ROME — Episodes of assassinations, violence, and looting by the Boko Haram terror group have continued virtually unchallenged for many years, said Nigerian cardinal John Onaiyekan, and the government has yet to provide any effective remedy to the problem.
In an interview with Vatican News published Tuesday, Onaiyekan, who is also archbishop of the Nigerian capital of Abuja, called the nation’s government to task for its failure to stand up to the jihadist menace.
Last Saturday, Boko Haram militants struck the town of Nganzai, in Borno State in the northeast of Nigeria. The jihadists attacked unarmed villagers as they were returning from a funeral, killing 65 and injuring a dozen more.
“Borno State is the epicenter of Boko Haram activity,” said Cardinal Onaiyekan. “The government has been saying for more than three years that Boko Haram has been defeated, but we see that this is not the case.”
Although the government has sent soldiers, Onaiyekan continued, “they have not succeeded in making the country safe, especially in the Northeast.”
“But the problem is not only the Northeast,” he said. “Episodes of violence, both by armed cattle ranchers and gangs that kidnap people to ask for ransom money happen in all parts of the country.”
“Some say that those who sow violence are perhaps men of Boko Haram who have dispersed throughout the country,” he said.
The cardinal said that many in Nigeria believe that there has been Boko Haram infiltration in the various armed forces operating in the country, and this would help to explain the government’s remarkable ineffectiveness in combating the terror group.
“The big problem is that we do not see an adequate, strong and effective response from the Nigerian law enforcement and army,” Onaiyekan said. “These people continue to operate practically unchallenged. There are areas in Nigeria where farmers can no longer go to work in their fields, for fear of being attacked.”
The cardinal also said that many believe that Boko Haram is trying to create an area in Nigeria where Islamic law reigns supreme.
“But they cannot keep killing,” he said. “The fact that they killed people returning from a funeral is the way they act. They always attacked innocent people!”