Saturday 21st January, 2017
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Checking religious intolerance in Nigeria

Checking religious intolerance in Nigeria

Several legal instruments promote the sanctity of human life and right to freedom of religion. Section 33 (1) of the Nigeria Consti­tution stipulates that “every person has a right to life, and no one shall be deprived in­tentionally of his life, save in the execution of of the sen­tence of a court in respect of a criminal offence of which he has been found guilty in Nigeria, while section 38 of the same constitution stipu­lates that”every person shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and reli­gion, including freedom to to change his religion or belief, and freedom (either alone or in community with others, and in public or in private) to manifest and propagate his religion or belief in worship, teaching practice and obser­vance”. Also Article 4 of the African Charter of Human and Peoples Right promotes the right to life and Article 8 the right to freedom of con­science, the profession and free practice of religion.
Unfortunately, recent events in the country have negated the provisions of these legal instruments which uphold the sanctity of hu­man life. One of such events is the gruesome murder of a female evangelist, Eunice Eli­sha, in Abuja. Elisha (42) and mother of seven, was report­edly waylaid during her usual early morning evangelism routine by criminals, who are suspected to be Muslim fanatics, who were alleged to have threatened her before over her preaching.
While the killing has gen­erated widespread condemna­tion, the worrisome aspect of the episode is that religious in­tolerance is spreading to other parts of the country such as the Federal Capital Territory other than the North where it is strongly-rooted.
Elisha’s fatal fate came on the heels of the brutal murder of a 74-year-old woman by a Muslim mob in Kano for al­leged blasphemy. Before now, ethno- religious killings and conflicts have constitute a re­current decimal in our nation’s life .Recently,three Christians killed in Niger State , while a carpenter battered to near death in Kaduna for reli­gious reasons. According to reports,armed mobs attacked two churches in Gidan Waya and Sondi villages in Taraba State, killing 31 worshippers in 2015.Also, World Watch’s report allegedly links the kill­ing of 12,000 and destruction of 13,000 churches in North­ern Nigeria between 2000 and 2013 to hate attacks.
On May 1, 1980, there were disturbances in Zaria dur­ing which property belonging to many christians were de­stroyed. In December 1980, a riot spearheaded by the deadly sect, Maitatsine in Yan- Awaku ward, Kano State claimed 118 lives and property were ex­tensively damaged. The Kala- Kato and Maitatsine clash in Bullumkutu Maiduguri, Borno State in October 1982 claimed scores of lives and wanton de­struction of property. During the time under review, Muslim demonstrators burnt down churches in Kano.
At Dobeli ward in Gombe in the first quarter of 1984, a cri­sis spearheaded by the Maitat­sine sect claimed 568 lives and wanton destruction of prop­erty. In March 1986, Muslims and Christians clashed during an Easter procession by Chris­tians. There were clashes be­tween Muslims and Christians in March 1987 at College of Education, Kafanchan, Kaduna State. In the same vein, waves of religious riots in different lo­cations in Kaduna in the same March 1987 witnessed loss of lives and destruction of prop­erty. Religious riots among students at Kaduna Polytechnic in 1988 resulted to the destruc­tion of the foundation wall of the Christian Chapel.
It will recalled that a quarrel between a Fulani man and Sayawa meat seller in Tafewa Balewa, Bauchi State in 1991 later assumed a religious col­ouration resulting wanton de­struction of property and loss of lives. A peaceful protest ini­tiated by the Izala sect in 1991 to halt Rev. Reinhard Bonnke’s crusade in Kano snowballed into a full blown riot resulting to wanton destruction of prop­erty and lives .In May 1992 in Zangon Kataf, Kaduna State, a feud between the Kataf and Hausas later assumed Muslim- Christian riot in other major cities of the state which result­ed into destruction of lives and property.
In December 1994, a chris­tian was beheaded in Kano for allegedly desecrating the Quran. A clash between the Hausas and Igbos in Kano in1995 triggered burning of houses, churches, shops, and killing of innocent people. In February 2000, Kaduna ex­ploded in conflagration as Muslim and Christian extrem­ists clashed over the proposal to introduce Sharia.
The list of religious conflicts which have claimed wanton property and lives in the Ni­gerian history is inexhaust­ible. Every now and then, Nigerians are treated to gory sights of murder with religious undertones. It will not be out of place to suggest here that Nigeria’s unity is on the preci­pice considering the geometric progression in which these re­ligious hates are spreading.
A non- profit organisation in its 2016 World Watch rank­ing that highlights where Christians are persecuted on a scale ranging from ex­treme, severe and moderate to sparse, rated Nigeria as severe and was 12th out of 50 countries. In the views of pundits, the ranking is not only embarrassing but terri­ble. Our Constitution guar­antees that” the Government of the Federation or any State shall not adopt any religion as State Religion”.
The timing of these reli­gious- related killings is ill considering the obnoxious activities of the Fulani herds­men who are rampaging sev­eral locations in the country. The episode becomes worri­some in the face of the insur­gency in the North East which has constituted a serious clog in the wheel of progress of the country.
Indeed, the times call for con­certed efforts. All hands should on deck. It calls for the strength­ening of our institutions which are more or less dead. There are several unresolved murders in this country and the current situation should go beyond the usual mantra of “bringing the perpetrators to book”by our security agencies to concrete actions. There should a collabo­rative effort among the govern­ment, security agencies, the media, and other stakeholders to put this monster to bay. For the Christians, the following statement by Open Doors:” When hatred and revenge is promoted, Christians remain the keepers of hope for hu­manity”, beckons.
•Ukegbu, a public policy analyst and communication strategist, writes from Umua­hia, Abia State.

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