From Rose Ejembi Makurdi
Benue State Chairman of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Reverend Akpen Leva has decried the deteriorating security situation in Nigeria and calls on President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government to act fast to rescue the nation from collapse.
Leva who is also the Pastor in Charge of NKST, Iyortyer in Makurdi in this interview, spoke on various issues.
What are your reflections on the deteriorating security situation in Nigeria?
The deteriorating security situation in Nigeria is a thing of worry to every concerned citizen. It has become very unsafe to travel in this country again. There are so many bandits everywhere surrounding our homes, inside our forests and even in towns such that people are kidnapped in large numbers. Imagine over 300 students being kidnapped by bandits. In our college of forestry in Kaduna, many of the students were kidnapped. Even a private university in the same Kaduna, some of the students were also kidnapped. What is happening in our country is a thing of worry. Everybody is crying because people are no longer safe anywhere in Nigeria. Farmers cannot go to their farms again because if you go to the farm, they will kill you. People can no longer travel; all over the federation, from North East, South East, South West, North Central, South South and everywhere. It is a thing of worry. What is the aim of this insecurity? What do they want to achieve? These are the questions begging for answers everyday. We are all worried because nobody is safe.
Do you think this situation is redeemable at this point or are we on the road to Somalia?
I think the situation is redeemable because there is no situation on earth that cannot be controlled. Every situation has a solution. And that is why we always call on the Federal Government to do the needful. We call on the security chiefs Navy, Air Force, Army and the paramilitary forces to rise up to the occasion. I think they cannot be overwhelmed by insecurity.
But it seems like they have been overwhelmed?
Cuts in… They have to put in more efforts.
Because a lot of them are becoming victims of insecurity as many of them have also been killed in the line of duty lately.
Cuts in… Yes, some of them have actually become victims but something has to be done. Nothing will be done if we all sit and fold our hands. We need to redeem this situation. We can’t leave it to degenerate to Somalia or Syria or any other country. We cannot allow our country to get to that extent. Our situation, as bad as it is now, is redeemable if the Federal Government does the needful and we team up. Security is everybody’s business. If we put our hands together, we will be able to redeem the situation. Else, the way things are going, one day, there will be no Nigeria. But I’m sure that our God who is alive will help us redeem the situation.
But some people have been calling for self defense because to them, the federal government is no longer in control. Don you support that call?
Well, self defense is constitutional. There’s nothing bad in self defense. If you know that your life is in danger, you have to do everything humanly possible to protect your life. If, for instance, a security man is not close to protect you and somebody is coming with a knife to cut off your throat, if you have a stick, you can beat him on the hand so that the knife can drop. So, self defense is not a bad thing especially when your life is in danger. That’s why we should be security conscious anywhere we are and at all times. In our homes, we should have something, either a stick, a catapult, or a stone that if we see anybody coming to attack, we can throw at such attacker. And once the attacker is able to go away, you have defended yourself. So, self defense is allowed by the constitution especially when your life is in danger.
Recently, suspected herdsmen struck at the IDP camp killing seven people and injuring many others. As an advocate for the return of IDPs back to their ancestral homes in Benue, what’s your reaction to this?
First of all, I will condemn the attack on the IDP camp. Already, these people have been chased away from their ancestral homes and they are taking refuge at the IDP camps. And then, they are kind of living helpless and hopeless lives. Some of them are already traumatized because they have left their ancestral homes for long and they are now living in IDP camps. For you to go and still attack them unprovoked, I think is condemnable. By this, these bandits are still reminding the Federal Government to do the needful and ensure that these people can return to their homes. If their lives are not safe in IDP camps, I think the only thing is to facilitate their return to their ancestral homes.
Are you not worried that till now, almost three years after they were chased out of their ancestral homes, IDPs in Benue cannot still return home?
As a matter of fact, I am worried that the IDPs have overstayed in the camps. Every concerned person should be worried. If you have not been to the place, you will not know the pathetic condition in which these IDPs are living. Some of them are sleeping on bare ground. No bed, nothing. They are exposed to every kind of weather whether cold or hot or any type of weather at all. Sometimes, if you go and see the kind of food they’re eating, you would not like it. And so, as a matter of fact, I am worried about their overstay in camps. And that is why anytime I have the opportunity, I will call on the federal government to do the needful. The Vice President came here three years ago and promised that the Federal Government will support the state government with about N10billion to resettle the IDPs. Up till now, that promise has not been fulfilled and the IDPs are still there. And I think I will appeal to NGOs whether international NGOs or national ones as well as spirited individuals to please, come to the aid of the IDPs to resettle them so that they can go back to their homes. Home is home no matter what. When you go to your home, you feel more comfortable than staying in IDP camps. Already, there is a mark on them and they don’t consider themselves as complete human beings because of the place they find themselves. If they go back home, I think life will be better for them.
With all these problems of insecurity that in this country, don’t you think it’s high time our leaders began to make arrangements for us to peacefully go our separate ways?
No, I am not an advocate of secession. Nigerians are brothers and sisters. We have intermarried and if you go to every part of this nation, people have assets. Southerners have assets in the North and Northerners have assets in the South. So, if you talk of secession now, we will all suffer it. The only thing is that we should all try and salvage this problem together. We are brothers and sisters. God brought us here together and it wasn’t by mistake. I will better appeal that we should all come together and resolve all our crises and stay together as one nation. We need one another. We depend on one another. The Southerners need the Northerners and vice versa. And even if we want to separate, it shouldn’t be as a result of crises. It should be a very peaceful one when it is necessary. But for now, I think we need to stay together and solve our problems together.
If the situation persists, do you think 2023 polls will be possible?
Yes, I think 2023 election will be possible because Nigeria belongs to God and only God knows how He will solve the problem of Nigeria. In the past, it had been like this but we are still moving ahead. I feel that in spite of all these insecurity, I think the 2023 elections will still go on. That is my prayer. That we will conduct the 2023 elections and have a new and better Nigeria that we can all be proud of.
What’s your view on Patanmi, the Communications Minister’s link with terrorism? Are you not surprised that he is a minister despite having passed through screening by the DSS?
I think the issue of the Minister of Communication lies with the DSS. I want to believe that the DSS should have the credentials of every distinguished member in this country. I would rather call on them to carry out their investigation and then arrive at what will happen. They are the only people that will investigate because they know their work. So, I will request that they do their work. If at all the Minister is guilty, then, the law will take its course. That’s all I have to say on this matter for now.
What’s your view on the granting of asylum to persecuted IPOB members by the U.K?
Giving asylum to people is not a new thing. When one is not safe in his country, he can run to a neighbouring country for protection. So, if the UK decided to protect the IPOB members, fine. I don’t have any problem about that.
Do you think the recent crises in Chad would worsen our security situation especially knowing that our borders are very porous?
Yes, definitely. When the house of your neighbour is burning, even the smoke from that burning house will disturb you. So, it’s very true that crisis in Chad will affect life here in Nigeria because we are sharing same borders. Maybe, we may have influx of refugees into Nigeria or we may have more influx of bandits into our country which will complicate our security situation. But I want to believe that our security will take charge of that. Our Customs and other security agencies will mount the borders and try to avoid the escalation of insecurity in Nigeria arising from what is happening in Chad.