Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari should resign if he cannot put an end to a series of deadly attacks by Fulani herdsmen on Christian communities, according to the African nation’s bishops, who also accused the president of showing favoritism to Muslim citizens in the country.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria issued the statement July 3, after an attack in Nigeria’s Plateau State left at least 100 people dead.
“If the president cannot keep our country safe, then he automatically loses the trust of the citizens. He should no longer continue to preside over the killing fields and mass graves that our country has become,” the bishops said.
“Again, the country is likely to witness another mass burial of innocent Nigerians as a result of the serial murderous activities of a group who clearly seem to be above the law in our country and who by their actions and words, have insisted that human lives are worth less than the lives of cattle. This shameful inversion of values portrays our country as barbaric and our society as brutish,” the statement reads.
Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country, with nearly 186 million people – nearly equally divided between Christians and Muslims.
Nigeria’s “Middle Belt” is where the Muslim north meets the Christian south. The Fulani herdsmen are Muslim, and their victims are mostly Christian – the violence has religious and ethnic undertones.
“While we vehemently condemn any shedding of human blood and ask the police to speedily arrest and prosecute the perpetrators of these crimes, we must point out the double standards applied by the same police any time the herdsmen are attacked and killed. In this latter case, they react very swiftly, and the law promptly takes its course. Why won’t that same swiftness be applied to all cases?”
Buhari, a former general, is a Muslim, and has been accused by the bishops of favoring his co-religionists.
“We have said it before and it bears repeating that it can no longer be regarded as mere coincidence that the suspected perpetrators of these heinous crimes are of the same religion as all those who control the security apparatus of our country including the President himself. Words are no longer enough for the President and his service chiefs to convince the rest of the citizens that these killings are not part of a larger religious project,” the bishops’ statement said.
Tuesday’s statement follows a statement issued by the bishops in April while they were in Rome to meet with the pope, in which they expressed the “grave concerns” about the government’s inability to deal with the violence.
“The latest horrendous massacre of scores of innocent Nigerians especially children and women including pregnant women, in Plateau State, by the same rampaging and murderous terrorists who now seem to be operating without any hindrance in the Middle Belt and other parts of Nigeria, shows that our last statement, like all the others before, has been completely ignored by those whose primary responsibility it is to protect the lives and property of Nigerians,” said the July 3 statement.
“Once again, we ask President Muhammadu Buhari to please save this country from further pain and avoidable chaos, anarchy and doom,” the bishops said.