Target killings: FG unveils counter-terrorism plan, rejects UK religious freedom report

The Presidency on Friday revealed a five-point strategy through which it plans to tackle the challenges of terrorism, herdsmen’s attacks and religious conflicts, among others in the country.
The key areas in the strategy, which it said it would be adopting in the months and years ahead, are negotiation and dialogue.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, disclosed this in a statement made available to journalists in Abuja.
Shehu was reacting to the report of the United Kingdom All-Party Parliamentary Group on International Religious Freedom or Belief which was launched in Westminster on Monday.
The report had indicated that Nigerian Christians were experiencing devastating violence with attacks by armed groups of “Islamist Fulani herders” resulting in the killing, maiming, dispossession and eviction of thousands of people.
According to the report, a key factor driving the violence is the impact of growing power and influence of Islamist extremism across the Sahel which drives some “militant Fulani herders” to target Christians and symbols of Christian identity such as churches.
“These factors are compounded by the Nigerian government’s failure to respond adequately to the violence, to protect communities or to bring perpetrators of violence to justice,” the report had claimed.
But Shehu said there had been tensions among Christians and Muslims as well as herders and farmers for generations in Nigeria.
He attributed the incessant herders and farmers’ clashes to access to ever-decreasing arable and farmland due to a rapidly rising population, temperatures and desertification through global warming.
He admitted that tensions have been exacerbated by the vicious and criminal attacks by the terror group, Boko Haram, on Nigeria.
According to him, the sect members have targeted Christians and churches specifically because they know it drives forward religious and land tensions already existent in the country while they attack mosques and Muslims in order to warn Muslims to either radicalise or become targets themselves.
The statement read in part, “In the months and years ahead, our President who is a Muslim and our Vice President, who is an evangelical Christian pastor are irrevocably committed to addressing these multiple and long-term challenges for today’s and future generations.
“These include continuing and increasing Nigeria’s efforts alongside our allies to fully defeat and finally defeat Boko Haram, in order to bring security to the North of the country.”

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