dastardly killings.

HURIWA asked President Muhammadu Buhari to rejig his national security team to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and to end the dominance of all the strategic national security agencies by persons from one Ethno -Religious divide-Fulani/Hausa and majority of whom have pampered the alleged armed Fulani herdsmen suspected of widespread attacks in different parts of Nigeria. HURIWA said a random sampling of opinion poll on the latest claim by DSS led by the Katsina born Director General of the Department of States Services Alhaji Lawal Musa Daura shows that most respondents accuse the DSS of cover up gambits in the latest rounds of ethno-religious genocide carried out by suspected armed Fulani herdsmen. 

"Although we strongly dispute the credibility of the intelligence being circulated by DSS on the Benue killings but we decided to go to town in Abuja, Lagos and Port Harcourt whereby our teams interviewed Nigerians on the media reports quoting the DSS as accusing Islamic state's 'Army' of the Benue killings and majority of those spoken to disputed the claim and demanded independent judicial inquisition and forensic investigations to ascertain the real perpetrators. Nigerians are in doubt of this latest claims because the national security infrastructure is dominated by Hausa/Fulani heads and this creates room for mutual suspicions and compromise".

In a statement by the National Coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and the National Media Affairs Director Miss Zainab Yusuf, HURIWA faulted the latest claim by the DSS because of what it calls substantial circumstantial evidence linking some operatives of the Myetti Allah cattle owners body with the incidents following series of threats to oppose and undermine the anti-open grazing law of Benue state made to the media immediately after the state Assembly passed the legislation and it was okayed by governor Orthom of Benue State.

The Rights group said only an independent body of judicial investigators to be put together by Benue State government and supervised by a team from the United Nations can satisfactorily determine the culpability or otherwise of the armed Fulani herdsmen widely accused of carrying out these killings not only in Benue state but in Southern Kaduna, Adamawa and Tarana States. 

HURIWA also asked that eye witnesses to the attacks who survived the ordeals can also be invited in camera to render evidence. "The hasty speculative claims of foreign terrorists as the perpetrators as made by the DSS lacks coherence and is not grounded in scientific and forensic findings which are the minimum benchmarks for global best practices in crime investigations".

HURIWA wondered why the security agencies like the police and DSS  could go fishing for 'innovative' and phantom reasons for the attacks when it is clear to every discerning mind that an official of the Benue state branch of the cattle owners body reportedly spoke with the British Broadcasting Service to offer explanation for the attacks. "This interview is retrievable because it was widely received all over the World. Why the attempt to tie a wool of organized confusion on discerning members of the public by the DSS? Why did they not stop the attack? Who invited the so-called foreign terrorists? Who gave them weapons deployed for the killings? Where were Nigerian Immigration service, Nigerian Customs, Nigerian Army, Nigerian Intelligence agency and the DSS  all led by Hausa/Fulani/Kanuri when this sort of 'invasion' occured? Why have the heads of these agencies not tendered their resignation if indeed these claims are factually accurate?"

“We are shocked that many weeks after claims and counter claims on the alleged perpetrators of these dastardly crime of terror against Benue state citizens in protest against the passage of the anti-open grazing law started flying in the media, that the publicly funded department of state services is seeking to fly a kite by bringing up another strange angle to the debacle regarding who killed innocent Nigerians in Benue state? Why have the security agencies failed to invite all relevant officials of Myetti Allah cattle owners body in both Benue and Abuja to question them on media claims they made before and after the Benue state house of Assembly passed the anti-open grazing law? Why is the DSS indicting itself for failing to even stop the invasion of Nigerian nation by foreign terror group assuming without conceding that the new claim is true, all together? The best bet is for independent investigations to be ordered to be supervised by the United Nations organization”.

HURIWA recalled vividly that in August 2016, the Islamic State group’s newspaper identifies a new leader of the group’s West African part; popularly known as Nigeria’s Boko Haram extremists, who promises not to attack mosques or markets used by Muslims, reports the Associated Press.

HURIWA further recalled that in 2016 August the Arabic-language newspaper al-Nabaa identified Abu Musab al-Barnawi as the new “Wali,” a title previously used to describe long-time leader Abubakar Shekau, who has been leading Boko Haram since 2009.

HURIWA said the report did not say what Shekau’s current status is. Though the replacement comes after rumours spread that Shekau had been killed or replaced as the leader has not made a verified video appearance for the past few years.

HURIWA recalled that in March 2016, Boko Haram was believed to have released a video featuring Shekau. However, the unusual poor quality of the footage raised suspicions over its authenticity. Furthermore, the video was only shared on YouTube, rather than on Twitter accounts affiliated with Boko Haram’s ally, IS.

HURIWA recalled that at that time the media quoted the African and Eurasian affairs analyst Jacob Zenn as saying that the announcement indicates a coup by Boko Haram breakaway group Ansaru and follows a trend of extremist Islamic groups moving away from al-Qaeda to the Islamic State.

HURIWA said that it is already a notorious knowledge that Ansaru is known for kidnapping foreigners. It had broken away from Boko Haram because it disagrees with the indiscriminate killing of civilians, especially Muslims.

The Rights group reminded Nigerians that this then Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (begore it was defeated by international armed coalition) had publicly announced new Boko Haram leader Al-Barnawi’s appointment and it came as the Nigerian government and army claimed the fight against Boko Haram was over. 

DSS had claimed in a report at the weekend that a group Islamic state in West Africa (ISWA) is operational in North central and South Nigeria. And that it deploys foreign terrorists that unleash mayhem on communities with a view to exacerbating ethnic and religious tensions.

HURIWA has therefore challenged the National Assembly to save Nigeria of the embarrassment that these killings of innocent Nigerians have caused us in the international arena and to compel President Muhammadu Buhari to obey the constitution by reconstituting the National Defence Council to reflect the Ethno-religious diversities of Nigerians and to guarantee integrity to the national security architecture.

Keyamo Asks Buhari to remove IGP Idris

Human Rights Activist, and famous lawyer Mr Festus Keyamo, SAN, has asked President Muhammadu Buhari to remove the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Ibrahim Kpotum Idris for high-handedness and Abuse of office in ordering the illegal arrest and detention of online journalists, Daniel Elombah and Tim Elombah. 

Keyamo who made the request in a letter written to President Buhari dated 15, January accused the IGP of displaying personal vendetta by refusing to release Tim Elombah long after the detention order granted by an Area Court Judge has expired.

The Senior Advocate who narrated how the Elombah brothers were abducted from their home town in Edoji,  Uruagu Nnewi, Anambra state, said that  a situation where Mr President's appointees ride rough shod over innocent citizens or use the positions to which Mr President  appointed them to settle personal scores should, ordinarily, rankle the President and cause him to intervene.

"Your Excellency, it is shocking and alarming, to say the least, that the Inspector-General of Police deployed the officers and men of special police squads like SARS and STS, which are established to fight serious and violent crimes, to settle a purely private grievance with on-line journalists. If at all an offence was committed by the said published article (which is not conceded) a simple civil invitation to our clients would have sufficed. But to use such strong-arm tactics to reign in our clients was a gross abuse of his office and an employment of stone-age tactics in pursuing his personal grievance.

"He has further displayed his personal vendetta by refusing to release Tim Elombah long after the detention order has expired. This is one of the worst forms of abuse of human rights.

"Your Excellency, such practices should be clearly unacceptable under your watch. A situation where your appointees ride rough shod over innocent citizens or use the positions to which you appointed them to settle personal scores should, ordinarily, rankle you and cause you to intervene. It should be more so as the substance of the matter has to do with the criticism of the personal life of a public officer by the Fourth Estate of the Realm, a practice that has come to be recognized as one of the components of a thriving democracy. If a public officer cannot tolerate or stomach harsh criticisms, he has no business occupying public office.

"It is in the light of the above we urge you to use your good offices to order an investigation into this crass display of power and indiscretion by the Inspector-General of Police and mete out appropriate sanctions against him, which may include the extreme step of relieving him of his position."

Keyamo'  petition further said that "On or about the 1st day of January, 2018, the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, caused the men and officers of the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad to invade the family compound of our clients in Edoji,  Uruagu Nnewi, Anambra State. Six persons (including our clients) were arrested, handcuffed like common criminals and driven to the SARS office in Nnewi. They were subsequently taken to the SARS headquarters in Awkuzu, near Awka. Up till this point, our clients were not informed of the reason(s) for their arrests.

"It was at SARS headquarters in Awkuzu that our clients were handed over to other armed officers who identified themselves as being from Special Tactical Squad, S.T.S, a team that works directly in the office of the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris. Our clients and one Izuchukwu Elombah were then taken all the way by road (and in handcuffs) to Abuja.

"It was in Abuja that the officers then subjected our clients to hours of grueling interrogation regarding an article published in another blog called, titled ‘IGP Ibrahim Idris’s Unending Baggage of Controversies”. The article in question was not published by our clients’ blog,, and our clients denied any link to the author, one Ebiowei Dickson. Daniel and Izuchukwu Elombah were eventually released on bail, but have been made to report constantly since then.

"However, the Police got a Remand Order to detain Tim for seven days which expired more than a week ago and the Police are still holding Tim illegally..."

NCF, Asiodu, others urge collective action against illegal wildlife trade in West Africa

The NCF is determined to build on more than three decades of conservation leadership in Nigeria and will be part of the Pan- African strategy to combat illegal exploitation and trade in wildlife in the continent
To halt over exploitation of wildlife resource and its threat to biodiversity, stakeholders in conservation have called for collective action against the trade in West Africa. According to them, collective actions are crucial to nature conservation, to ensure that humanity bequeath a sustainable planet to posterity.
The call was reinforced at the 16th Chief Shafi Lawal Edu memorial lecture titled “Combating Illegal Wildlife Trade in West Africa: The Role of Environmental Law and Governance”, organised by the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) and sponsored by Chevron Nigeria Limited.
Director General of NCF, Adeniyi Karunwi, said the lecture was dedicated to examine issues associated with combating illegal wildlife trade in West Africa from an environmental law and governance perspective to address the continuing and rising scale of illegal trade demands across the globe. He noted that wild life trade is diverse and involves millions of plants, animal products and people all over the world.
“Over exploitation of wildlife resource to feed the growing illegal wildlife global markets is the greatest threat to biodiversity after habitat loss. The World Wide Fund for nature (WWF)’ s Living Planet report published in 2016, he said, warned that species population could decline by an estimated annual average of two per cent and there is no sign yet that the rate will decrease. This portends great danger for humanity when viewed against the devastating impacts and menace of climate change on a global scale thereby reversing the laudable conversation achievements at a faster rate and making it difficult to measure and consolidate on success”, he said.
Karunwi said the foundation was committed to partnership and collaborations with wildlife trade monitoring networks, governments and international organizations to combat illegal trade in wildlife. He expressed appreciation to the Federal Ministry of Environment for the review and adoption of the Endangered Species Act of 2016 authorized by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITIES), which prohibits any form of trade in endangered species.
The NCF, he said, encourages every stakeholder to be part of the global alliances against illegal trade in wildlife. He expressed gratitude to Chevron Nigeria Limited for being the sole sponsor of the Chief S.L Edu Research Awardees whose proposals not only align with the vision and mission statement of NCF but will potentially contribute to the fulfillment of NCF’s mandate to nature the people and Nigeria.
Also speaking, the chairman of NCF national Executive Council, Chief Ede Dafinone explained that trade in wildlife is global in nature and combating it requires local, national, regional and continental cooperation and actions. According to him, West Africa has in the recent years become an active hub and route for wildlife trafficking.
He stressed that NCF offers a platform to mobilize and foster cooperation of governments, corporate organizations, wildlife trade network monitoring agencies and partners to develop and implement regional action plans in line with global strategies aimed at tackling illegal wildlife trade from its different sources.
Dafinone stated that the organization would engage the Federal Ministry of Environment, the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) and other regulatory and enforcement agencies and relevant stakeholders to reduce, discourage and halt illegal trade in wildlife in Nigeria. He urged all to take up the challenge to preserve wildlife and their habitats.
For the president of NCF board of trustees, Chief Philip Asiodu, the WWF to which the NCF is affiliated, in its 2014 Living Planet Report dealt extensively with the increasing threat to wildlife due to over exploitation particularly for illegal trade to meet soaring demand.
He said; “Statistics show that in some species, the decline in their populations of more than half in just 40 years. The species involved have included elephants for their tusks, rhinos for their horns, pangolins for their scales, lions and leopards for their skins, great apes for their meets, parrot and other tropical birds for pets and even vultures in places like Nigeria for voodoo medicine”.
He assured that NCF is determined to build on more than three decades of conservation leadership in Nigeria and will be part of the Pan- African strategy to combat illegal exploitation and trade in wildlife in the continent.
In his lecture, the Vice Chancellor, Lagos State University (LASU), Ojo, Prof. Olanrewaju Fagbohun said meeting the complexity of the challenge posed by illegal wildlife trade and requires a multi-pronged approach to wildlife management.
According to him, law reform is critical while real and effective reform will not come cheap as implementation expectedly will encounter opposition of the well-resourced criminal networks.
“Studies have shown that source countries of wildlife trade include some of the poorest countries with the richest sources of biodiversity. The flow of wildlife trade, according to these studies, he said, appears to be form developing countries to developed countries”.
The professor of environmental law and policy said in this regard Africa and a number of south East Asian countries have been identified in confiscated data published by the European Union as the main sources of countries of illegal wildlife.
He identified over exploitation as the most devastating impacts associated with the illegal trafficking , poaching , transit, trade and sale of wildlife saying it has caused extinction of species while putting the sustainability of others in dangers.
Prof Fagbohun called for the strengthening and enhancement of legislative framework as well as incorporation of anti-corruption measures in work plans of national, regional and sub-regional wildlife enforcement networks, stressing that wildlife trade is a multi-billion dollar trade with international connections and should require a collective and collaborative efforts to tackle.
In his remarks, former Commonwealth Secretary -General, Chief Emeka Anyaoku called for the involvement of traditional institutions in the move to halt illegal wildlife trade, while the general manager, Policy, Government and Public Affairs, PGPA. CHEVRON Nigeria Limited, Mr. Esimaje Brikinn pledged Chevron’s continued support to wildlife conservation in Nigeria.
Source: TheGuardian


There is no doubt that we reside in a country where her youths tolerate impunity with sympathy. Apart from the obvious fact that ours is also a place where money equals success; it is also a place where the misuse of power is better appreciated by the youths even when actions taken are not in conformity with the total subversion of their will and pride. It is very possible to enthrone a king, it is not possible to reign for the king. The reign of a king in his palace has reduced the palace to a mere body and not a kingdom in spirit. This is evident by the impunity that has been swaggered into what they tagged as the ‘change governance’ in Nigeria.

‘Terrible’ is the situation at hand, treachery is what Nigerians in some part of the country have been forced to go through, but more terrible is what the youths have done to themselves. When our youths know better, they would do better in things that favours them only. I have come across youths, who took pride in the recent body language of the President Muhammadu Buhari’s led administration on the lingering issue of the massive killing of Nigerians in Benue by the Fulani herdsmen. The Executive Governor of Benue State had made it known that 1, 878 persons have been killed between 2013 to 2016, 750 have been seriously injured, 200 have been missing and 99, 427 households were affected with billions of Naira worth property destroyed.  Over hundred persons had been killed in recent weeks in Benue and to make the situation worse, the killings are been perpetuated in some other parts of the country. 

The Miyetti Allah is a new phenomenon in the rise of ethnic group that has no regards for the law. The killings orchestrated by them are that of herdsmen whom are well trained, well paid, well organized and armed men that act as standing army of invasion to wage war on Nigerians. As grievous as this offense is, it seem to be nothing but a mere clash that poses no security threat to Nigerians at large. What a leadership! This is truly a change leadership indeed.

President Muhammadu Buhari has failed woefully to stand up for the defense of Nigerians by not declaring the group a terrorist group nor proscribe same. This act of the President is not only treacherous but cantankerous. The President from a detailed news research had only deem it fit to talk about the menace of the herdsmen as just a mere clash of herdsmen and farmers. At another occasion, the President trivialized his stance by saying that the perpetrators were not Nigerians but armed foreigners from Mali and Libya who have infiltrated the local herdsmen community. To worsen the situation at hand, just barely 48 hours after the mass burial of the 73 Nigerians of the most recent herdsmen attack, the vice president of the group had threatened more bloodshed if the Benue State government do not scrap their Anti-Grazing Law. This is nothing but impunity. A group threatening bloodshed publicly and the government is  smiling at such impunity. Well, no doubt the President is a Fulani man. I guess his kinsmen have all the right to kill Nigerians and get away with it. What stops the President in ordering the immediate arrest of the leadership of the group that are threatening the peace and security of our country? Well, our President is Fulani, he also rears cattle.

The activities of the Fulani group has attracted a lot of condemnation by various persons yet the group is been pampered by the government. The implication of this neglect shows a tacit approval of organized killings. The National Assembly had tried by showing great concern. The legislative arm had given a resolution that every State in Nigeria have the right to enact their Anti-Grazing law. This law if enacted would curb excesses of the herdsmen. I am aware that President Buhari had instructed the Inspector General of Police to tactically relocate to Benue and Zamfara State. This step does not guarantee that the evils perpetrated on Nigerians in Benue and other affected States would stop anytime soon. The President would have done more good by declaring the group has a terrorist group which is obvious from their actions.

I know as a matter of fact that it does not cost the government anything to wage full war against the herdsmen. The leadership of this nation is not just bad but excruciatingly bad especially as far as this herdsmen issue is concerned. The most annoying aspect of this is that the youths are not lending their voices to force the government to do the needful. One could rarely see the major social media influencers talk about the issue. This is bad. It goes to show that most of the vibrant youths on social media are beneficiaries of the present government and as thus, they prefer to remain silent. They have failed to use their media power to ensure or compel the government to do the needful. I remember vividly that it was the uproar of the Nigerian youths on social media that made the Inspector General of Police to make effort in ending the various shed of brutality perpetrated by men of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) nationwide. They were lots of condemnation by the youths and this influenced the new restructuring of the police department especially the SARS unit. 

It becomes worrisome when some of our youths that claim to be crusaders of change and good governance are keeping quiet. I am forced to believe that it might be because of the fact that SARS officers do embarrass Nigerians irrespective of status that made the so-called influencers of the Nigerian youth constituency to make a demand from the government. They were affected directly unlike the herdsmen killings which never affected the so-called influencers. They have forgotten so soon that most of the persons killed by the herdsmen in the affected States are youths like them. They have betrayed their existence for gains of governance. I know categorically that the social media influencers can force the President to take drastic decision on the genocidal acts of the herdsmen. If the so called influencers can put the government on its toes on issues affecting them directly, why not on issues that affect their constituency. I guess their assignment is only to abuse and trend facts that are meant to unseat leaders of the past which they achieved. 

It is time for the social media influencers to embrace the fate of the dark hour and ensure they put the President on his toes as they did to the former President. It is high time they stopped giving defense to the impunity created by the herdsmen by not advocating against the silence of the President. Funny enough, we know the social media influencers and their individual roles. History would be recorded on their failed attempt to lift their constituency for good.

Whyte Habeeb Ibidapo is a lawyer, writer and Public Commentator / Analyst.

Friday, 19 January 2018

Northern Nigeria and Religious War By Emmanuel Onwubiko

The story I'm about to tell is a true life story weaved between the ironies of fortune and misfortune which in any event are the contradictory but necessary aspects of life generally.

So, I put out the facts of life that indeed, I have the fortune and misfortune of being raised as a child in Northern Nigeria. Northern Nigeria has in the last four decades become the hotbed of religious upheavals of blood chilling dimensions. Northern Nigeria also has the singular notoriety and dishonour of having a large pool of political, religious and traditional elites who actively work on the prism that their recognition and elevation in the larger scheme of things on the political firmament of this deliberately weakened nation-state called Nigeria is depended largely on how loudly they become as Ethno-religious bigots and promoters of religious disunity. This is the reason you find out that the leadership recruitment process in the North is controlled by those entrenched religious and Ethnic forces that have held on to the controlling layers of politics in the North since the days of the first Republic.

In the first place, as a fortunate Northern Nigerian raised citizen, there were services and privileges that were granted to everyone growing up in Northern Nigeria such as the strategic issue of attending public schools in the early eighties that were efficiently equipped and staffed by scholars recruited then and posted across board in schools in Kaduna state from every parts of the World. 

The Northern state governors were known for recruiting expatriates from as far flung as India, Philippines and from nearby nations in the West African coasts such as Ghana amongst many others. The Northern States also maintain longstanding relationship with such Countries like Niger, Chad and Sudan basically because of shared Islamic ideological values and common practices. But this suspicious diplomatic overtures by these Northern States have over time led to the uncontrolled and unregulated influx of illegal aliens who have quietly assimilated and have claimed citizenship rights dubiously, over and above some Nigerians from Southern Nigeria. 

I remember vividly too that as a young student of the then Kafanchan teachers college in the mid-eighties, we were privileged to enjoy free rides in the brand new buses bought and donated by what was called parents teachers Association. There was also the issue of the other privileges like receiving sporting shirts and writing materials for free unlike our Southern colleagues whose Parents were put under dire financial strains to pay for such services. Recall then that in the eighties, Nigeria was mostly under military dictatorships and then the Constitution was suspended meaning that such provisions like the universal basic education that we now have in the extant 1999 constitution was absent thereby making education more of a business of the Parents. The Northern states which was actually facing massive poor enrolment in schools then rolled out measures and educational subsidies to motivate pupils to stay back in school. Those were the days some of us fortuitously grew up in the North of Nigeria. 

But the unfortunate thing about growing up in the North was that most of the communities especially in Kaduna state, have often faced tumultuous inter-ethnic and inter-religious battles amongst the diverse ethno-religious peoples that make up the Northern communities. To make matters worst, these skirmishes are usually stoked up by external political forces who seemed to be gaining tremendously whenever such bloody clashes occur. Some of these Ethnic and Religious champions in the North who were at the forefront of championing and igniting these religious wars were rewarded with national offices and most of them nominated companies that handled the disbursements of relief materials. 

I have also had the misfortune of witnessing as a growing child, different war- like encounters between and amongst the diverse ethnicities and religious affiliations that co-habit the geographical areas known as Southern Kaduna. We were unfortunate to have seen as direct eye witnesses how the precious lives of our hitherto play mates were decimated and gruesomely slaughtered only because they were either Christians or Moslems caught up in the wrong sides of such senseless conflicts. I personally lost many friends in the many conflicts that flared up in Kaduna State including the very one that was ignited from a nearby school to mibe known as Advanced Teachers College which shares boundary with our school. Indeed, we were told that the Advances Teachers college was actually erected on the properties of the then Teachers college Kafanchan which was a missionary school which was later confiscated by the government and made a government sponsored school. So you can imagine how unfortunate we were to have been compelled by circumstances to constantly run for dear lives from the armed marauders who claimed to be fighting for their so-called gods of religion and tribes. 

I recall in those days, indeed in the early post-primary school days when such infightings between the aforemened people flared up in Zango-kataf local government area and Kafanchan in Kaduna state in which hundreds of people were needlessly killed just for professing different faiths from their killers.

It is therefore safe to conclude that Northern Nigeria has become notorious for bloody inter-ethnic and inter-religious confrontations. 

To a very large extent, it can also be said that climate change is not necessarily the genesis of the ongoing terror campaigns allegedly waged by armed Fulani herdsmen targeting farming communities in Southern Kaduna and several other Christian dominated areas in the North Central States of Plateau, Nasarawa and Benue. Religious differences may be the indirect causative irrational motivation for these killings. 

I think the Senator representing Central Kaduna, Mr. Shehu Sani, who until he went to the Senate was a reputable civil rights leader and writer, had captured these religious wars in the North succinctly in one of his books titled: “The Killing fields: Religious violence of Northern Nigeria”.

This brilliant activist and political rights campaigner, now a practicing politician had blamed ethnic and religious manipulations for these bloody encounters in Northern Nigeria. He is right on point. I can say this from the benefits of hindsight.

He said: ethnic and religious manipulations have been the major cause of the lethal conflicts that have come to characterize relationships among different religious and ideological adherents. 

Ethnicity he wrote has become such a potent tool for mobilization in Nigeria to the extent that ethnic nationalism engendered by the process is fast replacing true nationalism. 

Ethnicity and religion ought to have served as instruments of national integration, he lamented just as he stated that they ought to have been used as tools of actualizing national objectives. 

Sadly, religion has not been used to serve its purpose and this has to do with the perception of the Muslim and Christian faithful to issues, have given room for misconception in the inter-religious relationship between Muslims and Christians, he affirmed. 

They, the two religions, have bred assumptions, stereotypes and suspicions which as long as we insist on passing judgment on others by the verdict of our perception and refuse them the opportunity to explain themselves to us who and what they are, we are creating room for conflicts in our inter-personal and inter-religious relationships, Comrade Shehu Sani maintained.

“Ethno-religious conflicts have also resulted in the destruction of property and death of several hundreds of thousands of people. The death of thousands of men and women has resulted in the irreparable loss of human resources that could have been used for developmental purposes." 

Sani posited that although, there are no verifiable records to know the exact number of deaths, the loss in terms of lives cannot also be quantified, but media records bear a clear testimony to the fact that indeed thousands of lives were lost in past ethno-religious conflicts.

No wonder, he recalled newspaper headlines that screamed, “53,787 lives claimed in Plateau crisis,” “Plateau communal clash claims 48 more lives.” “Another 30 killed in Kanam Local Government Area”. 

Sani then asked, how does one account for these several hundreds of lives that had been stolen by the visit of swords, daggers, bows, arrows and dane guns?

Blunt as Shehu Sani pointed out in that book, there is the undercurrents behind the persistent religious wars that have come to define Northern Nigeria to such a notorious extent that the religion has produced two of the World's most dreaded terror organizations namely the boko haran terrorists and the armed Fulani herdsmen who as we write are rated within the first five mist dangerous global terrorists bodies in the international rating system.

The Northern state governors have contributed significantly to creating these chasms and divisions amongst various Ethno-religious communities depending on which faith groups dominates which state in the North.

The majority of the States in the North whereby Moslems constitute the political ruling class, Islam is treated like a state Religion to an extent that Christians from those communities are treated as second class citizens and are denied basic constitutional rights and freedoms. 

There are genuine complaints that Christians are denied Certificates of occupancy to erect their Churches in such places like Jigawa, Katsina amongst others even when there are Christians that are indigenous to those Communities. The Nigerian Constitution in section 42(1) prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion. The majority of the Northern States have created state funded institutions that build Mosques for Moslems and thereby committing constitutional crime which prohibits the elevation of any religion to the level of a state religion. In Katsina as well as Niger States, Christian teenage girls are abducted and forced into Moslem marriages without the consent of the Parents. These are some of the underlying causes that unsettles these communities and breed mutual mistrusts leading to breakdowns of law and order. 

These religious wars in the North CN only abate if all communities are afforded fair hearing and treated as equal partners in the Nigerian projects. This is exactly the reason for the criticism going to President Muhammadu Buhari who appointed only his fellow Hausa/Fulani Moslems as heads of strategic national security agencies including the heads of all the Intelligence agencies who are from his own state of katsina. In Plateau state recently, the Director General of the Nigerian secret police who is from Katsina State, a Christian man was arrested for facilitating the conversion from Islam to Christianity of a University undergraduate girl. Such misuse and abuse of power and authority to promote private religious obligations are the triggers that ignite religious wars in the North. President Buhari and the National Assembly must sanction the DG of SSS for this alleged infraction. 

These tendencies of most Northern Political class is the reason the style of the Borno state governor who accords equality of rights to ll persons in Borno state has attracted national acclaim from the cross sections of civil society and Christian communities.

 Daily Post, a reputable online national newspaper had recently reported the President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria, Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama as stating that he is attracted to the qualities in Governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima because he has proved not to be “narrow minded and myopic” but rather one who is broad and fair to adherents of all religious groups as being testified by Christian leaders from all denominations living in Borno.

Kaigama stated this in Maiduguri recently when he led Bishops to pay courtesy call on Governor Shettima.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference leadership was on an empathy visit to Borno to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Maiduguri catholic diocese (1966 to 2016).

His words: “I have met Governor Shettima at different Fora, and I must say I have been very much attracted to his personality. He is not the narrow minded and myopic kind of leader. He is a leader whose vision is broad and whose hands are large enough to embrace everybody.‎ He is also very humble.

“I told His Eminence, the Cardinal, that in some places we go, we have to wait for two hours or three in order to meet some government personalities but in Borno State, the Governor was the one receiving us and bringing us in. We came from different parts of Nigeria, and we are Catholic Bishops.

“It is our tradition to meet always, to interact, to pray, and to express solidarity with ourselves and those who are in need. We are a voice for the people. Our voice is a prophetic voice. We see where things are good, we say it so. Where things are bad, we say it so.

“This is our mission and today we are in Borno State. We are truly overwhelmed with what we have seen. I can tell you we are already convinced that Borno State is on a very high level gear of progress. ‎They say seeing is believing. We have come, we have seen, and we are convinced there’s a lot of good happenings here.

“Despite all the negative stories about terrorist attacks and so on, there are determined people on ground who have a capable leader in the person of the Governor determined to forge ahead, to inspire peaceful coexistence to encourage people to transcend the temporary obstacles in order that they can build a very solid and vibrant State.

“We are witnesses, and I can tell you we shall go from here to Lagos to Ibadan to Onitsha to Calabar to Lokoja to Abuja to tell this story” Archbishop Kaigama said.

‎Earlier, the Archbishop of Maiduguri Diocese, Bishop Oliver Dashe, spoke of how Governor Shettima has been rebuilding churches destroyed by Boko Haram in Borno State, supporting activities of Christian bodies for all denominations and being fair to Christians in the affairs of Government the same way he is fair to the more populated Muslim community.

“I want to tell you all (Archbishops) that Governor Kashim Shettima has been a father to all of us. Under his regime, we are experiencing fantastic relationship between the government and Christians in this State.

The Governor makes sure he carries everybody along as far as his administration is concerned”, Archbishop Dashe said.

The Christian Association of Nigeria is known at the national level for speaking truth to power and for condemning practices by President Buhari that promotes Northern Islamic interests. Christians have also taken exceptions to the sectional form of appointments of national security team by Buhari made up of an entire Hausa/Fulani team to the consternation of objective minded Nigerians and right thinking persons all around the World. Buhari hurriedly labelled the indigenous people of Biafra as a terror organization even when the members are non-violent but he has failed to classify armed Fulani herdsmen as terrorists and is applying national security measures that favours the alleged killers. 

But in Borno state, Bishop Naga Williams Mohammed who is the Chairman of Christians Association of Nigeria (CAN), Borno State and also Secretary of Northern Bishops incorporated is praising the Borno state governor for being fair to all cotizens irrespective of the Ethno religious differences.

The Christian Leader hails from Gwoza, Borno State, a place once seized by Boko Haram and declared as their Caliphate. The Christian cleric who spoke in an interview with a group of journalists in Maiduguri on the support Gov. Kashim Shettima has given to Christians in the wake of the Boko Haram crisis in rebuilding the churches that were destroyed by the insurgents in Borno State. 

My brothers, those who are not from Borno State may not know, but you and I know better. In the history of Borno State, there is no Governor that has been fair to the Christian Community in this State as much as Governor Kashim Shettima. I am saying this in the presence of God Almighty and this is nothing but the truth. Governor Shettima, in the history of Borno, is the only Governor that has sponsored highest number of Christian Pilgrims every year since 2011. I am speaking boldly without fear or favour because as CAN Chairman I do not receive salary or kobo from Government or any institution, but the facts need to be told. This Governor has shown compassion to the Christian Community. For example, when Gwoza people were driven from their ancestral homes, they fled to Maiduguri, and the Governor personally came to CAN Centre in Jerusalem ward two times in June and July 2014. He gave N10 million for their upkeep at first instance, by the victims were not many. By the end of October 2014, the IDPs from Gwoza increased to 42,000 in that camp alone. Governor Shettima came again and gave another N10 million. He also gave additional N5 million for Christians from Borno who fled to Cameroon to be returned home. He gave another N5 million for non-indigenes who fled to Cameron to come back to Nigeria. The Governor even directed the Borno State Emergency Management Agency, SEMA to be supplying food directly to the IDPs in under the Christian leadership. In fact, the Governor insisted that he wanted Christian IDPs to stay together with their Muslim counterparts in various designated IDP camps here in Maiduguri but we the leaders felt it wise to separate Christian IDP’S to avoid frictions between displaced persons dealing with trauma.

To end the perennial and incessant religious wars in the North, all the state governments must treat all citizens as equal under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. With all the inherent imperfections embeds in the Constitution, under the strickest compliance to the provision of non-discrimination can bring to an end the various raging silent and loud religious skirmishes in Northern Nigeria. 

*Emmanuel Onwubiko is the Head of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) and;