Dr. Stephen Dami Mamza, The Catholic Bishop of Yola Diocese, Dr. Stephen Dami Mamza, who is also the Chairman of the Adamawa State chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria, tells HINDI LIVINUS that the Sultan of Sokoto is creating tension in the state with his comments on the Numan clashes
Do you agree that the recent bloody clash in Numan was a declaration ofwar against the Muslims?
As a Catholic Bishop and Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria, I will condemn all kinds of killings because Christianity does not approve the deliberate taking of innocent lives. However, it is wrong for people to conclude, without waiting for the release of the report of investigations being carried out by security agencies, and declare that the Muslims were the target. Everybody in Adamawa State knowsthat what happened in three or four villages in Numan, where people were killed, had nothing to do with religion. I am sure many Muslims will concur with me that it is another in the series of clashes that are really very common here between farmers and herdsmen. We have been experiencing it for over a decade now. It is not unusual for a particular group to suffer more casualties than another when such clashes occur. In this case, I don’t think there’s any religious intention in the whole thing.
What is your view on the Sultan of Sokoto’s statement condemning the killing of Fulani in the Numan area of the state?
I appreciate the Sultan for condemning the incident but I will disagree with him for not coming out with similar condemnation when certain groups of tribes are at the receiving end. The killing in Numan did not only affect a particular tribe, some people from other tribes were also killed in the process. As religious leaders, we should be prepared at all times, to condemn any form of bloody attacks whether the victims are adherents of our religion or not. The Holy Bible for instance, forbids all forms of killings.
But Sultan warned that the Fulani’s patience and silence should not be misconstrued for weakness!I think the comment of the Sultan has actually increased the tension here in Adamawa State. A highly-placed religious leader like him is not expected to make such a misguided statement, because this is not the first time that we would experience killings in the state. As a religious and spiritual leader, what I will expect of him is to condemn all forms of killings and not to single out this incident because the Fulani are involved or that some of them are victims. He is not the leader of the Fulani alone; he’s the leader of all Muslims. So he should not be seen as a sectional leader. That statement should have come from the leader of the Fulani and not fromthe Sultan because he is a Muslim leader. This crisis has no religious connotation; so, he shouldn’t have spoken in the tone he did as if he were speaking on behalf of the Fulani.
Some people also considered his statement as a threat to peace?
That’s why I said that his commentshave actually heightened the tension in Numan and several other local government areas in the state. Why did he single out Numan? We have had so many killings in the past in the state, and across the country, involving Fulani herdsmen. So, for him to have singled out the clashes in Numan, and say the killing of Fulani should not go unpunished, is worrisome. I did not expect that kind of comments from a religious leader like the Sultan of Sokoto, if he actually said so because I learnt that somebody spoke on his behalf. And I don’t know whether it was his script that was read.
Don’t you think that the Sultan’s statement may be as a result of the high number of casualties recorded during the Numan clashes?
Let us go back to what happened in 2016 and this year, 2017, which makes it even baffling that the Sultan singled out this particular incident for condemnation. On the 24th of January, 2016, in Koh village, Girei, more than 80 persons were killed, while many houses were burnt. Bags of grains were destroyed and several other persons, who got missing, had yet to be found. But I didn’t hear a single comment from the Sultan of Sokoto then.
Also, 30 people were killed in Kodomun between 29th of July and 1st of August last year. Again, I never heard any comment from the Sultan. Even, on the 7th of January this year, in a place called Kwayine, five gallant policemen were murdered. All the killings were actually carried out by herdsmen.
Is it now that the Sultan is now aware that there were killings taking place in Adamawa?
The Sultan should be a bridge builder for the different religions and ethnic nationalities in the country. It is not in the interest of peace for us to single out a particular incident for condemnation. We shouldn’t create the impression that there are inferior and superior killings. Every murdered soul is important, whether he is a Fulani or a farmer. The life of a Fulani is not superior to that of a Bachama, a Hausa, Yoruba or Igbo. Life is sacred and every soul is very important.
You once blamed the government for doing nothing to stop the frequent clashes between farmers and herdsmen in the state. Has your position changed now?
I have not changed my position on the issue. I suggested the setting up of a judicial panel to investigate the previous clashes while the report should be made public and that government should punish all those responsible for the wicked acts. I am not happy that the reportsof the investigations carried out on similar incidents in the past by administrative panels were not made public and the government did not act on them.If the government had taken its responsibilities seriously when such incidences occurred and those responsible were punished, similar ones will not happen.
Do you think that the government will accept your advice this time round and set up a judicial panel?
The government must ensure that whatever committee that would be set up to investigate the Numan clashes should be objective. It should not include people who are already expressing biased opinions on the incident; otherwise, we won’tget any result from it.