Dangerous flipside of hasty death sentence on Adamawa Christian youths
About one year ago, on June 1st, 2017, some five Christian youths in Adamawa State, North East Nigeria were accused of attacking and killing a Fulani herdsman, by name Adamu Buba. That was at the time when herdsmen-farmers crisis was at a peak in the state.
The issue of herdsmen attack on farmers in their farms where many get killed and farms destroyed is no longer news. The crisis is not peculiar to Adamawa; it is happening in States across the country especially in the North-East, North-West and North-Central.
Amnesty International (AI) in a recent report claimed that clashes between farmers and herdsmen have claimed at least 168 lives in 2018 alone. In 2017, 549 deaths were recorded across 14 states, while thousands were displaced. These deaths are mostly Christian farmers.
Osai Ojigho, country’s director of AI regretted that no far-reaching action is being taken by the government to solve these crises and he called on the government to find a lasting solution to them.
Last week, Justice Abdul-Azeez Waziri of the Adamawa state’s High Court sentenced the Christian youths: Alex Amos, Alheri Phanuel, Holy Boniface, Jerry Gideon and Jari Sabagi to death for culpable homicide over the alleged killing of one herdsman—Buba.
From all perspectives, human lives are sacred and no human being should take the life of the other no matter what the circumstance is. We do not condone the acts allegedly committed by Alex Amos and co. However, we note with dismay that the same government which has not been able to successfully prosecute killer herdsmen and Boko Haram members who have killed and maimed thousands of innocent people, mostly Christians is now able, with the speed of light, to successfully prosecute and hand a death sentence on five Christian youths for allegedly killing one herdsman.
On February 19th, 2018, Boko Haram members raided a girls’ boarding secondary school in Dapchi, Yobe State, carting away 110 out of 906 on the school’s official roster. One of the abducted persons was a Christian girl, Leah Sharibu. Weeks after, other abductees were released and received by President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja. But Miss Sharibu (15) was withheld by her abductors because she refused to denounce her Christian faith. The government promised to quicken steps to release Miss Sharibu. But till this morning, nothing is seen to have been done by the Nigerian government to secure the release of the little girl and she is not even in the national discourse. Despite protests by the Christian community, nothing practically has been seen to have been done.
From feelers from the communities, while the Muslim community is excited about this ‘justice’, the Christian community is not. Already the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has faulted the trial on alleged murdered herdsman and the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) and Catholics have warned politicians not to stoke nationwide violence with ‘quick rash’ decisions.
CAN asked the Federal Government to caution the Adamawa State government against a hasty implementation of the death sentence handed to five Christian youths for allegedly killing a Fulani herdsman.
CAN President, Rev. Samson Ayokunle, noted that while the umbrella Christian body does not support jungle justice or criminality, it regrets how hundreds of its members in Southern Kaduna, Benue, Taraba, Plateau, Enugu States and others have been killed and are still being killed daily by yet-to-be apprehended criminals parading as Fulani herdsmen.
In a statement, Ayokunle said: “Citizens stood helpless at the massacre of their peaceful fellow Nigerians and the international community watched in anguish how government’s security agencies could not bring the perpetrators of these heinous killings to book.”
“Why did the court discharge the alleged killers of Madam Bridget Agbahime on the orders of the Kano State government? Why have security officials not arrested those behind the killings of Christians in Southern Kaduna, while those arrested for the murder of Mrs. Eunice Elisha Olawale in Kubwa, Abuja, have been set free by the Nigeria Police?” Ayokunle asked.
PFN also urged government to tread cautiously on the matter.
PFN National Publicity Secretary, Bishop Emmah Isong, said: “It sounds ridiculous that even when no herdsman has been arrested, prosecuted and condemned to death by any court in Nigeria for killing thousands of Christians in Benue, Taraba, Nassarawa and Kogi States, in Yola, Christians are being sentenced to death.”
Isong, noted: “It looks as if it is vengeance for a Yola court to condemn five Christians to death for allegedly killing a herdsman when herdsmen are rampaging everywhere, killing and maiming innocent Christians and going free. It is high time the Federal Government intervened and ensured those Christians are not killed, to forestall further religious conflict within that axis.”
Caritas Nigeria, an advocacy arm of the Catholic Church, also warned politicians to be “conscious of their utterances and actions, as wrong choices could escalate violence, which could plunge the West and Central African sub-regions into refugee theatres, as any major conflict in Nigeria has the potential to destabilise the entire continent. Dealing with the humanitarian crisis caused by Boko Haram and the ongoing crisis in the Middle Belt is bad enough,” National Director and Chief Executive Officer, Fr. Evaristus Bassey, yesterday, ahead World Refugee Day.
AI’s Ojigho noted: “The Nigerian authorities’ response to communal violence is totally inadequate, too slow and ineffective, and in some cases unlawful. Clashes between herdsmen and farmers in Adamawa, Benue, Taraba, Ondo and Kaduna have resulted in 168 deaths in January 2018 alone.
“Hundreds of people lost their lives last year, and the government is still not doing enough to protect communities from these violent clashes. Worse, the killers are getting away with murder,” he said.
We align ourselves with the call for caution to the Nigerian Government. These knotty issues of farmers-herders and Muslim and Christian crises and justice to the Muslim community over the alleged killing of a herdsman must be handled with caution. Nigeria must note that no human life is superior to the other.