Niger State Governor Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu has said that the time has come for governors and President Goodluck Jonathan to urgently go after the sponsors of the Boko Haram sect. “We know the sponsors of the sect,” said the governor.
According to Aliyu, the only way to end the acts of bombing across the Northern states is to go after the masterminds of the sect.
Aliyu, who stated this when he paid a visit to the leaders of the Saint Theresa’s Catholic Church Madalla, in Suleja, said that the Madalla church attack should be a turning point to end the bombings attributed to the sect.
He said: “We know highly placed people up there as sponsors of the sect and it is time for Mr. President, security agents and all of us to go after the sponsors of the Boko Haram now. This is a pure act of terrorism and not religious.”
He added that it was time for President Jonathan to act decisively to end the killings of innocent citizens. He sympathised with the church and the families of victims.
Aliyu announced the setting up of a ministerial committee to assess the damages and take a census of those affected in order to compensate the victims.
The parish priest of the church, Rev. Father Isaac Achi, confirmed that the leaders of the church had ascertained that 22 members of the church died in the incident, adding that several other people were still missing.
Father Achi recalled that the most pathetic was a case of a nine-year-old child that was thrown over three houses and found on top of the roof of a building as a result of the blast.
He said: “This morning, we rushed two members to hospital while two others were taken to hospital yesterday as a result of the impact of the blast.
“A suicide bomber was forcing his way into the church before he was stopped by the police, and, on interrogation, he detonated the bomb, killing dozens.”
LEADERSHIP checks at the Suleja General Hospital revealed that all the victims of the blasts who were at the hospital were either transferred to the National Hospital or the Gwagwalada Teaching Hospital, Abuja.
Meanwhile, President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday engaged the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, in an emergency meeting over the Christmas Day bombing of a Catholic Church in Madalla, near Abuja, and other blasts that targeted a church in Jos and the SSS headquarters in Damaturu, Yobe State.
The Sultan came out from the meeting that lasted over two hours in the president’s residence at the presidential villa, Abuja, declaring that despite the killings and bombings, there was no conflict between Christians and Muslims in the country. It was a war between evil people and good people in which the good people overshadowed the bad ones in large numbers, he said.
This is even as the national security adviser (NSA), General Andrew Azazi, who was present at the meeting, lamented that Nigeria was too large an entity to be policed absolutely. “It is absolutely difficult to man every point of the country when there are security problems,” said Azazi.
The meeting, LEADERSHIP gathered, came at the instance of a directive issued by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), the umbrella Christian association, in the 19 northern states and Abuja on Boxing Day to Christians, charging them to defend themselves against violent attacks by the Boko Haram terrorist group.
Addressing State House correspondents immediately after the meeting, the Sultan said: “We came in here to felicitate and commiserate with Mr President over the unfortunate incident that happened in this period. We’ve had very positive meetings with Mr. President on so many things and how to move this country forward, how to make our country stable and to approach those challenges that are facing Nigeria on a common ground.
“I want to assure all Nigerians that there is no conflict between Christians and Muslims, between Islam and Christianity. It is a conflict between evil people and good people and the good people are more than the evil doers. The good people must come together to defeat the evil ones, and that is the message.
“We want to assure all our Christian brothers, leaders, that we stand on the path of truth according to our religion; that we will continue to work Insha Allahu for the greatness of this country.
“As I said, there is no conflict between Islam and Christianity and I want to assure that we will do all we can in the best of our ability to solve the numerous problems confronting our country.”
The Sultan hinted that in the meeting with the president, they agreed that the way out of the crisis was for the government to look at all the past reports, including the one set up by the president on the North-East crisis, and also the Solomon Lar report on the Plateau.
“At the resumption of work, Mr. President and his team will look through all these reports and then call for a meeting of a larger body for consultation with all of us, both religious and traditional leaders. So, we believe that is a very good way because we have to close ranks, because nowhere in our two religions, both Christianity and Islam, is it said that we should be violent in dealing with one another,” he said.
When told that Nigerians are worried that religious leaders were not speaking out enough, the Sultan said, “Have we not been speaking out? Did you read the press statement I issued out the day before yesterday? What else do you want us to say? We are totally against what has been happening, we totally condemn all these. Nobody can take anybody’s life, it’s unIslamic, it’s unGodly.
All lives are sacred, must be respected and protected by all. So we have been speaking out. We all know what the situations are and we can only advise the government and we have been advising the government on several occasions.”
Asked whether he condemns the perpetrators of the terrorist acts openly and then goes back to back them out of fear, he said: “There is no fear. I only speak as a Muslim leader and leader of Muslims and you know that we don’t say what we don’t mean and what we don’t do. It is against Islam; a special verse in the Holy Koran says so: “Don’t speak what you don’t do”.
“It is distasteful in the eyes of Almighty Allah, but we are quite aware of Almighty Allah’s instruction to always speak the truth because we will go back to Him to give account of what we have done on earth. So whatever we say to anybody or any group at any time, we wholly mean so.”
Also speaking after the meeting, General Azazi assured that security operatives were working hard to make sure that they get ahead of the situation.
On the recurring incidents of bombings along the Suleja-Zuba axis, the NSA said, “It is absolutely difficult to man every point of the country when there are security problems. Like I have said before, there is need for security awareness. There is need for public participation so that there must be cooperation between security and the society for us to make progress.”
On possible reprisal attack by the Christians, Azazi said, “We can’t have a situation where we think that one bad turn deserves another. We are Nigerians and, like we always say, I don’t see any major conflict between the Christian community and the Muslim community. You will find a situation where certain individuals, for whatever reasons, are causing these problems.
“Have we thought of what their ultimate intentions are?
Why will somebody go on to bomb Christians on Christmas Day? Look at the ultimate intentions. Do they want to really raise temper elsewhere? I think the Christian leaders (CAN) are meeting tomorrow to emphasise to the Christians that we must live together as a nation.
Retaliation is not the answer because if you retaliate, at what point will it end? Nigeria must survive as a nation, that is the key thing.”
On whether there were plans to overhaul the country’s security system, the NSA said, “When you say overhaul, what do you mean? We need to improve security certainly. What changes are you talking about? Why changes in leadership? Everybody thinks that if you change leaders in security, everything will work fine. If you ask a very simple question: what kind of security system have we been managing? Have the structures all been so good that we can overall produce result?