PRESS STATEMENT ISSUED BY THE NATIONAL DIRECTOR OF CARITAS NIGERIA AND JUSTICE DEVELOPMENT AND PEACE (JDPC) AFTER A CONFERENCE CALL WITH DIOCESAN DIRECTORS HELD ON THE 2ND OF FEBRUARY 2018 ON THE RECURRENT INSECURITY AND THE PREPARATIONS TOWARDS A POLITICAL TRANSITION
Preamble: Caritas Nigeria and JDPC are organs of relief and development of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria. They are located within 56 ecclesiastical jurisdictions that are coterminous with the geographical entity called Nigeria, with a national office in Abuja. Caritas Nigeria and JDPC serve the needy irrespective of religion, ethnicity or political affiliation.
A Reign of Terror:Caritas Nigeria and JDPC are shocked that human life is gradually becoming a statistic of deaths in Nigeria. Whether it is the death of a Boko Haram terrorist or the death of an innocent farmer or community member hacked down by a herdsman or the death of a herdsmanas a result of reprisal attacks or aggression, Nigeria is fast becoming a violent desert with cesspools of blood as oases scattered in the North East, North Central, South East, South South and South West. In the name of our common humanity and in the name of the God we all serve, THIS MUST STOP! Life is a precious gift of God and we must be careful to not raise a generation that gets used to devaluing human life and sees violent death as a regular feature of life.
Failed State:Whatever the root causes of this violence a more fundamental cause is the security architecturewhich is susceptible to defeat by groups and individuals who have now become shareholders of the instruments of violence, as the state has virtually lost its monopoly and weakened its capacity. Nigeria must stop playing politics with security of lives and property and adopt strategies that would facilitate the well being of all and not just a few powerful individuals or groups with capacity to capture theimmunity to kill and immunity from arrest and prosecution whether as kidnappers, herdsmen, terrorists or militants.
Culture is Dynamic: We cannot keep insisting that a particular way of life must be upheld just because it is the culture of the people, even when the nuisance value keeps multiplying. Culture is dynamic not static. After all are not herding cattle all over the place. We must be careful to not condemn the poor to their predicament just because they are not aware that they have better options. Justice demands that even if one is not aware of his rights and privileges he should be assisted to acquire them. However Nigerians must not degenerate to a state where we stigmatize a certain people and refuse to open our arms in welcome even when they mean no harm to us. Caritas Nigeria/JDPC believe that Nigerian communities, without the interference of politicians, have resilient measures that make for mutual respect and conflict prevention and mitigation. Politicians and social media activists should avoid sowing seeds of discord that would give rise to a violent transition come 2019.
States that have accepted to establish multiple ranches or colonies should therefore accelerate the implementation so that nomadic herdsmen could have places where they would breed their herd. We advise government to grant loans to private enterprises or to the various state governments who want to establish these multiple ranches and put measures in place where it is transparent to everyone that these monies would be recovered from the taxes and charges.
Devolution of more powers to the states will ensure that internal migrants who are welcome to local communities do not usurp local chieftaincies, even if they turn out to be in the majority. The national Assembly could promote legislation that guarantees the chieftaincies of local populations against the usurpation of migrants. However political representation could be open to all.
Compensation: Also the Federal Government should establish a Compensation Fund for families of victims who die in these conflicts.
Voter Registration: Caritas Nigeria/JDPC use this medium to also appeal to INEC to do something to overcome the suspicion that voter registration is deliberately made difficult for people in some parts of the country while it is facilitated and fast tracked even for under-aged in some other parts. While there will be unavoidable logistical issues, INEC must not give room to be seen as partisan.
A Note of Caution: As Nigerians, we must be conscious of the horrendous experiences of other nations and learn our lessons: the one million people killed in the genocide in Rwanda in 1994, the Central Africa Republic civil war between 2012 and 2014 whose effects are still lingering, and now the Cameroun political crisis. We are yet to recover from the Boko Haram terrorism which is still raging. Government must put aside all sentiments and deal with the herdsmen issue.
Fr. Evaristus Bassey