The Christian Association of Nigeria is demanding answers from the Nigerian government as the interdenominational body calls for three days of prayer and fasting after the execution of one of its leaders.
Following the beheading of Rev. Lawan Andimi at the hands of Boko Haram Monday, CAN issued sharp words of criticism for the Nigerian federal government due to its inability to thwart attacks and abductions carried out against Christians by Boko Haram and the Islamic State's West Africa Province in Nigeria’s northeast.
Andimi, a Church of the Brethren pastor and chairman of CAN’s chapter in the Michika Local Government Area of Adamawa State, was abducted by alleged Boko Haram militants in early January.
Days later he appeared in a ransom video pleading with church and government leaders to secure his release. However, the pastor was said to have been executed because the underserved Christian community could not raise enough funds to meet the ransom demands of his captors. Additionally, sources say that Andimi refused to renounce his faith in Christ.
“We recall sadly that Late Rev. Lawan Andimi while in captivity made a passionate appeal to the leadership of his church and the federal government to come to his rescue,” a CAN statement issued by CAN’s Director of Legal and Public Affairs, Kwamkur Samuel Vondip, reads.
“The church did everything within her reach to secure the safe release of this pastor gentleman but it was not possible because they didn’t have the military power to do so.”
The CAN statement, obtained by The Chrisitian Post, also mourned the killing of Lutheran Pastor Denis Bagauri, who was killed in his home Sunday by unknown gunmen.
“The church views the unabated kidnappings, extortions and killings of Christians and innocent Nigerians as shameful to the government that each time boasts that it has conquered insurgency,” CAN noted. “It is reprehensible and saddening that each time the government comes out to claim the defeat of the insurgency, more killings of our people are committed.”
One human rights nongovernmental organization estimates that at least 1,000 Christians were killed by Boko Haram and Fulani radicals in 2019.
CAN suggests that in light of the facts it is difficult for its leaders to believe that the federal government under President Mohammadu Buhari “is not colluding with the insurgents to exterminate Christians in Nigeria.”
CAN’s assertion bears in mind “the very questionable leadership of the security sector that has been skewed toward a religion and region.”
“Is that lopsidedness not a cover-up for the operation of the insurgency?” the statement asked. “If not, why couldn’t the well-equipped security agents of Nigeria get this man killed rescued?”
CAN challenged the federal government to be “more proactive” and take more seriously the killings and destruction being caused by extremists across Nigeria.
“Maintenance of security is the least responsibility of any government that knows its worth,” CAN contended. “We are once again calling on President Buhari to purge himself of the allegations of nepotism and religious favoritism by reconstituting the leadership of security outfits.”
CAN calls on the federal government to secure the release of Christian teen Leah Sharibu and hundreds of other victims who have been kidnapped by Boko Haram and ISWAP.
“A government that cannot protect the governed is a failed government,” CAN asserted.
The organization concluded its statement by listing questions “begging for answers.”
“Can the government tell us what they did since Rev. Andimì cried out to them for help?” the statement asks.
CAN also asked if the “government [is] sincere in fighting these terrorists or merely paying lip service to the war against the insurgency?”
“Is there any hope that our security is guaranteed under this government?” CAN asks. ”If the security agencies claim the terrorists are operating outside the country, why is it possible for these hoodlums to invade the country, kill, maim, burn and kidnap without any convincing checks on the part of the security agencies?”
CAN states that the Nigerian government has claimed that the brutal acts carried out against Christians have no religious undertones. If that is true, then CAN asks why extremists and herdsmen are “targeting the predominantly Christian communities and Christian leaders?”
“If the security agencies are not living up to the expectations of the government, why hasn't it overhauled them with a view of injecting new visionaries into the security system?” the statement questioned.
“As long as the government continues to live in denial and fail to face the reality, these criminals will not stop their criminalities. We are almost losing hope in government's ability to protect Nigerians, especially Christians who have become endangered species under its watch.”
Nigeria ranks as the 12th worst nation in the world when it comes to Christian persecution on Open Doors USA’s 2020 World Watch List. Open Doors USA CEO David Curry warned during a press event last week that the rise of Islamic extremism in Nigeria is spilling over into Cameroon and Burkina Faso.
The U.S. State Department added Nigeria for the first time to its “special watch list” of countries that tolerate severe religious freedom violations in December.
“We are designating [Nigeria] special watch list for the first time because of all of the increasing violence and communal activity and the lack of effective government response and the lack of judicial cases being brought forward in that country,” U.S. Ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback told reporters at the time.
“It is a dangerous situation in too many parts of Nigeria. The government has either not been willing to or have been ineffective in their response and the violence continues to grow.”
Several human rights and religious freedom activists are calling on U.S. President Donald Trump to appoint a special envoy to monitor the situation in Nigeria and the Lake Chad Region.