The Christian Association in Nigerian (CAN) in the 19 northern states and the Federal Capital Territory has faulted President Goodluck Jonathan's handling of the activities of Boko Haram, saying that the president has failed Nigerians and should resign.
According to CAN, the call on the president is imperative on the grounds that it is very clear that he is not capable of handling the danger posed by the Boko Haram insurgency.
The CAN in the 19 northern states and the FCT stated this in a statement signed by the public relations officer of the religious body, Mr. Sunday Oibe.
According to CAN, it is regrettable that the Boko Haram has continued to thrive and get away with its murderous activities because of the support from the president.
The body lamented that it was shocking for the president to say that he would not deploy the military to deal with terrorists who have been killing other Nigerians and threatening the corporate existence of the country.
The group claimed that the development showed that the president has been shielding the group at the expense of the lives of innocent people.
Asking Nigerians to have a rethink on the type of the current leadership in the country, the group said: "The questions we want to ask Mr. President are these: Are those being killed by the Boko Haram sect, particularly Christians, not members of the Nigerian family the President is talking about? Is he now saying that Boko Haram members are sacred cows?"
"What he is telling us now is that there is nothing he can do about it, but we know that the federal government has the capacity to stop the madness being unleashed on Nigerians. However, it is now obvious that the president is not willing and would rather shield criminals".
CAN also criticised the reason advanced by federal government for insisting that Boko Haram should not be branded as a terrorist group during the visit of the American secretary of state, Hilary Clinton.
It said: "They claimed if the Boko Haram sect should be designated as a terrorist group, the country may be placed under sanction which will hurt Nigerians in addition to the fact that it may scare away investors as well as lead to visa restriction and subjection of Nigerians to maltreatment at airports all over the world.
"But are we not hurt already? Are Nigerians not suffering? How many investors are coming to invest? There are so many business premises in Yobe, Maiduguri, Kano, Kaduna and Jos that have closed shop. Nobody is coming up north to set up any business. People are selling off their houses and relocating from the north. Our churches are being closed down on a daily basis. So what investor is the government talking about?"
The group further drew attention to how former President Olusegun Obasanjo reacted when the Niger Delta militants attacked soldiers in Odi, saying that though the militants were asking for their legitimate right, Obasanjo dealt with them squarely for resorting to criminality in agitating for their right.
It said, "No country in the world will allow its soldiers, trained to defend the territorial integrity of the nation, to be killed by a gang of criminals and get away with it. Nigerians can also recall that in Zaki-Biam, Benue State, the same Obasanjo as president sent troops to deal ruthlessly with the people there for allegedly killing soldiers."
The group also decried a situation where soldiers, police and other security personnel are being killed by Boko Haram members on a daily basis, adding that it was regrettable that the president had the effrontery to tell Nigerians that the sect members are members of Nigerian families and he could not mobilise the Nigerian Army to deal with them.
"The president should tell us the offence of hundreds of Christians who have been killed by the Islamic sect, who have clearly come out to say that they will continue to attack government functionaries, security agencies and Christians".
The CAN also said, "So the president is not bothered about the killing of Christians and other Nigerians! Is it because Christians are not members of this family he is talking about? So the security agents who are being killed by the Boko Haram are not members of this family?
It therefore called on the international community to come to the aid of northern Christians, alleging that "it is now obvious that the Nigerian government has made Christians the sacrificial lamb" for Boko Haram.
CAN's stance misguided - Okupe
But the federal government has faulted the claim of the northern CAN, saying that the stance of the group over Jonathan's handling of Boko Haram is misguided on the grounds that the government is doing everything to curtail the activities of the sect.
The special assistant to the president on public affairs, Dr Doyin Okupe, stated this on behalf of the federal government yesterday while reacting to the claim of the Northern CAN.
Okupe also told LEADERSHIP last night that while the federal government sympathised with the Christian communities in the north and other victims of the sect, the evidence on the ground showed that the security agencies had aborted many insurgency actions of the sect.
He said, "The statement of the CAN on the matter is misguided. The truth of the matter is that the federal government is doing everything to curtail the activities of the sect. The government is also tackling head-on the activities of the sect, while the evidence on the ground shows that the security agencies have aborted many planned attacks of the sect in certain states in the north."
20 Boko Haram Suspects, 1 Soldier killed in Maiduguri
Barely two days after the Joint Task Force (JTF) recovered high-profile arms and ammunition in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, 20 suspected Boko Haram members were yesterday killed in a shootout on Saturday night in Maiduguri metropolis.
The field operations officer of the JTF in Borno State, Col. Victor Ebhaleme, who confirmed the incident in Maiduguri, also disclosed that a soldier was killed, while two others were injured.
He said: "We got intelligence report that some suspected Boko Haram terrorists were having a meeting at a particular location in the metropolis. When we approached the venue of their meeting, the terrorists immediately opened fire on the JTF which led to the killing of 20 of the sect members while we lost one soldier and two others sustained injury."
Gunmen engage security operatives in shootout in Yobe
Gunmen and security operatives yesterday engaged in a shootout at the Bindigari area of Damaturu, Yobe State.
The commissioner of police, Yobe State command, Mr. Patrick Egbuniwe, confirmed the incident.
Egbuniwe told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in a telephone interview that the shootout ensued when security operatives went to the area on security patrol.
"Gunmen, as usual, have engaged our security operatives in a shootout". Egbuniwe stated. "The operation is still on in the area, so we cannot confirm casualties yet. Other parts of the town are, however, calm and security operatives are on top of the situation." Many residents have deserted the streets of the city for safety.
Gunmen kill one policeman in Gombe church attack
Gunmen on Sunday morning attacked the All Saints Catholic Church, Kanoyel in Gombe State, killing a policeman who was on duty at the church.
A source told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that the gunmen arrived at the church premises when the parishioners were coming out of the service and fired at the policeman.
The source said the gunmen also tried to gain entry into the church but the parishioners shut the gate.
Rev. Fr. Williams Ochai, the parish priest of the church, told NAN that the gunmen opened fire on the policemen deployed to guard the church during the Mass.
According to him, as soon as the parishioners heard the gunshots, they immediately shut the gate to the church.
He, however, said one of the policemen died instantly while the other was seriously injured.
Reacting to the incident, the chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Gombe State, Rev. Abare Kalla, described it as unfortunate.
Kalla said CAN had information that there would be an attack but did not know where it would occur, adding that security agents were informed.
The chairman said the aim of the attackers was to gain entry into the church but that they could not succeed because of the fence.
He confirmed that a policeman deployed to the area was killed in the incident while another received injuries.
Kalla commiserated with the family of the policeman and prayed for the recovery of the injured.
When contacted, the commissioner of police, Gombe State command, Mr. Ibrahim Abdullahi, told NAN on phone that he was in Abuja.
He directed NAN to the command's public relations officer, Mr. Fwaje Atajiri, a deputy superintendent of police.
"I have been promoted to the position of assistant inspector-general of police and I am now in Abuja for that purpose. So, get in touch with my PPRO," he said.
Fwaje, however, told NAN on phone that it was only the commissioner that would comment on the issue.
Police arrest 16 more over Okene church attacks
Meanwhile, 16 suspects have been apprehended over the heinous crimes in Okene last week, which left at least 20 people dead, including two soldiers.
The spokesman of the state police command, Mr. Ile Simon, disclosed this during an interview with newsmen in Lokoja. The development came just as residents of Okene alleged that they were being manhandled by security agents drafted to restore normalcy in the area.
Simon also stated that those being detained by the police would be thoroughly screened to ascertain their level of culpability, while those who have nothing to do with the matter would be set free immediately.
Simon, who further confirmed that the erstwhile chairman of Okene local government was among those being held in connection with the incident, denied the allegation that the suspects were being subjected to torture.
He assured that those behind the dastardly acts of last week would not escape justice, even as he equally asserted that no innocent person would be unjustly punished.
He stressed that, contrary to media reports, no serving or former lawmaker from the area was being held in connection with the matter.
Meanwhile, residents of Okene have raised the alarm that they are currently passing through hell in the hands of the law enforcement agents drafted to restore peace to the area.
In a telephone interview, some of the residents alleged that security agents, including soldiers, were subjecting them to harassment and humiliation, and called on their superior officers to do something about the matter.
They said they came out of their houses to carry out lawful transactions yesterday afternoon, only to be attacked by the armed soldiers shooting sporadically, destroying their goods, while many people received serious injuries.
The commander, Command Army Records, Lokoja, Majoy General Alphonsus Chukwu, also denied the allegation in a telephone interview.
He promised to visit the area today, to know true position of things, even as he disclosed that the commanders on ground had intimated him that there was no such thing.