The Catholic Church, one of the biggest Christian blocs in Nigeria and all over the world, yesterday told President Muhammadu Buhari to either arrest the killings of innocent Nigerians in the country or resign.
The warning came as thousands of Catholic Church members staged peaceful protests across the states of the federation over the killings in some parts of the country.
The church was particularly irked by the killing of two Catholic priests and 17 worshippers at a Catholic Church in Benue State on April 24.
The protesters also asked Buhari to urgently embark on measures to stop the killings and restore peace to troubled spots.
Protesters, who gathered at various Catholic churches, took to the streets after a requiem mass for the repose of two priests and 17 parishioners who were buried in Benue State yesterday.
The protests all over the country were sanctioned by the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN).
Some of the protesters were armed with placards bearing inscriptions such as “President Buhari, protect Nigerians or resign,” “Human life is sacred,” “Killing is a sin,” “We want peace in Nigeria,” and “Enough is enough, government be responsible.”
The Bishop, Catholic Diocese of Abeokuta, Most Rev. Peter Odetoyinbo, said the Federal Government must act fast and curb wanton bloodshed in the country.
He said: “We call on president and everyone to protect lives, respect lives and ward away from any factor or any reasons that can take another person’s life, either in thought, in words or in action by herdsmen.
On calls for the president’s resignation, Odetoyinbo said it was the collective demand of Catholic Bishops in the face of growing insecurity.
He said: “We asked the president to resign because he’s the father of the nation. When the father cannot protect the home, what’s the responsibility of a father then? His duty is to protect we Nigerians.”
In Abuja Archdiocese, the Auxiliary Bishop, Rt. Rev. Anselem Umoren, accused Buhari of playing ethnicity with the killer herdsmen.
The Bishop said that the country may be consumed by the level of neglect which government is showing to the ongoing killings by Fulani herdsmen.
Umoren, during his homily, said the incessant bloodletting by the herdsmen across the country, and particularly the recent killings of Catholic priests and faithful during a church service in Benue State without any arrest was a clear evidence that the President places more value on ethnicity than the nation.
He said: “Since after the killings of Catholic priests and some faithful in Benue State, we have not heard of any arrest. Our hands must be free from bloodshed.
“The President must secure all lives. He must ensure that killer herdsmen are brought to justice. That is all we are asking for.”
Similarly, the Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, Most Rev. Alfred Adewale Martins, challenged President Buhari to show proof that he was not a collaborator regarding incessant killings in the country by stopping killer herdsmen from further shedding of innocent blood.
Speaking during a Requiem Mass held at St. Leo’s Catholic Church, Ikeja, to kick-start a peaceful protest, he said:
“Many have accused him (Buhari) of being aware and in support of plans to Islamize Nigeria. Many see the killings and the apparent unwillingness to do anything about it as proof that the President is simply keeping quiet and working towards it.
“Let our President discharge himself from these allegations in order that we can rebuild confidence in this our nation. We urge the president to intervene in this problem in a more divisive way in order to save the country from tribal or religious war; we say all of these with due sense of patriotism for our nation, Nigeria. We say all of these because we believe in the strength and unity of Nigeria. Secure the lives and properties of the citizens.”
Martins also delivered a letter to that effect to the Office of Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, for onward transmission to President Buhari.