The Christian Association of Nigeria has embarked on a massive mobilisation of churches across the federation for peaceful protests on Sunday against incessant killings by suspected Fulani herdsmen in the country.
It was learnt that the association had sought the support of prominent clerics as well as the endorsement of influential Christians to make the exercise a success.
The Special Assistant (Media and Communications) to the CAN President, Pastor Bayo Oladeji, confirmed to Saturday PUNCH on Friday that all was set for the protests against the killings of Christians as well as other Nigerians across the country.
The CAN President, Rev . Olasupo Ayokunle, had in a statement on Wednesday, urged Christians to hold peaceful protests within their church premises on April 29.
He made the call against the backdrop of the Tuesday killing of two priests and 17 worshippers at St . Ignatius Catholic Church, Mbalom, Gwer East Local Government Area of Benue State. Hundreds of persons have been killed by suspected Fulani herdsmen across the country this year alone, especially in Benue and Taraba states.
He said, “CAN urges Christians in Nigeria to hold peaceful protests on the set – aside date, in the premises of their churches, asking the Federal Government and the security agencies to stop the unending killings and bloodshed in the country.
“Christians are to carry placards with inscriptions meant to address issues about sustained killings, attacks and destruction of their property in Nigeria. The inscriptions on placards could read, ‘Enough of bloodshed in Nigeria,’ ‘Enough of unlawful killings in the country’, ‘FG, release Leah Sharibu from bondage,’ ‘FG , stop herdsmen killings,’ and ‘CAN rejects FG’s poor handling of insecurity.’”
The statement blamed the continued killings on the failure of the government to mount an effective campaign against the killings by suspected herdsmen, noting that there was no visible plan to pacify the aggrieved persons.
Speaking to one of our correspondents in Abuja on Friday, the CAN spokesman stated that all chapters of CAN had been informed of the planned protests, noting that these chapters would send the message to all the churches in their domain.
He said, “We have informed every chapter of CAN; we have sent messages to church leaders. We have to make our impact felt. We cannot force anybody to do it, but they all know the position of CAN.”
When asked if CAN would apply for a police permit for the protest, the cleric responded that the church did not need a permit.
“Do I need a police permit to stand in front of my church and say this is my position? Do you need a police permit to address a press conference? A court has ruled that for every peaceful protest, you don’t need a police permit. The highest court in the land also affirmed it. You don’t need a police permit to stage a peaceful protest; we have freedom of assembly and association,” he said.
Oladeji expressed confidence that the protest would be successful, noting that even if only a few churches participated, the Christian faithful would have sent a message to the world that they were not pleased with the situation in the country.
CAN has also described the President as being more interested in re – election than in the protection of lives and well -being of Nigerians, noting that the President did not care about the number of citizens that may end up as sacrificial lambs for his ambition.
Speaking to journalists at a news conference in Abuja on Friday, the General- Secretary of CAN, Rev. Musa Asake, catalogued the killings and bloodshed across the country, noting that the Buhari – led administration had returned the nation to the Dark Age.
“War seems to be looming in Nigeria while the aggressors are no other than misguided individuals who had been armed to provoke different communities into needless battles.
“Yet, President Buhari, who was popularly elected in 2015, has not seen the need and urgency to issue a presidential order on the need to halt the killings and with stern instruction to heads of security operatives to bring perpetrators to book.
“The Dark Age has come with the administration of President Buhari in Nigeria, (which) is giving the Christians in this country a huge concern.
“All the same, Mr. President has his own interests, the most imprtant of which is to seek re – election to remain in power beyond 2019 and continue with the reign of terror in Nigeria. It does not matter how many Nigerians will end up as sacrificial lambs on that single ambition.”
Meanwhile, the Benue State chapter of CAN has said that Christians in the state are set to comply with the directive of the national leadership of the organisation.
The state CAN chairman, Rev. Akpen Leva, further said that after the protest on Sunday, there would be seven days of prayer and fast, to commence on Monday.
He further said that the directive would be communicated to the local churches in Benue latest by Saturday (today).
Taraba CAN chapter orders Christians to dress in black
The Taraba State chapter of the CAN has directed all Christians in the state to dress in black during their protests on Sunday.
Following an emergency meeting over the directive given by Ayokunle, the state chapter called on all Christians in the state to converge on the CAN Secretariat in Jalingo on Sunday by 3:00pm for the peaceful protest and to come in black attire.
Taraba State Treasurer of CAN, Very Rev. Fr. James Vontih, told Saturday PUNCH that the state chapter of CAN had decided to hold a joint protest, believing it would create more impact.
“Instead of having the protest in individual churches, we have decided that all Christians in the state should converge on the CAN auditorium in Jalingo for a peaceful protest.
“We are not going to block any road in protest, but we have arranged for some persons who will speak to Christians and send our message to the Federal Government. We are indeed saddened that despite the killings going on, the Federal Government has not given the crisis the attention it deserves,” he said.
The Vicar General, Administration of the Catholic Diocese of Jalingo, Very Rev. Fr. George Dogo, called on Buhari to resign if he could not stop the killings.
“Our stand on the issue has been made known to the world that President Buhari should honourably step aside to save the nation from total collapse,” he said.
The Catholic Bishop Conference of Nigeria had on Thursday issued a statement calling on the President to resign following the attack on the church in Benue.
Similarly, the national leadership of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, whose members include The Redeemed Christian Church of God; Living Faith Church Worldwide International, aka Winners Chapel; The Redeemed Evangelical Mission and Deeper Christian Life Ministry, also said it had no choice but to comply with CAN’s directive as one of the blocs of the umbrella Christian body.
The National Publicity Secretary of the PFN, Bishop Emmah Isong, said, “CAN is a family made up of five brothers and one of the biggest is the PFN; it is powerful because churches like RCCG, Winners Chapel, TREM, Deeper Life, Assemblies of God, name them , belong to the PFN . So when CAN gives instructions, the PFN is bound to comply with and will certainly obey those instructions, we cannot do otherwise.”
The Chairman of CAN in Osun State, Rev. Father Michael Okodua, confirmed that he was aware of the directive from the national leadership of the association, saying “the directive came from the national leadership of the CAN.”
In the same vein, the General Overseer of the Sufficient Grace and Truth Ministry, Bishop Seun Adeoye, said he would mobilise all his church members to participate in the protest as directed by the leadership of CAN. The bishop said the killings in Nigeria, especially the ones targeted at Christians, had to stop.
Ogun State CAN Chairman, Bishop Tunde Akin – Akinsanya, who spoke through his Press Secretary, Rev. Tolulope Taiwo, also said the state chapter of the association would comply with the directive as it “will send a strong signal that the Federal Government is not doing enough to stop the continuous killings of innocent Nigerians, especially the Christians.”
The Methodist Bishop of Abakaliki, Ebonyi State, Rt. Rev. Lawson Elom, who said his church would comply with the directive, also noted that “it is a way of telling the leadership of the country that all is not well in the country in terms of security.”
Similarly, the Kwara State PFN Chairman, Prof. Timothy Opoola, said that Christians in the state would comply with the directive.
Opoola, who is also the state Chairman of CAN, said “PFN will observe it. All churches will observe it. We are going to meet at one place at UMCA on Sunday at around 4.00pm. We will come with placards.”
Also, the Diocesan Bishop, Kwara Ecclesiastical Province, Anglican Communion, Church of Nigeria, Rt. Rev. Philip Adeyemo, said, “The Hosts of Heaven are against this government and we also must join the Hosts of Heaven to see that righteousness exalts this nation. Therefore, we will join hands with Christians against injustice in our land.
“We must fight against injustice and a barbaric government, which has no fear of God as human beings are being killed like cows.”
PFN Chairmen in Cross River and Edo states, Pastor Lawrence Ekwok and Bishop Monday Igbinosa respectively, said CAN’s directive was binding on every Christian.
The Archbishop of the Anglican Communion, Calabar Diocese, Tunde Adeleye, also promised to mobilise members of the church to embark on the planned protests.
Ekiti State Chairman of PFN, Bishop Clement Abifade; Ado – Ekiti branch chairman of CAN, Apostle Alex Oluwadamilare; and Bishop of Methodist Church, Port Harcourt, Rt. Rev. Victor Eyo Effiom, described CAN’s directive as appropriate, adding that their churches would comply with it.
The Delta State CAN chairman, Rev. Gideon Oyibo; and his counterpart in the state chapter of the PFN, Bishop Kingsley Enakirerhi, said churches across the state would take part in protests to draw government’s attention to the state of insecurity in the country.
Although the Director of Communications of the Catholic Diocese of Ondo, Rev. Fr. Leo Aregbesola, explained that the diocese was still awaiting the official notification about the planned protests, he said the church was willing to comply with it once it was received and approved by the Bishop of the church.
Speaking in an interview with Saturday PUNCH, the Vicar General Pastoral, Very Rev. Fr. Bitrus Lange, who spoke on behalf of the Catholic Bishop, Bauchi Diocese, Bauchi, Most Rev. Dr. Hilary Dachelem, said he had heard about the directive but that the diocese was also still awaiting the official communication.
He, however, described the move as a welcome development and called on all Nigerians, irrespective of their religion to be a part of it since it was about Nigeria and security of lives and property.
Also, the Senior Pastor, Christ Alive Power Assembly, Rafin Zurfi, Bauchi, Bishop Emmanuel Kanti, said he was aware of the protest and was fully in support of it.
“We have to make our voices known, so we are definitely in support of it,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Spiritual Father and Chairman, Cherubim and Seraphim Movement Church World Wide, (Ayo ni o), Most Rev. Samuel Abidoye, has decried the recent killing of priests and other worshippers in Benue and urged Buhari to improve on the security of lives and property in Nigeria.
Abidoye, who spoke in an interview with Saturday PUNCH on the sidelines of a media briefing on the church’s Ascension of Mount Horeb for 2018, said: “killings must stop in the country.”