By AUSTIN OWOICHO, Abuja
The President, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Samson Ayokunle, on Monday defended Berom Christians over the Dura-Du pond incident. It will be recalled that the car of a missing Muslim general, Idris Alkali, was found at the bottom of a pond after the army forcefully drained it. More than 500 Berom women had made spirited efforts to stop the army from draining the pond by staging protests half nude near the pond.
Reacting to this development, the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) expressed disappointment.
In a press statement signed by its director, Professor Ishaq Akintola, the organization said, “We note with serious concern that CAN president stopped short of condemning the Berom Christian terrorists. This is very disappointing. It is jejune, puerile and insipid. CAN is defending the indefensible. It would have been better to keep mute if the Christian umbrella body could not denounce or disown its own.
“Why can’t CAN condemn Berom terrorists the same way that Muslims condemned Boko Haram? Nigerian Muslims washed their hands off Boko Haram terrorists even when they attacked Christians. We did not wait until they attacked Muslims before condemning them. But CAN president wants to pamper Berom Christian terrorists even when it is evident that they have been responsible for the killing of hundreds of their Muslim neighbours and other Muslims and Fulanis who were mere travelers passing through the axis.
“Nigerian security agencies were able to encircle Boko Haram terrorists and they were able to restrict their activities to a small area within Borno because Nigerian Muslims wasted no time in denouncing and disowning them. For failing to condemn Berom terrorists, CAN president may be nurturing a killing machine. Berom terrorists are capable of growing into a more vicious terrorist group whose deadly tentacles will spread to all nooks and cranies of Nigeria.
“CAN president is joining forces with Berom women who protested that soldiers should not come near the pond. The women lied that it was their only source of drinking water when there are more than thirty similar ponds around the vicinity. When that failed to stop the soldiers, they tried the superstition angle claiming that strange deaths would start to occur in the community if the pond was drained but this is a community of Christians, not one filled with idol worshippers.
“What has CAN president said about the missing general? What has he to say about the general’s car that was found right at the bottom of the same pond where the wives of terrorists protested deceptively? What of the other four cars that were found inside the same pond? What do the findings mean to him?
“Furthermore, Ayodele was quick to condemn the action of security agents but found it difficult to condemn the Berom Christian terrorists who perpetrated the atrocity. It is double standard of the highest order. We are stupefied.
“To add salt to injury, CAN president referred to the missing general as “a missing ex-soldier”. That is an unforgivable understatement. Ayokunle should know that General Alkali (rtd) is more than an ordinary ex-soldier. This is a whole army general for crying out loud and he dismisses him as “a missing ex-soldier”. General Alkali wasthe Chief of Administration in the Nigerian Army up till the time of his retirement. We take exception to this attempt to trivialize the issue.
“Afterall we know how CAN regularly mobilizes retired Christian army officers to intimidate the entire nation. While we find no need to do the same thing with retired Muslim officers, we are worried that the CAN president attempted to equate the general with an ordinary recruit.
“We are constrained by the latest development, to caution both serving and retired senior military and police officers who are Muslims to take extra security measures around them, to avoid regimented pattern of life and, where possible, to avoid taking the same routes everyday”.
Speaking further, Akintola urged the army to make safety of Plateau highways its priority. “The Nigerian Army should make it impossible for the Beroms to block the highways in future. It is a barbaric behavior. Community clashes happen everywhere in Nigeria but the combatants have never been known to block the highway and start killing innocent travelers.
“Berom community has taken on Nigerian Muslims. They stop vehicles on the highways, pull out Fulanis and Muslims in such vehicles and kill them. Their vehicles are dumped in the ponds. Another 18-seater bus was found at the bottom of the Dura-Du pond yesterday. Anybody can guess the whereabouts of the occupants. There is no gainsaying at this point that Nigerian Muslims need protection from Berom Christian cannibals.
“This is a very irrational behavior although we are not surprised because any community which jointly participated in the killing, roasting and eating of hundreds of other human beings can never be normal again. We recall the massacre of hundreds of Jos Muslims in 2001 and the gruesome killing of Muslim worshippers (at the Id ground during Salah) whose bodies were then roasted and eaten up in 2011. Nobody was tried for this genocide by Jang’s militia men. Cannibalism has taken its natural toll on Beroms. This community needs to be quarantined for some time in order to undergo rehabilitation. Our hearts bleed for children who are growing up in that community.
“We urge Muslims all over Nigeria to prepare a record of all their missing members for the past twenty years. This can be done through their local mosques. We must collate the statistics of all Muslims who used to pray regularly in our mosques but who disappeared suddenly without explanation or who travelled and did not return. The details should be sent to the headquarters of the Jama’at Nasril Islam (JNI) in Kaduna or to any major Islamic organization closest to the mosque for onward transmission to the JNI.
“In our concluding remarks, we charge the military to sustain its action in the Berom community. The killers and their sponsors must be found and dealt with according to the law. To find General Idris Alkali (rtd) dead or alive is a task that must be done. The Nigerian military has never been known to cowardly abandon a good cause or forsake camaraderie. There is no better way to prove the army’s professionalism and gallantry than in this case. We also call for coordinated security measures that will ensure that the Berom are never able to block Plateau highways again. We urge CAN to rope in its wild Berom terrorists instead of seeking to extenuate their crimes”.