- Northern minorities may be extinct, say US groups
Paul Obi in Abuja
As world leaders meet at the United Nations at the ongoing 71st UN General Assembly in New York, United States, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) monday sent Save Our Soul (SOS) messages to the western countries, world leaders and philanthropists across the world on the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Nigeria.
This came as two US groups, the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative and the Stefanos Foundation, bemoaned the incessant attacks on ethnic and religious minorities in northern Nigeria 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, noted that in spite of the devastation in Nigeria, being the worst in the world, it had not received the corresponding responses from the western countries.
Ayokunle stated this at a two-day capacity building workshop tagged: ‘Religious Freedom in Northern and Central Nigeria’ in Abuja, adding that the victims “are human beings and need yours and our assistance in order to bounce back to life again.
“This displacement is regarded today by many international bodies as the biggest humanitarian crisis or 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 degree in other parts of the world.
“I am therefore calling on the world powerful nations to come to the aid of Nigeria to end the insurgency. Come to the aid of many victims of insurgency in many internally displaced people’s camps or homes who are naked, jobless, orphaned, maimed or widowed.”
CAN President said many people had heard about the activities of terrorists in Nigeria without documented statistical idea of the impact, explaining that the workshop was designed to intimate them about the gravity of the situation.
“This conference would afford us the opportunity and help us watch out against terrorism. This conference would also help enable us rise to the aid of victims of insurgency in many internally displaced people’s camps all over Nigeria,” he said.
Speaking on their fact findings about the insurgency in the northern part of the country, the Vice President of the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative, Dr. Elijah Brown , said: “What is unfolding in the northern and central Nigeria is one of the gravest current humanitarian crises in the world.”
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.
He said: “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 and systematic discrimination.
“Muslim and Christian communities in North-eastern Nigeria are profoundly and negatively impacted by the terrorist violence pursued by Boko Haram insurgents.
“In the Middle Belt, Fulani militants’ 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 extinct their presence, while the violence of Boko Haram in the North-east 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 destabilise and fracture Nigeria.”
Brown disclosed that over 2.1 million people had been displaced internally with about 2,000 women, boys and girls adopted by the Boko Haram terrorist group since 2012.
The report said: “As of December 2015, there were 2,152,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Nigeria-the third highest figure in Africa and the seventh in the world.
“However, the reality is far direr as the majority of Nigerian IDPs seek refuge with family or in makeshift camps that are not formally recognised or counted. Although exact numbers are difficult to ascertain, as many as 2,000 women, boys and girls have been abducted by Boko Haram since 2012.
“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 are the things needed now.”