The Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, John Cardinal Onaiyekan has called on security agencies to arrest any religious leader found preaching hate and inciting sermons, saying no religious cleric is untouchable.
While lamenting the recent sense of distrust between Muslims and Christians which according to him was triggered by the Boko Haram insurgency, he called for unity amongst both religions.
His eminence made this call during in Tuesday during a workshop on Preventing Violent Extremism in Nigeria, organized by Club De Madrid in collaboration with the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA).
According to Onaiyekan, “there is enough in the law in Nigeria to curb reckless speaking, if somebody stands up on his pulpit in church and start inciting his members to go and kill others, he has committed a crime under the Nigerian Law, he should be arrested, which is not happening.
“They would say if you touch religious leaders there would be backlash. Let the backlash come for goodness sake, so that we can get out of all this mess.”
He noted that the technical defeat of Boko Haram is just the beginning of the journey as there is long way to go in repairing the damage caused by violent extremism.
Also speaking on violent extremism, the Coordinator; Counter Terrorism Centre (CTC), ONSA, Commodore Yem Musa, “the threat that Nigeria faces from violent extremism today is by a group which has proven its capacity to evolve, adapt and extend its network both within Nigeria and abroad”. According to him, the name Boko Haram, “we should note is derogatory and that is why in several online messages, the group tried hard to distance itself from a name, it has come to hate. In naming the group Boko Haram, Nigerians refused to offer the group legitimacy”.
Commodore Musa who was ably represented by the Head of Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (PCVE), ONSA, Ms. Catherine Udida, assured that the government was adopting fresh approaches to addressing violent extremism.
According to the CTC Coordinator, “as a result of our experience with violent extremism, we are changing how we work. New institutions are being created, new expertise being developed.
“We have revised our National Security Strategy and developed a National Counter Terrorism Strategy (NACTEST) which has set out our short and long term strategic goals in the fight against terrorism as well as defined the roles and responsibilities of our Ministries, Departments and Agencies.
“The Counter Terrorism Centre is charged with the responsibility of coordinating activities under the NACTEST.”
The event also had representatives from ministry of information and National Orientation Agency amongst other Civil Society Organisations speaking on how to counter the current narrative on violent extremism.