Speaking on the recent surge in violence in southern Kaduna State, Nigerian Minister of the Interior Abdulrahman Bello Dambazau on Tuesday called on Nigerians to desist from framing the conflict as one with religious or ethnic connotations, saying that such inflammatory language could escalate violence in the region.
The minister stated this in a press release issued on Tuesday by his chief spokesperson, Ehisienmen Osaigbovo.
According to Mr. Osaigbovo, the interior minister condemned statements made by religious leaders and political commentators that have implied that the ongoing violence has a religious and/or ethnic dimension because such statements can only exacerbate the violence and create further instability in the country.
“[Dambazau] said there are people who are always looking for ways to further create division among religious or ethnic fault lines for their selfish interest, with the aim of creating instability in our internal security,” Mr. Osaigbovo said. “Accordingly, the Minister posited that true religious leaders do not fan the embers of hate, but ensure that communities live in peace and harmony.”
Mr. Dambazau’s press secretary added that such ethnic and religious divisions hinder economic growth and development in Nigeria, as a country with so many different ethnic and religious groups cannot possibly develop without unity and cooperation.
The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) had on Monday called the recent spate of killings in southern Kaduna State a genocidal campaign against Christians carried out by Islamic fundamentalists disguised as Fulani herdsmen.
Mr. Dambazau, however, said the perpetrators have no genocidal agenda and are killing Nigerians of all ethnicities and religions.
“Dambazau said criminals who perpetrate violence against innocent, law-abiding citizens do not discriminate along religious and ethnic lines, citing examples of how communities in Zamfara, Katsina, Taraba, Enugu, Lagos and Niger were victimized by those violent criminals,” Mr. Osaigbovo said.
“He advised opinion and religious leaders to refrain from giving the crisis between herdsmen and sedentary farmers in Southern Kaduna a religious connotation, rather, attention should be focused on the real enemies of our society, who illegally acquire weapons to terrorize Christian and Muslim communities alike,” he added.
Police have subsequently been tasked with ramping up security operations in the affected areas. Similarly, the Senate announced on Tuesday that it would commence investigation into the killings when it returns from recess on January 10.