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Controversy over victims of Boko Haram attacks

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• Presidency flays CAN’s comments on abducted girls
• Sultan backs Buhari, seeks a declaration of emergency
• PDP faults the president’s classification of killings
• Northern coalition unveils regional security outfit

The controversy over who, between Christians and Muslims, have lost more lives to the Boko Haram insurgency raged on yesterday with the presidency urging the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) to desist from statements that could further divide the citizens along religious lines.

President Buhari stirred up the controversy when he said that it was not true that the insurgents had killed more Christians than Muslims.

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In an op-ed published in Speaking Out, a guest opinion column for Christianity Today, a United States-based magazine, Buhari claimed that 90 per cent of those killed in Boko Haram attacks were Muslims.

In a reaction to the president’s claim, the Christian body said the Buhari administration was playing politics with the lives of the citizens.

CAN queried the source of Buhari’s records and challenged him to bring out his records with figures and the association would present its own.

The association said it was sure that even if the president added the number of Muslim victims to the number of the terrorists killed by the army, it could not be up to half the number of the Christian victims of the insurgents.

CAN alleged that the reason the presidency did not pay ransom to rescue the abducted Chibok girls was because 80 per cent to 90 per cent of the girls were Christians and the reason the government quickly paid the ransom for the kidnapped Dapchi girls and were released was the realisation that most of the girls were Muslims, except Leah Sharibu who is still in captivity.

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Yesterday, the president berated the leadership of CAN over comments on the Chibok and Dapchi schoolgirls’ abduction.

Through Buhari’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, the presidency specifically accused the Christian body of being antagonistic to every of the government’s attempts for the country to make progress.

“We are again constrained to react to unfounded allegations by the CAN about the payment or non-payment of ransom for the release of the Chibok and Dapchi schoolgirls,” he said.

But, upbraiding CAN while reacting, Adesina said when the media in August 2018 quoted a United Nations report alleging that the Federal Government paid a “huge ransom” for the release of the abducted Dapchi schoolgirls on March 21, 2018, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, immediately disputed the report, insisting that no ransom was paid, “little or huge.”

According to the minister, “There must be conclusive evidence to support such a claim. Without that, the claim remains what it is – a mere conjecture.

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“And we ask, ‘Who should Nigerians or CAN rather believe if there is good faith?’

“We urge CAN desist from disinformation which can further divide Nigerians. The letter and spirit of the Holy Bible do not support discord, which CAN’s allegations are liable to cause.

“The Christian body needs not to be antagonistic to every attempt by the administration to move Nigeria forward before it can champion or defend the Christian faith.”

The Sultan of Sokoto and President-General, Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, called on the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency on insecurity.

Sultan, who spoke yesterday at the National Mosque complex, Abuja expressed concerns over the spate of insecurity in the country and called on the Federal Government and all its agencies (including the military) to use whatever means possible to “arrest this descent into anarchy.”

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He said that Nigeria couldn’t just continue like this with the blood of the innocent being shed unjustly and human security being at its lowest ebb.

“The situation of Nigeria today is desperate and desperate situations require desperate measures in the collective interest of well-meaning Nigerians. Let the monster of insecurity be tackled actively and proactively with the full weight of Nigeria’s security and defense capacity.

“We reiterate that the Federal Government should act decisively now by declaring a state of emergency on insecurity and deploying all the security and military arsenal at its disposal to arrest the trend.

“Nigerians are dying needlessly to the satisfaction of the evil-minded political profiteers, ethnic irredentists and pseudo-religious agitators disguising as religious leaders. All hands must be on deck to arrest this ugly trend given that the primary purpose of government is the security of life and property of the governed. We equally urge the Federal Government to review and reinvent its security architecture by injecting more vim into security operations all over the country without further delay.”

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On the insinuation that the Boko Haram terrorists are agents of the Islamic faith, Sultan said: “We want to state in unequivocal terms, and for the umpteenth time, that Boko Haram does not represent Islam or Muslims. The group and the enemies of Islam hiding behind its mask are pursuing a rogue, venal and doggy agenda far removed from Islam. It is, therefore, the height of insincerity, wickedness, falsehood, and hypocrisy to suggest that Boko Haram is a ploy to eliminate Christians, a dummy being promoted by some dealers camouflaging as religious leaders to their followers and the outside world.

“It is incontrovertible that more Muslims, including Imams, have been slaughtered, displaced and dismembered than Christians since Boko Haram became what it is: a hydra-headed monster. Indeed, more mosques have been bombed or destroyed in the bloody campaign, which has consumed precious lives including those of our professors.

“To suggest that Christians are killed because they refuse to embrace Islam stands logic on its head. Were Muslim scholars and individuals killed in mosques, market squares, and villages because they refused to denounce Islam?”

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) described President Buhari’s alleged “resort to religious coloration and classification of wanton killings in the country by insurgents, as totally horrendous, unpresidential, scandalous, discriminatory, divisive and a huge … on the grave of the victims.”

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The party, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, said it was highly insensitive that “President Buhari could attempt to rationalise the failure of his administration to end the insurgency by stating that 90 percent of those killed by terrorists are members of a particular religion”

The PDP submitted that the killing of any compatriot, anywhere by terrorists or bandits, irrespective of religion, ethnicity or class, can never be rationalised under any guise whatsoever.

“The disturbing statement shows that the Buhari Presidency and the All Progressives Congress (APC) attach no value to the lives of Nigerians as well as further exposes their manifest lack of capacity and commitment to effectively tackle the worsened security situation under President Buhari’s watch”

It held that “for President Buhari, a commander-in-chief, who promised to fight from all fronts and now holds all the paraphernalia of power, and on whose shoulders the security of the nation rests, to make such a statement leaves no one in doubt that his presidency has reached its wits end, exhausted its propaganda and has no solutions to offer.”

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Meanwhile, members of the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) launched the northern regional security outfit code-named “SHEGE-KA-FASA”.

According to the CNG, the outfit was set up, among others, to complement the police, military, and other security agencies in their efforts to detect, expose and defeat criminals under the present situation of insecurity.

The coalition also explained that the Northern security outfit would carry out a specific and general task that would realign the attitude and thinking of the public with the ideals and objectives of the founding fathers of the region.

Others duties include “coordinate vigilantes to check and expose arms trade, supply channel, and possession in the region.”

Presenting what they described as the northern regional security initiative at the Arewa House in Kaduna yesterday, the spokesman of the group, Abdulazeez Suleiman, said the security initiative was, however, subject to ratification by the northern governors.

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