Theinternational community should stop posturing and start providing practical support in the struggle against extremist violence in Nigeria, says one of the country’s most senior Church leaders, whose city was rocked Tuesday by attacks that killed more than 100 people.
Critical of the headline-grabbing displays of solidarity and statements of support by the United Nations and others, Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos said the Nigerian government urgently needs more outside help to defeat Boko Haram.
The Islamist movement is strongly suspected of carrying out Tuesday’s twin blasts at a bus terminal and a nearby market in Jos, in Nigeria’s Middle Belt, where at least 118 people were killed and 56 were injured.
Speaking from Nigeria today in an interview with Aid to the Church in Need, a Catholic charity for persecuted and other suffering Christians, the archbishop of Jos said foreign governments and others had a vital role to play in helping with intelligence gathering, stopping the illegal sale of arms, stepping up border controls and other initiatives crucial to cutting off Boko Haram’s supply lines.
Highlighting Nigeria’s security problems, Archbishop Kaigama, who is president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria, said: “The international community can help in a number of important ways. The sale of arms is of grave concern. In short, the [government] needs help in cutting the supply lines of Boko Haram and others.”
Referring to the many international pledges of solidarity, especially in the wake of Boko Haram’s abduction of more than 300 school girls in northern Nigeria, Archbishop Kaigama said: “All this hyperactivity from the UN and different nations amounts to pouring water into a basket.”
Archbishop Kaigama added: “While we appreciate what has been done recently with so many coming together in solidarity with us – and it really is great that the whole world is talking about it – what we need to do is work together to find solutions and put economics and other interests to one side.”
While critical of the government’s efforts to tackle Boko Haram, he said President Goodluck Jonathan’s key problem was that the government had done “too little, too late” and now “lacked the capacity” to deal with the crisis.
Archbishop Kaigama said: “The problem is that the government thought that they did not have to apply all the force that was necessary to defeat them but they have been proved wrong.
“All the money used for the military has not been used properly. Quite a lot of the budget was used for security but we do not see the fruits.”
Tuesday’s attack was Jos’ first major incident of its kind in more than two years, Archbishop Kaigama said: “People were beginning to move freely from one end of the town to another without fear.
“We thought we had moved beyond all this [violence] and so to wake up to this is very demoralising. It is very tragic and unexpected.”
The archbishop went on to highlight the religious objectives of Boko Haram, stating: “Even in recent times, the bomb blasts have occurred in places where Christians are the majority. So many of the girls who were kidnapped are Christian, the attacks in Kano took place in a predominantly Christian area and this applies to some extent to what has happened in Jos.
“Even now, [Boko Haram] are faithful to their target of eliminating and destroying Christianity from parts of the country.
“The only difference is that we are not just seeing Christians dying and being abducted, we are seeing attacks on Muslims who [Boko Haram] consider are not Muslim enough.”
The archbishop’s comment come a week after he addressed an Aid to the Church in Need international religious freedom conference in Malta, saying that he hoped that Boko Haram’s religious values would mean they would respect the girls which they abducted from a school in Chibok, Borno state.