Aba, Nigeria (Compass), Feb. 7 — Abia state police authorities reported that the central mosque and several Muslim businesses were damaged in the January 18-19 attacks.
One of the Muslim victims, Alhaji Idi Ningi, told Compass that 20 Muslims were injured and are currently receiving treatment in three hospitals in the city. “Hundreds of our people have escaped to the police barracks,” Ningi said. “They are taking refuge at the central police station. Many of them are also women and children.”
However, the Abia state police commissioner, Olusegun Efuntayo, told Compass in Umuahia, the state capital, that he had visited the area and the situation was not very serious and has been brought under control.
But both Muslims and Christians are concerned about the increasing religious violence taking place throughout Nigeria. Senator Adolphus Wabara, a member of Nigeria’s National Assembly, called on the Nigerian government to find a lasting solution to the religious conflicts in the country. Alhaji Tanko Bello, a Muslim community leader in Aba city, said they have never supported the attacks on Christians in northern Nigeria. He blamed his fellow Muslims there for creating the conflict.
Clashes on January 11 between Muslims and Christians in Central Nigeria’s Plateau state left two Muslims and one Christian dead. Joel Nimfa, a Christian leader in the Kanam community, was killed in his farmhouse when Muslim bandits attacked the farm and other Christian settlements. According to a police report, two Muslims leaders were beheaded when they led a group of bandits to attack a Christian village.
“Plateau state has suffered so many setbacks as a result of these incessant clashes between Muslims and Christians. We would not allow this to continue,” said Innocent Iluozuoke, the Plateau state police commissioner. “All religious and ethnic killings, which characterized the state on the whole of last year, must stop. This is because the taking of human life for any reason is not a part of God’s plan for us as a people and nation.”
Conflicts between Muslims and Christians flared up in Plateau state in September 2001, beginning in Jos, the state capital. The crisis escalated and continued throughout 2002.
Both sides are showing an increasing frustration with the religious conflict.
Christian leaders in the northern state of Kaduna have filed a lawsuit against the Nigerian government, the Kaduna state government, and a Nigerian newspaper, ThisDay, over last November’s religious riots.
The crisis was ignited by an article in ThisDay that led to the death of an estimated 1,000 people and the destruction of about 125 churches in the city of Kaduna.
Dr. Joseph Danlami Bagobiri, Catholic Bishop of Kafanchan Diocese and the Chairman of the Kaduna state chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), announced the court action on January 26, saying, “CAN has taken stock of all the churches and property of Christians destroyed during the riots with a view to demanding compensation from the government and ‘ThisDay’.”
He added, “While we pursue this case, we would leave the fate of the casualties to God, since vengeance is for Him. We are also aware that no amount of wealth can pay for a single human life, and that is why we are demanding compensation for destroyed churches and not for lives.”
He called on all Christians in northern Nigeria not to allow “these acts of evil unleashed on us in Kaduna state and other parts of northern Nigeria to discourage the strength of our faith.”
The Kaduna state governor called on the federal government to take measures to stem the rising wave of religious fundamentalism.
“The nation is sitting on a religious time bomb that can explode any moment with devastating consequences,” said Governor Alhaji Ahmed Makarfi on January 18 during the launch of his biography.
Kaduna state has become the center of religious fundamentalism in Nigeria.
“We go to the pulpits or the rostrum either in the churches or in the mosques, and in the name of our Creator make speeches, which can bring about violence in this country. We forget that we shall all give account to the almighty Allah for all our actions,” Makarfi said.
Copyright 2003 Compass Direct