Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom has on Saturday, July 24, described as unfortunate, the response of the Presidency to the address of Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Bishop Matttew Kukah to the United States Congress Committee on Foreign Affairs regarding the wave of insecurity in the country.
Recall that Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, Kukah had expressed fear that the Nigerian government under President Muhammadu Buhari is not handling issues concerning religious crisis the right way.
The revered cleric said this at a virtual presentation with the US Congress in Washington on the persecution of Christians in Nigeria by Islamic extremist groups in the Northern Region.
Kukah, among many other things, told the Congress that although the attack on Christians in Nigeria have been happening for many years now it has risen in the last 10 years.
Reacting to this in a statement signed by Garba Shehu, a senior special assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, the Presidency said it was unfortunate and disappointing for citizens of Nigeria to bear witness to one of their churchmen castigating their country in front of representatives of a foreign parliament.
However, Ortom in a statement released by his Chief Press Secretary, Terver Akase said he stands with Bishop Kukah on the issues he raised.
He urged the Federal Government to stop intimidating patriotic Nigerians who are raising genuine concerns over the worsening security and economic situation in the country.
Ortom lamented that the country is practising democracy which has no room for repression and dictatorship adding that the country’s Constitution guarantees the freedom of speech to all citizens, unlike a military regime that suppresses the right of the people to voice their opinions on challenges facing their country.
He described Bishop Kukah as a Nigerian who is selfless and speaks his mind frankly on national issues calling on the government to ensure justice, the rule of law and equity for all.
The Governor wondered why the Presidency chose to politicize the views of Bishop Kukah when all the issues he highlighted in his address are facts about the country.
“Kukah was right when he stated that nepotism has been elevated above federal character by the present administration.
“It is also true that Christians across the country are targets of elimination and thousands have already fallen to the sword of jihadist supremacists.
“However, Kukah is not to blame for the ranking of Nigeria as the 8th least peaceful country in Africa and the rating of killer herdsmen as the 4th deadliest terror group in the world by the Global Terrorism Index.
“I expected the Presidency to rather be worried that Nigeria is ranked as the most terrorised nation in Africa with an average of over 2,000 deaths per year on account of terrorism,” he said.
He further revealed that Bishop Kukah is not the first Nigerian to address a foreign audience on the security situation in the country.
The Governor recalled that in February 2015 President Buhari who was at the time the candidate of All Progressives Congress, APC, while delivering a speech at Chatham House in London, stated that “Boko Haram has sadly put Nigeria on the terrorism map, killing more than 13,000 of our nationals.”
“The President went on to announce to the world on that occasion that apart from the civil war era, Nigeria had never been more insecure in the country’s history.
“If a man who was seeking to govern the country could reel out such scary statistics, why will his aides now launch media attacks on a clergyman who is only advocating peace and is drawing the attention of the global community to the plight of helpless Nigerians,” he added.
He also urged the Federal Government to arrest and prosecute members of armed Fulani groups for killing innocent Nigerians, the same way it effected the arrest of the leader of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, and Yoruba nation agitator, Sunday Igboho.
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