The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has confirmed that the “leaked memo” circulating in the social media about the approval by the Minister-in-Charge, Mohammed Sabo Nanono, of N30 million for the construction of a mosque for displaced herdsmen is “authentic and appropriate in all ramifications”.
The note of defiance in the statement said it all. The building of the mosque was a deliberate action by the Minister. But the question is: where did he get the authority to make such approval?
Ordinarily, the action of resettling herdsmen displaced by Boko Haram Islamist terrorists in Ngarannam/Mafa Local Government Area of Borno State should not raise an eyebrow because it can be seen as part of government’s obligation to provide for the welfare of citizens, especially displaced persons. This is an action we expect government to take in all cases of displacement of citizens.
But we have not seen it in the cases of farmers displaced by armed herdsmen in any part of the country, particularly Southern Kaduna, Plateau, Benue, the Yewa areas of Ogun State and others. The act of spending government’s scarce resources in building a place of worship for them as well falls into the old, discredited attitude of the Federal Government and other governments to dabble into the personal issue of faith with public resources.
Since the Boko Haram insurgency gained traction in the North East, millions of Nigerians of different faiths and ethnic backgrounds have been thrown into internally displaced persons camps, IDPs. Local and international efforts are being mobilised to ensure that their basic needs of food, water, shelter and in applicable cases, access to education, are met without intruding into matters of religion which are personal matters.
Why Minister Nanono thinks that spending valuable scarce resources on building a mosque for displaced herders deserves such a priority attention is something he needs to explain to the owners of the money – the Nigerian people. If he does not do so, it is the constitutional obligation of the National Assembly to summon him to explain himself before the Nigerian people. Nanono’s action smacks of ethnic and religious favouritism. It is in line with the well-established track record of this administration’s unabashedly pandering to the special interests of the herders and a particular ethnic group to the detriment of the rest of the population.
Government actions must be dictated by clearly spelt out policies which should have universal application. We should not allow government appointees to take whimsical, outlandish and discriminatory decisions. This stokes feelings of favouritism of some groups and the alienation of the others, which is part of the reason that things have fallen apart in Nigeria.
Nanono’s act must not go unpunished.
Vanguard News Nigeria