•Lagos churches shun CAN protest
•Northern CAN threatens to call out members
•Sack Service Chiefs, Makinde tells Buhari
By our reporters
LAGOS—Christians all over the country, yesterday, embarked on a peaceful protest to register their displeasure over the spate of killings by herdsmen across Nigeria.
The umbrella body of Christians in the country, Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, had last week urged its members all over the country to protest the killings, especially as the federal government has failed to put a stop to it.
In response to the call, Christians in virtually all the states in the country embarked on the peaceful protest.
The protest, however, failed to hold in Lagos, as churches in the state ignored the call by the Christian body.
In Ondo State, the protest almost turned violent as angry Christians chased away the deputy governor, Agboola Ajayi, who tried to address them, insisting the governor must be the one to address them.
They expressed concern that the state governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, despite prior notice of their coming, shunned the Christian leaders across the state.
As the deputy governor was trying to explain why the governor was absent, the angry Christians chased him away from addressing them in front of Government House which they blocked and held a rally for hours.
They insisted that they wanted the governor to come out of Government House to address them.
They chorused: “It is the governor or nobody; we voted for him and we expect him to take our issues seriously. The deputy governor should go back, we don’t want him to address us.”
Yesterday’s protest which was organized by CAN, saw vehicular movements in the state capital grounded for several hours as Christians in their thousands marched to the Government House.
Movement and outside the Government House was halted for hours as the Christian leaders occupied the entrance for their rally.
They displayed different placards with different inscriptions and chanted anti-government songs.
Speaking during the protest, the CAN chairman in Ondo State, Revd John Ayo Oladapo, said the protest across the country became necessary, following the incessant killing of innocent Christians.
“We are here today to register our displeasure to the on going killings across the country. We want to say Christians in the country are not second class citizens. We will not allow these killings.”
In Oyo State, churches across Ibadan joined their counterparts across the country to peacefully ventilate their anger over continued killings of Christians in the country.
Though they did not march through the streets, they stayed around church premises where they called on the federal government to stop the killings of innocent Christians across the country.
Led by the President of CAN, Dr. Supo Ayokunle, who staged his protest at Oritamefa Baptist Church, Ibadan, the clergymen, armed with placards with various inscriptions such as “FG, stop these wicked acts”, “CAN says no to religious killings”, “Enough of Bloodshed in Nigeria”, “Release Leah Sharibu from captivity”, among others, said: “Since 2009, bloodshed has continued, governments after governments, administrations after administrations have been promising us not to fear and go about our businesses, that they are on top of the situation but we have seen that they are never on top of it.
“Bloodshed has continued. It used to be Boko Haram alone, now herdsmen have joined them and they have been killing people and decimating communities.
“Now they have concentrated on Christian communities, the Middle Belt, which is majorly Christians; they have been killing and maiming and to cap it all, they have now started going into churches.”
Government isn’t in charge, says Northern CAN
Chairman of Christian Association of Nigeria in 19 Northern States and Abuja, Rev. Yakubu Pam, said the killings in Nigeria had gone on as though there was no government in Nigeria.
Noting that the events were, indeed, very unpalatable, Pam said: “I told somebody a short while ago that if things continue like this, Northern Christians will definitely come out on the streets and begin to shout till everybody, including the international community, will hear and intervene in the affairs of this country.
“Now that they are beginning to kill pastors and reverend fathers inside churches, we are no longer safe. It’s only God that will deliver us now.”
Sack your security chiefs now, Makinde tells Buhari
As part of the protest, immediate past Prelate of Methodist Church Nigeria, Most Rev. Sunday Ola Makinde, called for the sack of service chiefs.
He said: “The situation in Benue State is lamentable but for once, I think Mr. President has got it right this time, at least, for coming out and expressing his regret at the right time and warning us that it should not degenerate into a religious crisis.
“So, we should at least, commend him and not just be lambasting him as an uncaring leader. And what he has said, I hope, will douse tension because I think it is more than just herdsmen.
“The President should now hearken to the voice of reason which has been agitating for a change in the military apparatus of the nation. That is my candid opinion now.”
In Ekiti State, Christians of various denominations took to the streets of Ado Ekiti and other major towns in the state protesting the unabated killings of fellow Christians by unknown gunmen in Benue, Taraba and parts of North East.
Wielding placards of various inscriptions, the protesters, who trooped out in their numbers around 11 am, under the auspices of Christian Association of Nigeria, (CAN), lampooned the Federal Government for not being able to put an end to the bloodshed in the Middle Belt area of the country.
They said the current trend might lead to another civil war if not curtailed in record time.
The mass protest was led by the state Chairman of CAN, Rev. Joshua Orikogbe and other top church leaders.
The protesting Christians marched from CAN State headquarters along Adebayo/ Opopogbooro area of the state capital to the popular Adekunle Fajuyi Memorial Park, before ending it at the Government House where they sent a letter to the President through Governor Ayo Fayose.
In Osun State, members of Baptist Church joined their counterparts across the country to stage a peaceful protest against the killings and insurgency in some part of the country, calling on President Mohammed Buhari to urgently find lasting solution to the heinous acts.
Speaking during the protest, Pastor Femi Abiola of the Calvary Baptist Church, Osogbo, who led other church members to stage the protest, said the protest would enable the world know the challenges Nigerians Christians were currently facing in the hands of insurgents/herdsmen.
In Anambra State, the President, Catholic Priests of West Africa, Rev Fr Martin Onukwuba, surrounded by some of his members, said at a briefing yesteday: “The citizens of Nigeria were known to love each other and had coexisted side by side all along, until recently. What happened? What went wrong? When will this barbarism end?
“The increasing attacks by the now notorious herdsmen, had evidently not received commensurate reprimand or official condemnation or expected strong push from President Buhari, hence they now turned the country into a massive graveyard.
“We are sad. We are angry. We feel totally exposed and most vulnerable and faced with these dark clouds of fear and anxiety, our people are daily being told by some to defend themselves.”
In Abuja, Bishop of The African Church, Diocese of the North and Abuja, Peter Ogunmuyiwa, alleged that the ceaseless killings of Christians in Nigeria was aimed at the extinction of Christians, thereby making the country a Muslim nation.
He spoke just as some Christian faithful staged a peaceful protest in Abuja against the actions of the marauding herdsmen..
Delivering a sermon at the National Christian Centre, Abuja, during an interdenominational service organised by CAN, Bishop Ogunmuyiwa, who earlier led the protest, said the action was informed by the unabated killings of Christians in the country.
In Benue State, Christian Association of Nigerian, CAN, called for the immediate resignation of President Muhammadu Buhari over his inability to tackle the ceaseless killings and security challenges confronting the country.
The association also appealed to the international community to intervene in the crisis to save the country from relapsing into a religious crisis, stressing that the attack on the churches in Benue was a jihad that should be stopped.
Speaking at a peaceful procession organised by the Benue state chapter of CAN, chairman of the state chapter, Rev. Akpen Leva, who led the procession said: “The barbaric, mindless and well planned massacre of Benue people has no doubt brought tears running down the cheeks of everybody in Benue State.
‘’It is a fact that the silence and the indecision of the federal government is rather an encouragement to the militant herdsmen to perpetrate all these evil upon the people of Benue State.’’
In Taraba State, Christians, yesterday, converged on the CAN Secretariat in Jalingo in protest, calling on the federal government to end the killings across the country allegedly being perpetrated by herdsmen.
The Christians who complied with the directive of the state chapter of the association to dress in black as a sign of mourning for those killed in various attacks, called on the federal government to end the killings to avert another civil war.
Muslim clerics react
Reacting to the nationwide protest by Christians in the country, the Chief Missioner of Ansar-ud-Deen Society of Nigeria, Sheik Abdulrahman Ahmad, said: “Let me state that the loss of human lives is condemnable, no matter what the reason is.
‘’We condole with those who lost dear ones in the unnecessary and satanic mayhem that is now becoming a pattern. All Nigerians of goodwill and conscience must condemn it and this is a call on the govenment to rise to the occasion and be more proactive and forestall further loss of lives and properties.”
Also reacting, Professor Ishaq Akintola, Director, Muslim Rights Concern, MURIC, called on the leadership of CAN to be more patient and responsible as they embarked on the nationwide protest.
He said the killings in the country have been there even under Chritistian leaders in the past, but that their calling for the resignation of President Muhammed Buhari calls for suspicion.
“Is it because he is a Muslim?. Even under President Goodluck Jonathan, there were killings.”
In Kwara State, Christians under the aegis of CAN, urged President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately stop the shedding of innocent blood in Nigeria. The chairman, Professor Timothy Popoola, made the call in Ilorin yesterday evening shortly after the mass rally organised by the members of the CAN in the state.
In Kogi State, Christians joined other states to observe the day of prayer and protest declared by CAN.
State chairman of CAN, Bishop John Ibenu, while speaking with newsmen after the protest in his church Chapel of Freedom in Lokoja, said the protests were peaceful in the state.