The Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) Monday urged President Muhammadu Buhari to urgently save Nigeria from avoidable doom or step aside as the country was sliding into anarchy.

The bishops, in a statement signed by the CBCN President, Most Rev. Augustine Akubeze, and Secretary, Most Rev. Camillus Umoh, said the ongoing killings in the Middle Belt and other parts of the country by suspected Fulani herdsmen were clear signposts to anarchy.

The bishops spoke against the background of persistent carnage in the country, particularly, the recent massacre of over 100 persons in three local governments in Plateau State, where the government Monday relaxed the dusk-to-dawn curfew it imposed in the aftermath of the bloodbath.

The military, whose heavy presence in the troubled area had failed to contain the bandits’ aggression, in an update of its operations Monday, said it had made 11 more arrests of suspects, bringing its total haul to 21.

The bishops said the latest massacre of scores of innocent Nigerians, especially children and women, including pregnant women in Plateau State by the bandits who seemed to be operating without hindrance in the country showed that its last statement had been completely ignored by those who had the responsibility to protect lives and property of Nigerians.

Pained by this development, they said: “Once again, we ask President Muhammadu Buhari to please save Nigeria from further pain and avoidable chaos, anarchy and doom,” adding: “If the president cannot keep our country safe, then he automatically loses the trust of the citizens. He should no longer continue to preside over the killing fields and mass graveyard that our country has become.”

They said the country would witness another mass burial as a result of the serial murderous activities of a group that it said clearly seemed to be above the law in the country, and who by their actions and words had insisted that human lives were far less than the lives of cattle.

“This shameful inversion of values portrays our country as barbaric and our society as brutish,” the bishops stated.

They argued that the killings were not mere coincidence given the temerity of the Fulani herdsmen in perpetrating the killings.

The bishops stressed: “We are equally sad as the federal government continues to find it difficult to proactively address the issues of these wanton killings.”

Military Arrests 11 More Suspects

Meanwhile, the Military Special Task Force (STF) in charge of security in Plateau State code named “Operation Safe Haven” (OPSH) has disclosed that it has so far arrested 21 suspects in connection with the recent killings and civil disturbances in Jos.

The suspects were paraded before newsmen Monday at the STF Headquarters Jos by the media officer of the task force, Major Adam Umar, and the Police Public Relation Officer (PPRO), Tyopev Terna.

Umar, who spoke to newsmen during the parade, said: “Out of the 21 suspects arrested so far, 11 of them are those arrested in connection to the killings in Barkin Ladi and environs, while 14 of them were arrested from the scene of the civil disturbances after the attacks.”

He added: “The suspects we are parading were arrested with arms, some of them with locally made guns, revolver and other dangerous weapons, which they are not supposed to have as citizens.

“Information we extracted from the original suspects led us to trace some other accomplices and we have also arrested them. And there is the possibility of making more arrest over those killings as we intensify our efforts to get to the root of the killings in pursuant of our mandate to prevent further killings and restore total peace in the state.”

Jang, Secondus, Kaigama React

The announcement of more arrests by the military did not entirely mollify many people aggrieved by the wanton killings. Former Governor of Plateau State, Senator Jonah Jang; Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus; and former President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) and Archbishop of Jos, Most Rev. Ignatius Kaigama, intervened Monday, condemning the killings.

Jang, who was accused of complicity in the crisis, dismissed the allegation as nonsense. “Doesn’t that sound funny that Jonah Jang, a Berom man from Plateau State is organising Fulani herdsmen to come and kill Beroms or which killings are they talking about?” he told journalists in Jos.

The senator said he had been hearing somebody making noise on the television alluding many things, and that he had directed his lawyers to write him and let him explain or else he would go and explain in the court.

In his own reaction, Secondus asked for internationally-supervised inquest into the killings across the country to ascertain those behind them.

He said the call became necessary because of the lacklustre response of the federal government to the heinous crime and some attempts by agents of the government to divert attention of the public away from the issue.

Speaking while receiving one of the presidential aspirants in the party, Alhaji Tanimu Turaki, at the Wadata House National Secretariat of the party Monday, Secondus said an enquiry by the international community would help halt the bloodletting in the country.

Also reacting to the crisis, Kaigama said the recent killings in Plateau State was a shameful projection of the image of Nigerians.

Kaigama, who is on a working visit to Canada and the United States (US), said in a statement that the killings had continued to paint Nigeria negatively across the international community.

“The flagrant and despicable taking of human lives and the continued destruction to homes and means of livelihood is a disgrace to humanity and a shameful projection of a negative image of Nigerians,” he said, adding, “The gruesome murders have robbed me of the enthusiasm, energy and pride with which I came to Canada and America.”