Following persistent killings by suspected Fulani herdsmen, Nigerian Catholic bishops have invited Pope Benedict XVI to visit Nigeria, saying that such visit will strengthen troubled Nigerians and encourage them to cope with different challenges.
The Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, Most Rev. Alfred Adewale Martins, who was part of arecent “Ad limina” visit by the Nigerian bishops to Pope Francis at the Vatican, announced the invitation in a recent interview with the Vatican News.
The Lagos prelate remarked: “Oh yes! We’re looking forward to seeing him. Yes, we did invite him and of course, as expected, he couldn’t give us a response then but we hopeful he would react to that. If he does come, it will not only strengthen the people, it will also encourage the people to be able to cope with these different challenges.”
Even though, the Catholic spiritual head had not responded to the invitation to visit Nigeria, Most Rev. Martins noted that the Pope was concerned about the killings going on in the country.
Martins said: “Well, of course, we also asked him what message he wanted us to take back home as a message to our people. He said we should be courageous, particularly with regards to the recent troubles with the terrorists that masquerade as herdsmen. He told us to tell our people that he is with us in spirit and he is with us praying for us; that whatever it is that is possible in order to ameliorate the situation, he is willing to journey with us. We thought that was very good.”
According to the Vatican News website, the Nigerian Catholic bishops, “believe that terrorists and mercenaries have infiltrated the Fulani herdsmen to cause insecurity and mayhem in the Middle Belt of the country.”
Martins also praised the Pope for operating an open-door policy.
“We came in; we wanted to talk about the situation of our people; the situation of their lives and the response had been very cordial in the sense that he is willing to listen to what we have to say. There is that willingness to listen and the willingness to share the kind of challenge that we have. We are there with the Holy Father and he said to us that we could tell him whatever it is that we needed to say even if it meant criticizing him. I thought that was very, very interesting; that we have a man that is open and ready to listen to what other people have to say,” Archbishop Martins said.
The pope was said to be particularly saddened by the recent attack on St Ignatius Catholic Parish, Mbalom, in Gwer West, Local Government Area of Benue state.
During the attack, some men suspected to be herdsmen stormed the church and killed 18 persons, including two reverend fathers, leaving several other parishioners injured.
In a related development, a Makurdi-based lawyer, Matthew Nyiutsa, has approached the Federal High Court, Abuja, for an order compelling President Muhammadu Buhari and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), to proscribe Fulani herdsmen operating in Benue State and Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore as terrorist and terrorist organisations respectively.
The plaintiff in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/499/18, is also seeking the prohibition of all activities of Fulani herdsmen in Benue State that have resulted in the deliberate and intentional killings, massacre, wanton destruction of both private and public properties including residential and commercial houses, schools, hospitals/ clinic, markets, water boreholes/reservoirs, invasion of ancestral lands of the inhabitants as acts of terrorism under the Terrorism (Prevention) Act, 2011 as amended.
The exparte motion dated and filed at the registry of the court on May 11, 2018 was brought pursuant to order 34 Rule (2) and (3) of the Federal High Court (civil procedure) rules, 2009 and under the inherent jurisdiction of the court.
The lawyer, who resides in Guma Local government Area of the state, said he was one of the numerous victims of continuing Fulani herdsmen attacks on communities in Benue State.
Nyiutsa, wants a declaration of court that the series of armed attacks particularly from January 1, 2018 to May, 2018 on inhabitants of communities in Guma, Logo, Makurdi, Gwer-East, Buruku, Tarka, Katsina-Ala and Ukum local government areas of Benue State by suspected Fulani herdsmen using sophisticated weapons like AK- 47 which had resulted in deaths of over 200 persons, amounted to acts of terrorism as defined under section 1(3) of the Terrorism (Prevention) Act, 2011 as amended.
The plaintiff who is demanding the sum of N50 million as exemplary damages against the respondents further prayed the court to declare that the Attorney General of the Federation and President Buhari (1st and 2nd respondents) have mandatory statutory duties and obligations under section 2 of the Terrorism (Prevention) Act, to act in the circumstances of the prevailing acts of terrorism perpetuated by the Fulani herdsmen by causing an application to lie before a court of competent jurisdiction for, inter alia, an order proscribing the Fulani herdsmen and Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore having been reasonably suspected of carrying out the said criminal activities and acts of terrorism as terrorists and terrorists group respectively.
He further prayed the court for a declaration that the threat issued by Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, through Alhaji Abdullahi Bello Bodejo and Engr. Saleh Al- Hassan as National President and Secretary respectively during a press conference at Kaduna sometime in June, 2017, to the effect of mobilising their members and other Fulani herdsmen to cause anarchy in Benue State amounted to support for act of terrorism under section 5 of the Terrorism (prevention) Act, 2011 as amended and therefore renders the said organisation liable to being held as a terrorist organisation.
The plaintiff deposed that he had suffered substantial injury from Fulani herdsmen attacks since 2014 to date. According to him, in 2014, nine of his family members were killed by armed Fulani herdsmen including another 24 of his family members who were killed by Fulani herdsmen on January 1, 2018 at Tom-atar.
Attached to the suit were copies of death report to Coroner and report by Medical practitioner, and burial programme for mass burial of the deceased victims of the attacks by Fulani herdsmen.
The matter is yet to be assigned to any court.