The World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia urged the Nigerian President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua to “ensure the safety of all citizens” as well as seeing that “all perpetrators [of] acts of violence and human rights violations are brought to justice”.
In a letter to the President dated 4 August, Kobia was referring to the recent outbreak of inter-communal violence in Maiduguri and other areas of northern Nigeria, following clashes between a militant Islamist group and security forces.
“We condemn and deplore such wanton acts of violence”, Kobia wrote in another letter to the Christian Association of Nigeria. Some 800 people were killed, including “more than 50 Christians”, while “at least 13 churches […] have been destroyed”.
Regretting that “inter-communal violence has already claimed the lives of more than 12,000 Nigerians during the past decade”, Kobia stated in his letter to the Nigerian president that “the reasons for this violence are rooted in politics rather than religion”.
Among the factors that “push the country towards violence and insecurity” he listed: “Widespread poverty, corruption, poor governance and political instability”, as well as “abuses by the security forces, including extra-judicial killings and torture”.
Commending some “promising” governmental initiatives regarding police reform and the investigation of a 2008 incident of inter-communal violence, Kobia pointed out: “these initiatives have yet to make a tangible impact on the lives of ordinary Nigerians who are constantly facing blatant violations of their human and fundamental rights”.
Nigeria is almost evenly divided between Christians and Muslims with the northern population being mainly followers of Islam and Christians being more numerous in the south.