Assist Nigeria in ongoing humanitarian crisis, CAN tells world leaders •As US-based Initiative decries attacks on ethnic, religious minorities

The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), on Monday, called on the developed countries, world leaders across the world to assist Nigeria in the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the country.

This is just as the humanitarian groups currently working in the Northern part of the country; the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative and the Stefanos Foundation decried the attacks on the ethnic and religious minorities in the region by the Boko Haram terrorists and the Fulani militants, describing the situation as the “worst in the world.”

The President of CAN, Dr Samson Ayokunle, who was represented by the Vice President of CAN, Elder Professor Joseph Otubu, said in spite of the situation in Nigeria, it had not received the corresponding responses from the western countries.

Ayokunle, who was speaking at the two days capacity building workshop tagged; “Religious Freedom in Northern and Central Nigeria,” in Abuja, maintained that the victims “are human beings and need your and our assistance in order to bounce back to life again.”

His words: “This displacement (IDPs) is regarded today by many international bodies as the biggest humanitarian crisis/disaster in the world.

“The most disheartening thing about it is that it has not received substantial humanitarian response from the world, especially, the world’s most powerful nations as other disasters of smaller degrees in other parts of the world.

“I am, therefore, calling on the world’s powerful nations to come to the aid of Nigeria, in seeing the end of insurgency.

“Come to the aid of many victims of insurgency in many Internally Displaced Peoples’ camps or homes who are naked, jobless, orphaned, maimed or widows”.

He said many people had been hearing about the activities of terrorists in Nigeria without documented statistical idea of the impact of their activities, explaining that the workshop was designed to intimate them about the gravity of the situation.

Meanwhile, the United States of America-based group, the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative said since Boko Haram started its attack in Nigeria, about 910 schools was destroyed, forcing about 1,500 schools to close down.

The group also said 611 teachers had been killed in the North-East by the insurgents and about 19,000 additional teachers fled for their lives.

This was disclosed by Dr Elijah Brown while presenting a paper at a capacity building workshop organised by the CAN  in Abuja.

According Dr Brown, “since 2011, Boko Haram had killed over 15,000, displaced 2.1 million from their homes.

“Although exact numbers are difficult to ascertain, as many as 2,000 women, boys and girls have been abducted by Boko Haram since 2012.

“Since 2009 in the North-East Nigeria, 611 teachers have been intentionally killed and 19,000 additional teachers have fled from their homes, 910 schools have been destroyed and another 1,500 schools forced to close, leaving close to one million school-age children almost no opportunity for education.

Brown called on the federal and state governments to ensure rule of law and religious freedom in their respective domains to promote peace and unity in the country.

According to him, “Nigeria is a country on the verge of fracturing along religious fault lines. Ethnic and religious minorities in Northern Nigeria are largely forgotten as they face systemic discrimination.

“Muslim and Christian communities in North-Eastern Nigeria are profoundly and negatively impacted by the terrorists’ violence pursued by Boko Haram.

“In the Middle Belt, Fulani militant attacks are significantly escalating with the net effect that in the name of creating grazing territory largely Christian Local Government Areas are being targeted and destroyed.

“If immediate action is not taken, religious minorities in northern Nigeria will continue to face policies and practices that seek to remove their very presence, while the violence of Boko Haram in the northeast will further compound one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world.

“At the same time, the accelerating aggression of Fulani militants in the Middle Belt is threatening the heart of the country, creating one of the most significant security risks in West Africa, and solidifying religion as a primary identifier which will further destabilize and fracture Nigeria.”

“People of faith and centers of faith have also been deliberately targeted. More Muslims have been displaced than any other faith group due to the actions of Boko Haram. Between 2000 and 2014, more than 13,000 churches were abandoned, closed or destroyed in northern and central Nigeria.”

Speaking on the Fulani militancy, Brown said; “Following a similar pattern, Fulani militants in the Middle Belt rapidly progressed through the first two stages and are currently in the third stage. Without intervention, the crisis in the Middle Belt will continue to escalate.

“Further destabilization in Nigeria has clear implications for the country as well as for the West African region as a whole including countries such as Benin, Chad, Cameroon, Mali, and Niger.”

The group therefore recommended the establishment of “the Nigerian Police Forces throughout the entire country, especially in communities impacted by ethno-religious violence, and ensuring these individuals are adequately trained and held accountable.

“Designing programs related to religious freedom and rule of law that can be deployed throughout the country and ensuring that all citizens have a fair opportunity to participate in the political process.

“Ending policies and practices of impunity; and Working to ensure the full establishment of the rule of law, religious freedom, conceptions of national citizenship, the federal constitution, and the maturation of Institutions of governance.”