*Says people have suffered from elections won in advance
*Decries massive land grabbing at the poor’s expense
By Luminous Jannamike
The Metropolitan Archbishop of Abuja, Most Revd. Ignatius Kaigama, has said religion was not responsible for the worsening state of insecurity in the country.
Recall that the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, while reacting to the killing of Rev. Lawan Andimi, its Chairman in Michika Local Government Area of Adamawa by Boko Haram terrorists, had claimed that the insurgents were a tool sponsored by some influential people to Islamise the country.
However, Kaigama, who is the President, Regional Episcopal Conference of West Africa, RECOWA, maintained that the problem of insecurity was tougher and more complex than the notion of an Islamisation agenda.
Speaking at the ongoing 8th Ordinary Session of RECOWA, the Archbishop said: “In the Lake Chad region, 268 kidnappings and 1,637 deaths occurred due to terror attacks between January and December 2019. These numbers are unfortunately frightening.
“We don’t always like to see religious causes at the root of these problems. Underneath, there is the exploitation of religion for political and perhaps economic interests.
“We thank our governments for what they are already doing, but we are not congratulating them because they have not yet won the battle.
“The fight is tough and complex. That is why we urge and encourage them to unite to do better and more.”
Also adding to insecurity, he said, is the upsurge in electoral violence and malpractices across West Africa, saying people have suffered much from elections won in advance.
He said: “In this year 2020, six countries in West Africa will organise presidential elections: Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Niger and Togo.
“We call on the political class, ruling parties, opposition and civil societies, but especially the ruling parties, to work together to develop electoral codes and fair and transparent structures in order to save our region from violence before, during and after elections,” the Archbishop said.
Kaigama also frowned on excessive land-grabbing by private investors and state authorities for economic and social development at the expense of the poor.
According to him, besides the insecurity, the exploitation of the grabbed lands fails to conform with the most pressing needs of the population concerned; which, he said, were to live in peaceful and healthy environments while seeking subsistence.
He said: “We are not against development. We simply hope that development does not come at the expense of the rights of populations and the environment.
“The first decade of the 21st century was marked, among other things, by the increased interest of private investors and some states for land, especially agricultural land.
“Indeed, it is estimated today that more than 60 percent of the agricultural land available in the world is in Africa, south of the Sahara.
“Paradoxically, the massive grabbing of these lands, which results in the expropriation of the poorest populations, is done in the name of economic and social development.
“Unfortunately, once expropriated from their lands, the populations are deprived of the natural resources essential to their survival.
“Furthermore, the exploitation made of the immense areas of the grabbed land conforms in no way to the most pressing needs of the populations concerned: living in peace and in a healthy environment, while ensuring the most basic needs of life, including food sovereignty, which depends precisely on the agricultural activity and therefore on access to land, which should be a concern to us as pastors.
“We must think of all these lands and waters polluted by human activities. What happens to the riverine communities who can no longer cultivate the land, bathe and drink the water from the river? These communities that can no longer feed themselves?”