Christians on Saturday stepped up preparations for their nationwide protests, today over the mindless killings by people suspected to be herdsmen, as police beefed up security to stave off possible breakdown of law and order.
The umbrella organisation for the Nigerian Christian community, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), declared that there was no going back on its directive for the protest and that it was going to be total.
Two Catholic priests along with 18 other worshippers were killed by rampaging suspected herdsmen that had laid siege to Benue State for weeks, just as they have continuously killed people in Taraba, Zamfara, Nasarawa and Plateau states.
All set for protest
Reports indicated last night that in Abuja, bishop of African Church Diocese, Reverend Peter Ogunmuyiwa, told Sunday Tribune that each church would organised a rally.
“We have sensitised all church leaders in Abuja to mobilse their church members to come en masse on Sunday in line with the national Christian Association of Nigeria president’s directive.
In Lagos, churches from different denominations had been mobilising their members though the social media while keeping the details under wraps. However some people believe the notice may mar the success of the protest Communication Director, Lagos West Anglican Diocese, Reverend Omonijo, when contacted, said he had no information yet on the planned protest, but promised to back later.
In Ogun State, CAN had informed its members to stage the rally as directed by the national body.
It asked members across all the local governments and local council development areas to embark on the peaceful protest by carrying placards with inscriptions Stop Blood Shedding in Nigeria President Buhari; Release Leah Sharibu and the remaining Chibok Girls from Boko Haram captivity, among others.
The protesters were warned against any form of violence, and any form of insult or abuse on governments at the federal and the state levels.
In Benue State, CAN chairman, Reverend Akpen Leva, called on Christians throughout the state to appear in black attire today in their churches.
The cleric, who spoke to Sunday Tribune by telephone on Saturday, said in order to ensure statewide protest, he went on state radio to educate Christians throughout the state on the need for a successful protest.
“We are all ready to observe the directive of the national leadership of CAN to protest on Sunday. We have gone on radio to educate and enlighten our people, but the protest will be within the church premises.
“We also directed that everyone should appear in black dress as they go to church today,” he said.
The state CAN also directed seven days prayer and fasting across the state commencing from Monday.
Also, the CAN chairman in the 19 Northern states, Yakubu Pam said churches had been adequately mobilised ahead of today protest saying all denominations have indicated their readiness to comply with the directive.
Speaking, Reverend Pam said the protest will be backed up with prayers in all churches adding that the killings in recent times depicted that the nation was heading towards destruction if not handled with all sense of seriousness by the government.
“The protest is to express our displeasure about the dangerous trend, the spate of killings in the country especially in Benue and in some other parts of the North which could lead to civil war and religious crisis. We can no longer fold our arms, there is the need for spiritual solution, to express our displeasure and as well draw attention of government to these killings,” he stated.
Reverend Pam enjoined President Muhammadu Buhari to reexamine the security situation in the country and flush out those at the helm of security agencies who were not willing to arrest the situation.
There were strong indications that churches in Plateau State had been fully prepared and mobilised.
A source close to Plateau State CAN said the state chapter had mobilised and had taken permission from the state police command and the protection of other security agencies in the state.
All attempt to get in touch with the state CAN Chairman, Reverend Soja Bewarang, proved abortive but a source close to the state executive of the association revealed that after morning prayers in all churches, Christian worshippers will converged at three designated points in Jos and thereafter move to the seat of government in the state.
However, Plateau State Police Command through its Public Relation Officer Terms Tyopev confirmed permission for the protest and charged the state executive of the association to manage the protest well adding that the state police command was fully prepared.
In Kaduna, the CAN secretary, Reverend Ibrahim Sunday said the state chapter is in support of the protest.
Speaking in an interview in Kaduna, Reverend Sunday disclosed that Christians in the state will join the nationwide protest because it was necessary
Again, if you look at the spate of killings that is happening in the North it is not only in Kaduna but it is happening in mainly Christian dominated areas, so nobody is happy over it. So we want to register our displeasure by way of protest.
“We have asked our members to protest but they are not coming out in the streets.
“We are law-abiding citizens and we will not contravene any law. The country’s constitution allows anyone or group of persons to protest.”
The police image maker, Muktar Husseini, in an interview said as of Friday he was not aware of any planned protest.
In Osun State, some of the clergymen, who spoke to our correspondent under the condition of anonymity, said they had mobilised their members ahead of the protest.
But the state Commissioner of Police, Mr Fimihan Adeoye, maintained that “Police would monitor the situation”, stressing that the security agencies would be on ground to carry out their duties as usual.
However, commenting on the preparedness of his congregation for the demonstration, the head of Sufficient Grace and Truth Ministry, Okinni, Bishop Seun Adeoye said “I want to say that we are ready and we would do what our leaders said we should do. We are also praying strongly because we need prayers for the protest.”
When contacted the CAN chairman in Osun State, Reverend Father Michael Okodua said “the protest would be in form of prayers within the churches’ premises,” saying members were ready to carry out the directive of CAN on the development.
The Ekiti State chapter of CAN also said it was ready for the protest.
The chairman, Reverend Joshua Orikogbe, who stated this in Ado Ekiti, explained that the Christian faithful in the state were against the killings and are not happy that the government isn’t doing enough to bring it to an end.
Orikogbe said Ekiti CAN would march from its office at Ori Apata area of Ado Ekiti to the Government House, where CAN would address its members and deliver a letter to the state governor to transmit to the federal government.
He said the Christian community would carry out the rally in all the 16 local government areas of Ekiti State, including Ado Ekiti the state capital.
Expressing support for the rally, the General Overseer of Holy Trinity Authority Prophetic Church International, Prophet James Omitade, said “until President Muhammadu Buhari sees each life being taken by the herdsmen and terrorists as his own personal life, he may not be taking adequate steps.”
In Kogi State CAN, has also said it was ready for the protest planned for today.
The state chairman of the association, Bishop John Ibenu, told Sunday Tribune that members across the 21 local government areas had been mobilised for the protest.
According to him, letters had already been sent to the blocs that made up the state chapter for the protest.
Bishop Ibenu who lamented the spate of killings across the country, said serious efforts should be made to force government to take action on the problems being faced by innocent citizens in the country.
Ibenu charged Christians in the state to come out and participate in the protest as a show of their opposition to the killings going on in the country.