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Treat Herdsmen As Insurgents, Catholic Bishops Tell Buhari

Catholic Bishops' Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to declare the raging menace of herdsmen around the country an insurgency. The CBCN also wants the President to address the issue of denial of Christians land to build worship places in some northern states.

The requests were part of those made in an address by Most Reverend Ignatius Kaigama, CBCN President, during the visit of the conference to Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Monday.

According to the CBCN President, the armed attacks and wanton killings have become a national threat and should be declared an insurgency and treated as such. This, he added, will facilitate the dislodgement of insurgents from occupied communities by the security and military operatives.

In addition to the demand for the conflict to be declared an insurgency, Kaigama, who is the Archbishop of Jos Catholic Diocese, also asked that they are investigated, with a view to bringing perpetrators to book.

"The Agatu killings, the Nimbo murders and many other killings in Benue, Taraba, Nassarawa, Ondo, Edo, Delta and elsewhere should be seriously investigated, with the perpetrators unmasked and decisively dealt with.

"Our people cannot continue to live in perpetual fear of attacks by fellow Nigerians with criminal intent," Kaigama said.

The CBCN President said the conference is happy that Buhari has already ordered investigations into the Agatu and Nimbo killings, but urged him to consider measures that will lead to a more enduring solution between the herdsmen and farmers.

" For a more permanent peace between herdsmen and farmers in our country, some streamlining is necessary for the good of the rearers in the North and for the welfare of farmers in the South and elsewhere in Nigeria.

"Cattle ranches should be created in states known for cattle breeding, with adequate water and fodder provided and nurtured. "Farmland for root crops and other plants should be protected from their specific products in states known for such.

"This will reduce or eliminate clashes stemming from trespassing," Kaigama explained.

The CBNC President also invited Buhari's attention to the difficulty experienced by Christians in their bid obtain land for a church building in some Northern states.

"… Christians are still unable to erect places of worship in federal universities in the states of the north.

After forty years, Usman Dan Fodio and Bayero Universities, for example, have outrightly denied Christians access to lands already allocated in the plans for the erection of churches, in spite of there being so many mosques built by the university authorities.

"Similarly, it is such a Herculean task for Christians to obtain certificates of occupancy to establish churches in some northern States.

"We urge you to kindly encourage state governments to kindly enforce the freedom of religion enshrined in our constitution," he pleaded.

The conference commended the government's wars against the Boko Haram insurgency and corruption but cautioned that both should be prosecuted in accordance with the rule of law.

Also, Kaigama called on Buhari to extend government funding for the education of school children from Primary 1 to JSS 3 to children in missionary-owned schools.

"We believe that the national and state Governments have a duty, and in some cases have actually committed themselves by law, to fund the education of all children from Primary 1 to JSS 3. "In fact, this is in the new Federal Policy on Education, under the 6-3-3-4 scheme.

"We wish to humbly remind your administration what you owe to all children, not only those in public schools. We are also demanding that children under our care who are citizens of our great country, in our faith- based institutions should enjoy similar privileges and not suffer any form of deprivation or discrimination because they happen to be in institutions run by faith-based organizations," he requested.

On the state of the economy, Kaigama reminded the president that Nigerians are suffering, with workers in many states going unpaid for months. While thanking Buhari for extending the bailouts to states, the CBNC urged the President to ensure that the monies given out are used mainly to take care of salaries and pensions.

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