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Presidency replies UK Parliament report on religious genocide in Nigeria
By Vincent UFUOMA
THE presidency has reacted to a report by the United Kingdom All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief, that cited instances of persecution and genocides of Christians in Nigeria.
The report which is titled; “Nigeria – Unfolding Genocide?” raised the concerns of escalating violence in Nigeria between Fulani herders and farmers in Northern Nigeria.
The report claimed that the violence is mostly directed at and affected by Christians in the North, most of whom have lost their lives and others, their livelihoods to violent Fulani headers.
“APPG members have been alarmed by the dramatic and escalating violence in Nigeria characterised as the farmer-herder conflict. This violence has manifested along ideological lines, as the herders are predominantly ethnic Fulani Muslims and the farmers are predominantly Christians.
“There has been significant debate about what factors are driving and exacerbating this crisis. Therefore the APPG launched a parliamentary inquiry to help develop a nuanced understanding of the drivers of violence and increase parliamentary, public and Governmental interest in the issue. The report is the result of that inquiry.”
APPG stated that the response of the Nigerian Government to the conflict involving farmers and herders had been inadequate or ineffective and that this had allowed violence to emerge and escalate.
In a statement on Friday, the presidential spokesperson, Mr. Garba Shehu, rejected the content of the report. He said, unlike previous administrations, the Muhammadu Buhari’s administration has been taking steps to ensure the security of lives and properties in the North regardless of religious beliefs.
Mr. Garba said religious tension between farmers and headers in Nigeria is a long age battle for arable lands by farmers and quality grazing by headers.
He admitted that religious tensions in the country became heightened due to the activities of Boko-Haram whom he claimed the Nigerian Military has brought to the minimum.
He said, “The President and Government of Nigeria wish to thank members of the United Kingdom All-Party Parliamentary Group on International Religious Freedom or Belief for their report, launched a few days ago. Although it is difficult reading, the statement also acknowledges the importance of accurate, unbiased, depoliticised and truthful information when it comes to understanding the realities and addressing the challenges for those of faith in Nigeria. In this regard when uncritical attention is afforded to critics with dubious intentions, it only becomes harder for both the government and people of Nigeria to engage in constructive dialogue to resolve our differences, and uphold what is enshrined in our Constitution and laws: that everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
“It is clear for all to see that there have, for generations in Nigeria, been tensions between our major religions, Christianity and Islam – and between herders and farmers – both for access to ever-decreasing arable and farmland due to a rapidly rising population, temperatures and desertification through global warming.
“Exacerbating those tensions, our nation has also been in recent times and focused within the northern states – subject to vicious and criminal attacks by the terror group Boko Haram.
“In concert with our American and British allies, Nigeria’s military have pushed back the terrorists and largely reduced their capacity over the last five years compared to the previous decade.
“Boko Haram have targeted Christians and Churches specifically because they know it drives forward religious and land tensions already existent in the country. Similarly, they attack mosques and Muslims in order to issue the threat: radicalise, or become targets yourselves.”
He said the president is working very hard with the vice president to make sure all of these concerns become a thing of the past.
“In the months and years ahead, our President who is Muslim and our Vice President who is an evangelical Christian pastor are irrevocably committed to addressing these multiple and long-term challenges for today’s and future generations.”
Some of the steps being taken by the president include “continuing and increasing Nigeria’s efforts alongside our allies to fully defeat and finally finish Boko Haram, in order to bring security to the north of the country.
“Continuing to seek, negotiate for, and secure the return of all those held hostage and in captivity by the terrorists, regardless of the religious faith or belief.
“Uniting our nation through dialogue organised around respect for difference in religion. Such a programme is already underway under the leadership of the Vice President, Pastor Yemi Osinbajo.
“Addressing, through Joint Federal and State Governments programmes, access to arable farmland – with land mandated both for farmers and herders. The federal government will issue detailed measures regarding this plan and its rollout in the coming weeks
“Countering fake news – particularly on social and digital media – by working with the non-partisan stakeholder community, the National Broadcasting Commission and social media platforms themselves, to address the proliferation of false and inflammatory commentary,” he said.