The Nigerian government has reacted to comments by Mathew Kukah, the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese in Northwest Nigeria that only Christian schools were targeted by terrorists for abduction, saying that he spoke without facts and figures.
“With due respect to the esteemed position he holds, the Bishop’s assertion that only Christian schools are being targeted by bandits or terrorists is not supported by the facts on the ground,” said Garba Shehu, media aide to the Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari.
In a statement titled “Response by the presidency to the statement made by Bishop Kukah Before the United States Congress,” Shehu said that victims of insecurity in the country cut across all strata of the society.
“It is sad to say but also true that victims of crime, kidnapping, banditry and terrorism cut across all strata of the society” he said.
“Sad but true that Kankara students in Katsina State were stolen by bandits of the same Islamic faith as those they took away. The same may be true of those who are still holding the 134 students of the Islamic School at Tegina in Niger State.”
“The nation witnessed the sad incident of the female students abducted by bandits at Jangebe in Zamfara State and the over 100 predominantly Muslim students of the Federal Government Girls College Birnin Yauri in Kebbi State who are currently in captivity- and the nation’s security agencies are hard at work to release them unharmed.”
He said “The attack on Christian students is sad and unacceptable; so also is the abduction of students of other faiths.”
“The claim that only Christian schools are being targeted is totally untrue.”
Shehu said Nigerians, must as a people together define evil as evil and not follow religious differences to divide the country.
“We must not allow our religious differences to divide us. No one gains but the evil doers when we divide our ranks according to ethnicity and religion in confronting them. The bandit, kidnapper and terrorist are the enemies of the people who should be confronted in unison.”
Kukah’s speech at US Congress
The clergyman, while addressing the United States Congress Commission on perceived persecution of Christians in Northern Nigerians by extremist groups, said that there was a religious undertone to the security challenges in the country, emphasising that “the fact that the government seems to be either helpless or uninterested in dealing decisively with these people has added more confusion.”
The cleric said this at a virtual presentation with the US Congress in Washington.
He also claimed that extremists, bandits, Fulani herdsmen and Boko Haram were targeting many schools in the North especially, Christian ones and are “indoctrinating the children. They end up converting these children to wives, cooks, spies, sexual slaves and so on.”
Kukah told Congress that although the attacks on Christians in Nigeria have been happening for many years now, it has risen in the last 10 years.
He had also alleged that “the President has blatantly pursued nepotistic agenda and policies that show very clearly his preference for men and women of his faith.”
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