Christian groups on Sunday marched on the streets of Lagos, Akure, Osogbo and Ado-Ekiti to register their opposition to the recent killings in parts of the country.
They also vowed to vote out the current government of President Muhammadu Buhari accusing him of failing to deal with the problem of insecurity in the country.
The President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Olasupo Ayokunle, on Wednesday implored all Christians to hold peaceful protests within their church premises on April 29 to protest Tuesday’s killing of two priests and 17 worshippers at St. Ignatius Catholic Church, Mbalom, Gwer East Local Government Area of Benue State.
Coming under the umbrella of CAN, the churches led by their clergies, said they were protesting to call the attention of the federal government to the fact that Christians would no longer tolerate the wanton killings of their fellow believers by suspected herdsmen.
The Catholic Church, Baptist and some denominations had some days ago, marched in Ondo State clad in black robes to protest the murderous attack by suspected herdsmen on Christians in Benue State, which resulted in the gruesome murder of the catholic priests.
In Lagos, members of the First Baptist Church, Kosofe, protested the killings
Hundreds of worshippers with various inscriptions on placards demanded an end to the killings which are allegedly being carried out by herdsmen. They also demanded the prompt release of Leah Sharibu, the kidnapped Dapchi girl still in the custody of Boko Haram.
The Senior Pastor of the church, Festus Olatunde,accused the federal government of not doing enough in arresting the ugly situation that has led to the loss of lives and properties in major places like Benue.
He particularly frowned at the killing of worshippers in a Catholic Church last week.
He said: “The killings of worshippers inside the church is condemnable, and the only way the federal government can show their sincerity is to go after the preparators to arrest them and try and serve justice. Until the federal government does that, the Church of God will not keep quiet.”
In Ado-Ekiti, the Ekiti State capital, CAN on Sunday led some denominations, who suspended their normal church activities, to protest the continued killings in the middle belt region as well as other parts of the country.
The placard-carrying protesters, in their numbers, marched and declared that they were tired of incessant killings in Benue and the North-eastern part of the country.
The protest was closely watched by the Nigeria Police Force and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps.
The protesters warned that the current trend had the potential of eliciting another civil war if not checked on time.
CAN warned that allowing Christians to be freely killed without response from the federal government under President Muhammadu Buhari, may cause “total collapse of the country.”
The Chairman of CAN in Ekiti, Joshua Orikogbe, led other leaders of the churches in the state to the Ekiti State Governor, Ayo Fayose, to register their displeasure.
Mr Orikogbe called on Mr Buhari to act swiftly by stopping the menace and bring the culprits to book.
“We are for peace in Nigeria but it is like we are being pushed to the wall by these wanton killings of Christians and clerics,” he said.
“To us in Ekiti CAN, the only way to sustain peace is for the government of the day at the federal level to abandon politics for sometime and focus on the needed attention on security and safety of
Mr Fayose, represented by his Special Adviser on Religious Matters, Seyi Olusola, commended them for carrying out the protest in a peaceful manner.
The governor promised to transmit their grievances to the appropriate federal authorities for consideration and action.
In Ondo State, the protest march was not much different. The protest was peaceful and closely watched by security operatives.
There was, however, a traffic snarl in the busy expressway of the Akure metropolis, when the march hit the heart of the city.
The leaders of CAN, however, were displeased when the state’s deputy governor, Agboola Ajayi, came to address the protesters. They said they wanted the governor himself, Rotimi Akeredolu, to address them.
The protesters chased away the deputy governor at the front of the government house.
“It is the governor or nobody. We voted for him and we expect him to take our issues serious. The deputy governor should go back, we don’t want him,” the angry members said.
The Ondo State CAN Chairman, John Oladapo, said the protest across the country became necessary following the incessant killings of innocent Christians across the country.
He condemned what he called the lopsidedness of appointment of security chiefs in the country, calling on President Buhari to address it.
“We are here today to register our displeasure over the ongoing killings across the country. We want to say Christians in the country are not second class citizens. We will not allow these killings,” Mr Oladapo said.
“Why is it that all our security chiefs are from the same region. We condemn this appointment. Our government must listen to us.
“Let Buhari forget 2019 for now and face security issues in the country. This is not time for electioneering.
“We sent our letter to the Governor of our coming today and the letter was duly received by the office of the governor and since his inception he has been repeatedly ignoring us as Christian Association.
“The reason given by the deputy governor to us was that the governor was bereaved and presently in Ibadan, Oyo State, following the death of Oyo House Assembly Speaker. How will the Governor leave his state and go to Oyo for condolence when there is serious issue here. This is not acceptable.
“Finally, I want to tell our people to go out there and register and also get your PVC for you to do the needful come 2019.We are waiting for them.”
Also speaking, the Presiding Bishop, Agape Christian Ministry, Felix Adejumo, while condemning the killings in the country, disclosed that there are evidences that those masterminding the killings were on a mission to silence churches.
“We have evidences that they want to silence the Church but we will not allow them. These killings are worrisome, enough is enough,” he said.
“The church must not be marginalised. It is the blood of innocent Christians killed that is crying for help in the country.”
Also, the Anglican Bishop of Akure Diocese, Simeon Borokini, said Christians would not allow cattle rearing in the state.
He called on the state governor to as a matter of urgency ensure security in Akoko area of the state, saying “the Akoko region is now the new Sambisa forest in Nigeria.”
In Osogbo, the Osun State capital, the churches in their protest, vowed to vote out President Muhammadu Buhari, urging Christians to arm themselves with voter cards.
The Union Baptist Church, Osogbo, Osun State took the lead in mobilising its members to the streets armed with placards and marched peacefully and silently.
The pastor of Union Baptist Church, Osogbo and Chairman of the Nigeria Baptist Convention, Osogbo, Olumide Kehinde, in his address expressed his dissatisfaction with the Buhari administration in failing to tackle the herdsmen killing headon.
“We want to tell President that ‘enough is enough’. We have been saying that the incessant killings by the Fulani herdsmen are too much. President Buhari should look into all these killing as a matter of urgency to make sure that the killing is stopped,” he said.
“We are demanding from the president that the killing by the herdsmen must stop. Buhari should ensure that the Chibok girls should be released and Shaibu Leah that was retained when several others were released because she refuse to deny Christ, should be released.
“We prayed last week over the killings by herdsmen yet we still experienced another killing that same week where two Catholic priests and 17 others were killed by Fulani herdsmen. Why won’t we think that it is targeted toward the Christian body? Is it a sin for Christians to be Nigerians?
“We thought the killings were going to stop after President Buhari was sworn in as the president but it’s even worse in his administration. We voted him in and if he is not taking any proactive steps in tackling the killing we will vote him out by 2019.
“We voted him because we want change but it appears that this is not the change we voted for, we were lured to vote for the ‘Change mantra’ but come 2019 we are ready to change hands again.”
Also, the Gospel Faith Mission International in Agunbelewo, Osun State, also organised a protest over the killings by the Fulani herdsmen.
The Presiding Priest, Adegbite Olatunji, in his address, said the attack by the Fulani herdsmen was a big threat to the Christian religion in the country.
“This country is our own and we must do the needful in ensuring that it is safe for us. We prayed last week over the killing but we are shocked again by another killing of Catholic priests and other worshippers,” he said.
“Our government must tackle this because we contributed to the vote that made him to be in power and we can also decide in 2019.”