By Sumaila Ogbaje
The Emeritus Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Cardinal John Onaiyekan, has called for more involvement of religious leaders in tackling security challenges facing the nation.
Onaiyekan made this appeal at the Annual Lecture and Induction of Full Members by the Institute of Security and Strategic Studies (ISSS), on Saturday in Abuja.
The New Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the theme of the lecture is “Modalities of Handling Protest Against Government Policies and Programmes in Nigeria: the Analytical Approach”.
A total of 40 new members were inducted into the membership of the institute during the annual lecture.
He said that issue of national security was everybody’s business, adding that every sector of the society including the international community, has a role to play.
“In this context, you must also find what specific areas religious leaders are expected to make contributions.
“Religious leaders are supposed to be the conscience of the nation.
“You should allow them to preach and preach freely. They also have the right to criticise when necessary government policies that they believe are not working well.
“The thing is that this kind of participation of religious leaders will not just come naturally by itself, it must be organised.
“For religious leaders to work with the government, government must create the environment and empowerment to do it.
“It can be as simple as having a committee or finding some ways even within our rank, to have a group that will be invited by government to certain meetings where security is discussed,” he said.
Onaiyekan stressed the need to bring both Christians and Muslims together to find lasting solutions to the security challenges confronting the country.
He said that government sometimes hand picked the religious leaders they would want to work with, saying such style had not worked.
“It is not enough to rely on the chaplains that you have in armed forces where you have military chaplains in the army, air force, because their job is different from what we are talking about.
“So, the problem of national security is so big in Nigeria that government must be ready to think outside the box, look for new ways to bring in more stakeholders and actors so as to work together,” he added.
The cardinal therefore advised government to adopt more of non-kinetic approach towards tackling the prevailing security challenges as well as put in more efforts to bring the nation together.
On his part, the Murshid of the National Mosque, Abuja, Prof. Shehu Galadanci, said government’s efforts in the fight against insurgency and banditry was commendable but not enough.
Galadanci noted that even though the military had continued to do its best, the problem had refused to go away because of the support the criminals were getting from certain influential individuals.
He said these individuals were either supporting the terrorists and bandits with information or financing, urging government to fish out and punish the culprits accordingly.
The cleric said that terrorists groups were only using the name of Islam in their dastard acts, saying they are not Muslims.
He urged government to do more to defeat terrorism, adding that the proliferation of terrorist groups around the world had posed great threats to global peace and security.
“In Nigeria, as some people say, there might be some people who are supporting these terrorists, they are supporting the terrorist in two ways.
“One, they are giving them information about the government, they are giving them information about places, about the people, about everything.
“Two, they are also helping them with materials. Honestly, the government and the soldiers and good Nigerians are trying to get rid of all these problems, but then there are people within our society, some of them are maybe I don’t know, maybe even within the government.
“It is most unfortunate,” he said.
Also, the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Isiaka Amao, represented by AVM AH Bakari, said the nation was faced with contemporary security challenges that require whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach to address.
He said the military had continued to be at the forefront in the fight against insecurity across the country.
He urged the public to always support the effort of the military in tackling the scourge of terrorism, banditry and other forms of threats confronting the nation.
The Chairman, Governing Council of ISSS, retired Maj.-Gen. Garba Audu, said the lecture was designed to empower stakeholders in both public and private sectors in Nigeria security system, with a view to achieve excellent relation between the government and the governed.
Audu said the institute had over the years developed several professional courses in security, strategy and human development, attended by personnel of various security agencies.
Besides, he called on security agencies to support the innovative drive of the institute towards contributing to citizen’s security awareness and knowledge with a view to achieving a crime free environment. (NAN) (www.nannews.ng)