BY PETER AJAYI DADA
NIGERIA’S bishops have said that government inaction led to the murder of more than 2,000 people during an uprising by the extremist Islamic group, Boko Haram.
The bishops said that, despite government knowledge of plans for the violence “and despite reports made to appropriate authorities, inaction of government allowed the sect to destroy more than 2,000 lives before the insurrection was brought down”.
They said: “We have no democracy worth the name if government cannot protect the life and property of the citizen.
“Failure on the part of government to secure life and property of every Nigerian is less than commendable,” the bishops said.
They made their comments in a statement issued after their plenary conference.
The Boko Haram sect opposes western education and insists on the imposition of Sharia, or Islamic law. The uprising began at the end of July after the arrest of some of the sect’s members.
In their statement the bishops criticised the “culture of violence that prevails in Nigeria [including] kidnapping, armed robbery, dangerous driving on our roads, killing in the name of religion, to name but these”.
“We condemn violence on whatever excuse or disguise, and from whatever direction. We condemn it, above all, when its perpetrators blasphemously and fraudulently claim religious justifications,” the bishops said.
“We wish to note that those who claim that they love God while hating their fellow human beings, even to the extent of killing them, are liars,” they said.
The bishops also praised the Nigerian government for the general amnesty it granted to militants in the Niger Delta, where ethnic militias claiming to act on behalf of impoverished local residents have been accused of the kidnappings of oil workers, extortion, vandalism of oil facilities and the theft of crude oil.
The bishops advised the government to continue on the path of drastically improving the quality of life of the people of the region, stressing that government officials should not just wave an olive branch.
“The situation in the Niger Delta is deeply rooted in injustice. It is simply unjust to impoverish the people who live on the land that produces the bulk of Nigeria’s wealth,” the bishops said.
“We urge the government to fulfil its promise on the development of the people of the Niger Delta and equally appeal to the militants to accept the amnesty,” they said.