By Kayode Fasua in Abeokuta
A group, the International Christian Conscience Initiative (ICCI) has reiterated its call on the federal government to open a window of talks with terror groups, Boko Haram and Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP), with a view to exchanging Christian captives in their detention with the groups’ war commanders currently being held by the Nigerian government.
The ICCI’s call followed last week’s execution of four aid workers by the ISWAP, amidst fear for the life of Leah Sharibu and some Christians still being held separately by the two groups.
Speaking with THISDAY in Abeokuta after an emergency meeting of the ICCI, its International Coordinator, Prof. Olakunle Macaulay, said the group was miffed that the federal government had been foot-dragging on the plight of Sharibu and other Christians still being held by the insurgents.
“This is the time for Christian groups in the country to stand up and demand the release of Sharibu and others currently being held by these terrorists.
“We must know the extent to which the government has reached when, in two months time, Leah Sharibu would have spent two years in the captivity of these people; people who are detaining her simply because she has refused to renounce her faith.
“If the federal government could exchange Boko Haram war commanders with other people, why not with Sharibu and other Christians currently being held?
“A university lecturer captured by Boko Haram recently warned in a YouTube video clip released by Boko Haram, that Sharibu and other Christians could be killed if nothing was done by the government.
“ISWAP, which executed four male aid workers, according to information gathered, still has other Christians, especially female ones, in their dungeon; same as Boko Haram,” said 82-year-old Macaulay, who is a nephew of the late nationalist, Herbert Macaulay.
Besides, the octogenarian noted with dismay that there was no propriety in pardoning 893 ‘repented’ Boko Haram members without the government being able to also swap Sharibu and others with Boko Haram commanders in its detention.
“Ordinarily, terrorists should not be pardoned. If they were caught, they should face the wrath of the law. Pardoning them and allegedly absorbing them into the armed forces of the country should not have been, because terrorists are naturally hardened in heart”
“So if such people could be pardoned, and if some people from the other religion could be swapped with Boko Haram commanders, nothing stops the government from extending the same gesture to Christians who are Nigerians and deserve equal rights.
“As things are, our faith is being threatened; and as such, there is the need for people of good conscience all over the world to lend their voices, especially in this season of Christmas, marking the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ,” he demanded.
Macaulay however sneered at the role of the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) in maintaining religious harmony in the country, saying the body was no longer relevant, “having gone to sleep in the face of the plight of Christians in the country.”
The ICCI leader particularly pleaded with President Muhammadu Buhari, to help uphold the secularity of the country, by wading in, towards ensuring that Christians facing one ordeal or the other in the northeastern part of the country are protected.