The primary occupation of every responsible government is the protection of life and property of its citizens. When vicious and persistent dismantling of public safety resulting in the unremitting destruction of human life becomes a recurring subject in the political, socio-economic and religious discourse of a people, a responsible government should not score itself a pass mark in any ramification of governance since security is the necessary foundation for mutual existence and credible development.
Nigeria is a federal republic of 36 states and the federal capital territory. Right from the the early 20th century, the country has been sharply divided along regional, ethnic and religious fault-lines. We are one people with enormous potential both human and natural for becoming a great nation on the world stage. Unfortunately, this has been perpetually twisted and corrupted by self-gratifying leaders who interpret our diversities as irreconcilable differences. Nonetheless, Nigerians continue to live unruffled, inter marry, trade, study in schools, celebrate holy days together with a common hope for a fair, egalitarian and just society where everyone is someone. There is a strong solidarity among Nigerians in spite of the seeming irreparable cracks created and magnified by some unpatriotic so called statesmen and leaders in all strata of our collective interactions.
The security challenges that the country faces are not peculiar to this environment, neither are they intractable nor unstoppable. Nigeria currently has intricate security challenges: Boko Haram/ISWAP in the Northeast, armed Fulani militias in the Middle Belt, banditry, kidnapping and cattle rustling in the Northwest, Biafra in the Southeast, massive vandalism of oil infrastructures, bunkering and kidnapping for ransom in the South (Niger Delta), and agitation for restructuring and bloody clash between locals and the armed Fulani militia in the Southwest.
In the past, this stratification of the crisis in Nigeria was localized to the different regions where they first originated. Today however, there is a prevailing security threat being simultaneously experienced in all the different regions of the federation including the places where it is believed should be the natural habitation of the perpetrators: the Herdsmen who attack.
From North to South, East to West, the news media has been awash daily with reports of the heinous activities of the Fulani (armed) herdsmen on locals resulting in mindless killings, rape, destruction of means of livelihood and homes, kidnapping for ransom and in some places displacement of locals and replacement with herders (land grabbing). What further escalates the situation is the present government’s nonchalant attitude to the myriads of allegations against the Fulani militia group and its constant defensive posture in favour of them.
The church and in particular the Church of Nigeria Anglican Communion has had her own share of the throes of terror. Churches are attacked, either burnt or forced to close down; members are killed for the fun of it or for refusing to recant their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; church leaders and congregants are kidnapped for ransom; government forceful takeover of church land and destruction of church buildings and properties. No part of the North is spared.
Recently, 25 male and female worshippers were kidnapped in Gwada community in Igabi local government area of Kaduna state a few kilometers behind a military cantonment and a senior army officers training school. As at the time of writing, there is no news of their release. Two other Anglican churches have been forcefully closed down as the locals have relocated to neighbouring safe communities due to obvious threats to their lives by the armed bandits and kidnappers. These incidents all took place within the Anglican Diocese of Wusasa under the leadership of the Most Rev’d Ali Buba Lamido. There have also been isolated and unreported cases of banditry and kidnap of individuals in some of our local Anglican dominated communities.
There is also the case of repeated attacks and destruction of churches in some of our dioceses in the North. Just recently a church in Yola diocese that is about the biggest and best Anglican Church in terms of size and architectural design was destroyed by Boko Haram in Garkida town, in Gombi local government area of Adamawa state on 21st February 2020. Through the support of the government and well-meaning individuals, the edifice was rebuilt only for the same Boko Haram insurgents to bring it down to its foundation in another attack on 24th December 2020. That Church has not recovered from the double tragedy that befall her till date. Worshippers now have to make do with the rubbles of what was once a very comfortable place of worship. In some communities under Yola diocese, Sunday worship and other weekly activities have been abandoned owing to the incessant attacks by armed bandits and especially Boko Haram.
Another attack on the Anglican communion in the North took place in Ikarra diocese under the province of Kaduna. Armed bandits attacked a community, killed two men who had to be buried immediately owing to the several bullet wounds they sustained during the attack. During the same attack the bandits made away with two women from the community for which they demanded huge ransom. Their initial demand for an N80m ransom was eventually brought down to just N5m which at the end of the day was never paid to secure the release of the women owing to the heroics of some locals among them. There was also the case of armed attack and theft against the Bishop of Ikarra himself. Some armed men forced their way into the residence of his lordship, the Rt. Rev’d Yusufu Janfalan and made away with some valuables leaving some of the family injured. Still on kidnapping of Anglicans, the wife of the Bishop of the Anglican diocese of Bari Rt. Rev’d Ado Zubairu was kidnapped alongside her secretary until a N6m ransom was paid to secure their release.
Most recently, the Anglican diocese of Zaria found herself at the receiving end of the wrath of the authority of Kaduna state. The cathedral of St. Georges which currently is situated at the heart of the Zaria market has been asked to vacate the place. This Church was there several decades before the idea of situating a market was birthed, yet the Church has been threatened with letter of notice for demolition by successive governments in the state. Apart from the main church building which is also under a demolition notice, some buildings within the Cathedral premises have been pulled down. Worshippers in the Cathedral are not safe due to the fact that the threat of demolition still hangs over the building thereby affecting the worship life the people. Because of these actions of the government and the mismanagement of the whole situation on the part of the church leadership, the Church of Nigeria has asked the sitting Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Zaria to proceed on sabbatical leave.
The Church of Nigeria has on several instances exercised her scope of influence to get support or release for victims of banditry/kidnap. In terms of protecting her members, the church of Nigeria relies fully on the security apparatus of the state to secure her people.