4 January 2012

Nigeria: Christmas Day Bombings


THE Christmas Day triple bombings in Madalla Niger State, Jos, Plateau State and Damaturu in Yobe State which claimed at least 43 lives, among them children and women, are clearly, barbaric and condemnable and must not be allowed to recur.

The unprovoked suicide attacks on defenceless Nigerians by the radical Islamic sect, Boko Haram, has again brought to the fore increasing the security challenges confronting the country .

According to statistics, the attack by a suicide bomber, who struck at St. Theresa Catholic Church Madalla near Suleja, left about 43 people dead and others either still in hospitals receiving treatment or discharged.

The other attacks on Jos and Damaturu, though also deadly, recorded fewer casualties. The recent bombing by Boko Haram in Madalla is particularly worrisome given its magnitude and timing.

Christmas Day, the world over is set aside by Christians to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ over 2000 years ago. Nigerians joined their counterparts to celebrate the birth of the Messiah who is also acclaimed as the Prince of Peace. Unfortunately, however, that was not to be for the worshippers at St. Theresa Catholic Church Madalla that fateful day as the terrorist timed the attack to coincide with the end of the early morning service when the faithful were leaving the church auditorium.

The latest attacks, just like the mayhem unleashed on the United Nations head office in Abuja, August 23, 2011 which claimed at least 26 lives and the deadly bombings in Potiskum and Damaturu both in Yobe State, in November, barely two days to the Eid el Kabir festival have proved that the country's security agencies are challenged in dealing with growing insecurity in the country.

While we appreciate the declaration of state of emergency in some local governments in the affected states, we still call on the Federal Government to ensure the recruitment of fresh hands into the security agencies like the Nigeria Police Force and the State Security Services (SSS) and purchase new and modern equipment, while proactive and intelligence based policing should henceforth be given priority attention as part of comprehensive plans to deal decisively with the challenge of the Boko Haram insurgents.

The present security apparatus, we believe, indeed, requires an urgent review in order to address terrorism and other forms of security challenges in the country and the resultant loss of lives. We also counsel that government should not hesitate to seek help from developed nations like the United States of America (USA), the United Kingdom (UK) and Israel in dealing with the country's internal security challenge, especially the menace of Boko Haram.

We welcome the recent measures announced by President Goodluck Jonathan, including the closure of the land borders contiguous to some local government areas in Borno, Yobe, Plateau, and Niger states, which have been identified as hot spots of terrorism, as part of the state of emergency declared in the affected areas.

The bombing of St. Theresa Catholic Church, Madalla and the other Christmas Day bombings, apart from being unjustifiable and condemnable, in our view, seem to have been planned and executed to provoke a Christian/Muslim conflict, but we are happy that most leaders of the two faiths have spoken out against the outrage. We particularly commend the wise counsel of the Catholic Bishop of Minna Diocese, Mathew Uzoukwu who likened the killing of the Catholics to the travails of St. Stephen, the first martyr in Christendom.

Quoting from Act of the Apostles, he urged members of St. Theresa Catholic Church, shortly after the bombing to accept the fact that "those killed were martyrs of the faith, they have not died in vain."

We also commend the declaration by the Sultan of Sokoto and spiritual head of Muslims in the country, Alhaji Sa'ad Abubakar 111 that there is no conflict between Islam and Christianity but between good and evil people as represented by the Boko Haram insurgents.

While endorsing these views and the call by the Sultan on the good people of both faiths to come together to fight the evil people, we also appreciate the frustration and indignation that must have informed the pronouncements by the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor during his visit to President Jonathan at the Aso Rock Villa in Abuja.

He had warned that should the Federal Government fail to protect the lives and property of Christians, they would have no choice but to take appropriate measures to protect and defend themselves. Christian leaders under the aegis of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) had earlier taken a similar stand.

Understandable as these hard-line positions are, we caution against any reprisal attacks by Christians on their Muslim brothers and sisters since victims of Boko Haram's deadly violence so far, cut across all religions and since the perpetrators of these dastardly acts, for now, cannot be said to be agents of majority of Moslems. Rather, all Christians should pray ceaselessly for the evil doers to have a change of heart and stop perpetrating their wicked acts. Besides, all Nigerians must, more than ever before, be vigilant and report suspicious characters to security agents.

We also counsel that adequate security measures be put in place at all places of worship to avert future deadly attacks like that experienced at St. Theresa Catholic Church Madalla.

It is only when citizens cooperate with law enforcement agents through volunteering information on suspected criminals, and security agents resolve to live up to their constitutional roles, that lives and property would be better safeguarded.

We pray, fervently, that the country's present security challenges will not deteriorate to the point where Christians or Muslims will resort to self help in addressing security challenges as such would surely spell doom for the country.

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