WHEN will Nigeria wriggle out of the spell of bloodshed into which deeper and deeper it has plunged, is a question underlying local and international concern about the senseless waste of lives and property in the country.
The high level of insecurity has sparked off fear reinforced by the seeming futility of government’s strategies to tackle the menace.
Those who have condemned the bombing of churches in Madalla, Niger State and in parts of Plateau and Yobe states by the Boko Haram sect on Christmas Day include the United Nations, United States, Russia, Catholic Pontiff Benedict XVI, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN).
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon who spoke strongly against the attacks, said they were unjustifiable. A statement released by his office in New York said: “The Secretary-General calls once again for an end to all acts of sectarian violence in Nigeria and reiterates his firm conviction that no objective sought can justify this resort to violence.” In its reaction, the U.S. described the attacks “senseless violence and tragic loss of life on Christmas Day.”
Also, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, in a statement made available to The Guardian by the Russian Embassy in Abuja yesterday, said “it is with profound regret that I have learnt about a series of terrorist attacks in Nigerian cities which resulted in numerous human casualties.”
Restating strong opposition to terrorism in any guise, he said: “I vigorously condemn the cruelty and cynicism of the committed crimes and I would like to make a special emphasis that terrorism does not have a nationality or a religion.
“It is a global problem which we must address together and Russia is ready to tightly cooperate with the international community in fighting this menace.”
The Catholic Pontiff, speaking from his window overlooking the St. Peter’s Square in Rome, condemned the heinous act as “absurd gesture” which has only brought pain, destruction and death.
Back home, the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) condemned the bombing of churches, saying the agenda of the perpetrators was to spark up religious crisis in Nigeria.
Besides, the Forum urged the militant Islamic sect, Boko Haram that claimed responsibility for the unfortunate incident to embrace the avenue of constructive dialogue, which has been offered to redress their grievances rather than engage in killing of innocent Nigerians and condemning western education, which is not the source of the socio-economic decadence in the country.
In a statement by the ACF National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Anthony Sani, the group urged Nigerians not to indulge in anything that may evoke religious violence.
“The spate of bomb blasts on Christmas Day, which were directed at places of worships across some parts of the North is a serious source of concern to Arewa Consultative Forum, to northern leaders and to the good people of the North, and indeed to patriotic Nigerians,” ACF said, stressing that our “source of concern is not because past bombings were less serious but because those on the Christmas Day are capable of diverting attention to religious crises that would serve no one, including the perpetrators, any good now and for a long time to come. Killing of innocent Nigerians is not correct and offends God and many people’s sense of justice,” the group noted.
The Council of Ogoni Professionals (COP International, USA) said it was sad that Nigeria cannot protect the life and property of its citizens, expressing fear that a retaliatory attack on Muslims in the Southern part of the country should be averted by the Federal Government by overhauling “its security apparatus immediately and tackle the Boko Haram threat decisively.
The mere fact that the law abiding cannot go about exercising their fundamental right to religious freedom without fear of being killed is a national disgrace. This is a pointer that Nigeria is gradually gliding into a state of anarchy and may eventually become a failed state if this precarious national security situation is not checked.”
In its reaction, the ACN accused the Federal Government of wasting valuable time and resources on the meaningless fuel subsidy debate while neglecting the Boko Haram crisis that has continued to consume the lives of innocent citizens.
The party, in a statement, said if the government had spent half of the resources it had devoted to the fuel subsidy issue on the Boko Haram crisis, and had organised as many consultations with stakeholders on Boko Haram as it had done on fuel subsidy, the crisis would have been resolved by now and hundreds of precious lives saved.
‘’There is no point in mincing words: This government has got its priorities wrong and has acted in a manner that suggests total disregard for human lives. Or how else does one explain a situation where citizens, including security agents, are being hacked
down daily by the Boko Haram insurgents and all the government is doing is to waste time and resources on the phantom fuel subsidy issue?’’ ACN queried.
The PDP condemned the bombings, saying it “deeply regrets the loss of lives and properties in this senseless carnage which, no doubt, has brought untold hardship, pain and sorrow to all the people affected during this period that Nigerians are supposed to be celebrating Christmas.
We wish to once again condemn in totality this recourse to extremist ideologies in a multi-religious and multi-cultural society such as ours.’’
Former Head of State Maj.-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) blamed the carnage on lack of competent leaders to tackle the nation’s security problems.
Buhari was, in a Reuters report, said to have spoken in a statement in a Nigerian daily that the government was slow to respond and had shown indifference to the bombings. “This is clearly a failure of leadership at a time the government needs to assure the people of the capacity to guarantee the safety of lives and property,” Buhari was quoted to have said, adding that the government needed to do more than spend more on security to deal with the problem.
Meanwhile, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) has confirmed that 16 victims feared dead have been taken to the mortuary while over 27 people who sustained various degrees of injuries have been taken to the hospital. It added that three rescue officers of the agency were involved in an accident while transporting the blast victims to hospital.
The Director General of NEMA, Alhaji Mohammed Sani-Sidi, who spoke with journalists, assured Nigerians that the agency, in collaboration with others, is still evacuating and transporting victims who are in private hospitals to government-owned hospitals where they would be taken better care of. He said the Federal Government would be responsible for the treatment of those that were injured in the bomb blast.
The Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the attacks in a telephone interview with newsmen by the sect’s spokesman Abul Qaqa yesterday at the Nigeria Union
of Journalist (NUJ) press centre, Maiduguri.
Qaqa said: “Our Christmas attacks and bombings in the North were meant to prove that no amount of surveillances by security agents in the country will deter our members from doing whatever we planned to execute in ensuring that Sharia legal system is established with the abrogation of the democratic system of government in Nigeria.”
He reiterated that “by the grace of God, we are responsible for all the attacks today (Sunday). What we did was a reminder to all those that forgot the atrocities committed against our Muslim brothers during the Eid-el-Fitr celebrations in Jos. Many Muslims were killed, but the Federal Government and the international community maintained sealed lips, until we launched attacks on some churches in three states in North.”