In response to a recent wave of violence and mass killings among Nigerians, the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria issued a statement last week reiterating the need for a proactive response from the government and law enforcement.
The June 29 statement addressed “The Plateau Massacre” which occurred June 21-24. An eruption between largely Christian farmers and Fulani herders, most of whom are Muslim, over limited natural resources, it left more than 80 dead, including children and pregnant women.
The series of clashes in Plateau State was the latest in a slew of incidents that have occurred over the course of several years.
A January attack by Fulani herdsmen saw upwards of 100 deaths. In April, several herdsmen murdered several priests and laypeople at a Catholic church in Benue State.
The bishops had issued a statement lamenting the violence and calling for action after the April attack, and the new incident in Plateau State “shows that our last statement, like all the others before, has been completely ignored by those, whose primary responsibility it is to protect the lives and property of Nigerians,” they said.
The prelates have previously called on President Muhammadu Buhari, who is himself Fulani and Muslim, to resign over the lack of governmental response to the Fulani violence.
The Fulani “seem to be above the law in our country,” according to the Nigerian prelates.
The bishops mourned the “disrespect for the dignity of human life” in the wake of the Plateau Massacre, saying that the criminals “have insisted that human lives are worth less than the lives of cattle. This shameful inversion of values portrays our country as barbaric and our society as brutish.”
Admonishing the Nigerian government for not “proactively” dealing with conflict, the bishops also suggested that a “double standard” exists against those who are not Muslim.
“It can no longer be regarded as mere coincidence that the suspected perpetrators of these heinous crimes are of the same religion as all those who control the security apparatus of our country, including the President himself,” the statement said. “Words are no longer enough for the President and his service chiefs to convince the rest of the citizens that these killings are not part of a larger religious project.”
“While we vehemently condemn any shedding of human blood and ask the Police to speedily arrest and prosecute the perpetrators of these crimes, we must point out the double standards applied by the same Police any time the herdsmen are attacked and killed. In this latter case they react very swiftly and the law promptly takes its course. Would that the same swiftness be applied to all cases.
“Once again,” the bishops said, “we ask President Muhammadu Buhari to please save this country from further pain and avoidable chaos, anarchy and doom.” Should he not take action to promote peace, he should step down from his role, the statement said, as he would lose “the trust of the citizens.”
The bishops also asked for prayers “for peace and harmony in our country.”