"Corruption and weakness are killing us" Bishop Matthew Kukah says of Nigeria

Article written by Petra Kolletzki.

Weak and corrupt government in Nigeria is to blame for conflict spiralling out of control, according to a leading bishop, who has called on the international community to help his country restore law and order.

Bishop Matthew Kukah of the diocese of Sokoto told Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) that the government in his country was failing to stem the violence there.

The bishop’s comments come after a spike in attacks over the past few weeks in the north-west of the country, including in Sokoto province’s Sabon Birni district, close to the border with Niger, where more than 70 people were massacred.

In his interview to the British ACN’s office, on Monday 15th June, Bishop Kukah said: “Our government is quite overwhelmed. The situation is getting worse and the numbers being killed are overwhelming. The government is putting a brave face on it but nobody seems to have the faintest idea what is going on.”

Stating that much of the conflict was now centring on north-west Nigeria, including his Diocese of Sokoto, Bishop Kukah said the international community needed to work with Nigeria and summon the political will to stamp out violence and impose the rule of law.

In his ACN interview, Bishop Kukah called on the UK and others to act. He said: “As far as the international community is concerned, there is so much hypocrisy and lack of will. Clearly, if there is political will, there will be an end to it.”

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Conference at New York University’s Catholic Center. Portrait of Bishop Matthew Kukah taken during a panel discussion. Photographer: James Nicholls.
Copyright: Aid to the Church in Need

The bishop’s comments coincide with the launch on Monday of ‘Nigeria: Unfolding Genocide? An Inquiry by the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief’ in the House of Commons in London. The report assesses the causes of the conflict, the Nigerian authorities’ response, and proposes recommendations dealing with humanitarian aid, information-sharing, security and peace-building, education and the role of the international community.

In his ACN interview, Bishop Kukah said the international community can play a significant role in stopping the supply of arms to militant groups, saying that, at present, Nigeria’s security services are “too over-stretched” to deal with the crisis. He said: “The military say those responsible for the violence have been killed but there is no evidence that this has happened. We keep being told that the killings are taking place in the forests. The government clearly needs to take the fight to the forests, but it is far from clear that they are doing this.”

The bishop added that, while law and order played a key part in the conflict, religious hatred and discrimination were essential to understanding the root causes. He alleged that many Muslims in the country “persist with their claim that there is to be no separation between the state and religion and it is this that has enabled Boko Haram and other groups to try to impose their moral authority.”

“It is very difficult for [Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari] to have the moral authority to condemn Boko Haram if he has decided that Christians are living in a state where so many of those in positions of power are Muslims.”

But, stressing the breakdown of effective governance in much of the affected region, the bishop said: “99 percent of this problem we are facing is about law and order. I am convinced that what we are dealing with here is a weak and corrupt structure. It is about the incapacity of the state to act.”

Nigeria is a priority country for Aid to the Church in Need projects work – with support for priests, Sisters, seminarians, catechists and church buildings, Christian education and media work, as well as emergency aid for persecuted faithful. In 2019 ACN allocated almost 2.4 Million (AUD) projects funds to Nigeria, making possible a total of 121 projects.

Prayer points:

Lord God, we pray for an end to corruption in Nigeria that all those in leadership will put the country and its people before their own lust for power.
We pray for the Bishops and all religious serving in Nigeria that they can help guide the country and its people to live a life striving for virtue and to follow the Word of God.

Lord hear us, 
Lord graciously hear us.

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