By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA—SADDEND by the incessant killings of Christians in the northern part of the country, Governor Simon Lalong and the leadership of Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, in the 19 northern states, yesterday, met with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, demanding a review of the country’s security architecture to end the killings by suspected armed herdsmen.
The Christian leaders also called on President Buhari to ensure the release of the abducted Christian girl from Dapchi school, Leah Sharibu, who was held by Boko Haram for refusing to renounce her Christian faith, while the Muslim girls among them had since regained freedom.
The call by the Christian body came on the heels of the recent hint by the President of possible plans to effect a major change in the security architecture of Nigeria.
Speaking at the meeting with the President, leader of CAN in the 19 Northern states, Rev. Yakubu Pam, said a review of security architecture in the country had become imperative to give the security apparatus a new lease of life and responsiveness to earn the required trust, confidence and support of the general populace.
CAN at the meeting, also lamented that the continuous abduction of underage Christian girls, who were forcibly converted to Islamic religion and given out for marriage without the consent of their parents, would breed religious disharmony.
They, therefore, urged President Buhari to intensify and speed up actions for the release of girls in captivity, especially Leah Sharibu.
Rev. Pam said: “That the security architecture of the country should be re-visited to give it a new lease of life and responsiveness to earn the required trust, confidence, and support of the general populace.
“All communities ravaged by the herdsmen violence in the North should be rebuilt and adequate security be put in place to enable displaced persons to return to their homes and means of livelihood
“The Federal Government should roll out a robust advocacy programme to enlighten the nomadic herders on modern cattle rearing against open grazing and roaming across states and national boundaries.’’
Other demands put forward to the President are that “the Federal Government should encourage herders to acquire land for cattle ranching across the country as a means of private business investment.”
The group said while the Federal Government under the current administration was celebrating an agricultural revolution, most farmers, especially in the north, could no longer go to their farms due to the sustained attacks by armed herdsmen.
CAN called on the government to reconcile its priority by providing the necessary safety for the farmers to go on with their farming activities.
It said: “We observe that the continuous abduction of underaged Christian girls who are forcefully converted to Islamic religion and given out for marriage without the consent of their parents breeds religious disharmony.
“We, therefore, wish to state that the situation does not only violate the fundamental human rights of the girls but is also a call to anarchy if such actions were to get an even score by the Christian population. The appeal, therefore, is for your quick intervention to ensure that the numerous girls held under such circumstances are released to their parents.
“In the spirit of the above observation, we wish to demand that intensive and speedy actions should be taken for the release of girls in captivity, especially Leah Sharibu.
“All perpetrators including the so-call foreigners as alleged of these heinous crimes against humanity in parts of northern states should be arrested and prosecuted to serve as a deterrent to others.
“The Federal Government should as a matter of urgency make adequate provisions for farmers who have been adversely affected by these undesirable herdsmen attacks.
“We are appealing to Mr President to call on his colleagues in politics irrespective of a political parties to work together and make 2019 election to be free and fair and a model for all other African countries.”
In an interview after the meeting, Rev. Pam said: “We came with deep heart, very heavy heart, to talk to Mr. President. Everybody that has any other thing to do today has left it to make sure that we are here in our numbers and being here today is to say to him, if there is a way these killings will be stopped in our region in Northern Nigeria because most of the people being killed are innocent people.”
On whether there was any assurance from the President on their request, he said: “Mr President has said he will look into all we have presented to him and I believe we have the hope as the father of the nation, he will do something about it.”
Also asked to confirm that CAN has taken a position not to vote President Buhari in 2019, he said: “I am not the CAN President, we are here as Northern Church leaders, we have a CAN national leader, I am only leading a region.”
On the President’s response on the request for the release of Leah from her abductors, he said there was no specific response on that.