Call To Protest: Prosecution Of Priests’ Killers, Call For Free Leah Protests On Childrens’ Day

Call To Protest: Prosecution Of Priests’ Killers, Call For Free Leah Protests On Childrens’ Day

Call To Protest: Prosecution Of Priests’ Killers, Call For Free Leah Protests On Childrens’ Day

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Following our participation as international observers at the third mass burial in Benue State this year of victims of the St Ignatius church massacre, yesterday, we note as follows:
HIGHLIGHTS
1. Nigeria’s VP Osinbajo attended and offered general platitudes and saying this is not the first time church killings have happened in Nigeria, citing incidents before their government came into power. With due respect to the VP, Nigerians are no longer interested in what obtained in prior administrations. Nigerians want to know what they have obtained as his administration clocks 3 years next week.
If we are to compare with previous administrations, we can authoritatively report based on our legal work on these issues that President Yaradua’s administration in 2010 directly prosecuted Killer Fulani Herdsmen responsible for the mass murders of 500 villagers in Dogo Nahawa and Rasat communities of Plateau state. It’s the worst single day massacre by the Herdsmen so far followed by the Agatu massacre of 2016 under this administration for which no one has been prosecuted.
15 Killer Herdsmen were convicted and imprisoned in 2010 even though President Yaradua was himself a Fulani.
We call on the Vice President who stated to us during a townhall interaction in USA in 2016 that 800 Herdsmen were in prison across the country to provide us a status report of the said suspects and the number of convictions secured by this administration since its inception.
2. Priests at the graveside commented that unlike the president’s visit where he never actually said sorry to the people of Benue on their loss,  the VP diplomatically did so on this occasion.
Local activists however were pained that the president did not come himself but we are relieved that at least the VP came. It’s the first of three mass burials these year in Benue State that such a high level federal government representative has attended.
Incidentally the VP was also here last week where he was pointedly challenged on his Christian faith amidst the persecution of believers.
Interestingly, Benue is the first state to elect a catholic priest as governor in the 90s. VP Osinbajo is the first Pastor to transcend  that threshold.
3. We welcome the remarks of Cardinal Onaiyekan who reaffirmed, what is a legal right, that Christians may have to defend themselves as a last resort.

4. We note with sadness Makurdi Diocese Bishop Anagbe’s revelation of how a few days ago, he got a call from an archbishop that people were saying the priests were not murdered in the church. He said he replied that “sure they must have been wearing cassock and collar as pajamas and nightgown.” He queried why people will be spreading such nonsense. Besides persecution, the church in Nigeria faces propaganda as well.

For years, this administration has variously claimed that it was just a communal clash between communities in Benue instead of overwhelming evidence to the contrary including claims of responsibility by the Fulani Herdsmen themselves!
5. We note the remarks of the Benue Governor that the clergymen killed were not farmers nor was the church a farm protection bing once more that these unprovoked attacks have more to them than mere land grab. We are disturbed by Governor Ortom’s revelation that almost 500 people have been killed in his state in the first 5 months of 2018 already!
We note the crowds derisive laughter because he thanked the Federal Government for deploying troops to the state.

6. We note with concern that all social amenities in Mbalon were donated by the current Catholic Bishop of Makurdi. Father Joseph was the first priest posted to Mbalon. Father Felix had been displaced from his prior station and was visiting Joseph when they were both killed. A 6 year old was the youngest victim. She was killed alongside her mother.

The church proclaimed that they have been ministering to victims since 2001. Now that priests are being killed, who will tend to victims and who will be left?
Just for context, Benue is the most Christian State in the north with less than 1% Muslim percentage. Growing up here for about a dozen years, atrocities like this in north central Nigeria were unheard of. We urge the government in addition to security to provide amenities for the affected communities.
7. We note from consultation with CSOs conducting assessments at IDP camps that if the N10Billion announced by VP Osinbajo last week were to be distributed at 50,000 per head to each victim in Benue alone, it would not suffice to restore the over 400,000 IDPs in the state and urge greater resourcing for victims urgently and the 10 billion to be allocated to Benue State specifically to ensure food security for the nation.
8. Finally we urge the capture and arraignment of the real killers of the St Ignatius church martyrs before the 3rd anniversary of this administration on May 29th 2018 failing which we shall table this atrocity before the International Criminal Court for want of prosecution and inaction by the FGN. The arrest of a Benue Government aide appears specious, duplicitous, mendacious and shadow boxing as he has been a target of the Herdsmen and not an associate of theirs.
B. Following the successful global response to the Free Leah campaign on her 15th birthday last week:
9. we enjoin and endorse the call for students in Nigeria to either boycott or march in honor of Leah this children’s Day, May 27, 2018.
We note that UNICEF reported that 2017 was a terrible day for the world’s children citing  Nigerian children used for suicide bombing in the north. The ICC also noted same.
Accordingly there is no basis for a celebration of Children’s day when children are under attack in Nigeria. Like their peers in the US who are leading the vanguard of the March for our lives movement, we urge parents, children and teachers to march for their lives and the lives of the over 600 teachers killed and thousands of children killed and abducted by terrorism in northern Nigeria by holding placards for Leah.
10. We thank the media for publicizing the call to action on Leah’s birthday which led to a global advocacy response.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
END
Below: Barrister Emmanuel Ogebe at mass burial of St Ignatius massacre martyrs in Benue May 22nd 2018, Activists stand for Leah on her birthday in the UK
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IDP kids stand for Leah
Here is an additional link:
Emmanuel Ogebe, Esq.
Special Counsel
Justice for Jos Project
WhatsApp +2348037433143

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