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 CNS Story:

NIGERIA-EMERGENCY May-20-2013 (440 words) With photo. xxxi

Nigerian bishops hope crackdown against insurgents restores normalcy

By Peter Ajayi Dada
Catholic News Service

LAGOS, Nigeria (CNS) -- Nigerian bishops said they hoped the government's declaration of a state of emergency would help restore some normalcy, and one bishop said President Goodluck Jonathan was just fulfilling his constitutional duties.

Bishop Oliver Dashe Doeme of Maiduguri, capital of Borno state, told Catholic News Service people were praying and hoping government actions "were would bring about lasting peace."

On May 14, Jonathan declared a state of emergency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, and two days later the government launched an offensive against insurgents of the Islamist group Boko Haram, which wants to establish an Islamic state in the North. At least 2,000 people have died since Boko Haram launched an insurgency in 2009.

Soldiers targeted the militant group's bases in the Sambisa Game Reserve in Borno; fighter jets and helicopter gunships were deployed as part of the offensive, military leaders said. People in Maiduguri were told to remain inside.

News agencies reported that some civilians and local officials welcomed the offensive after the government's three-year limited effort to contain the insurgency with little success.

In a statement May 17, leaders of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Nigeria expressed satisfaction that Jonathan was taking steps to restore normalcy. The bishops noted the government's efforts to resolve the Boko Haram issues, including offering its members amnesty.

However, the bishops said genuine amnesty means offering pardon to repentant militants, not appeasing criminals and their sponsors.

In central Nigeria's Nasarawa state, Bishop Matthew Ishaya Audu of Lafia said Jonathan was executing a strategy to ensure that all of the country's citizens were secure.

"If democracy does not offer us what it is supposed to offer, we should then take other necessary steps to make it work," Bishops Audu told Catholic News Service.

"Must he (Jonathan) wait till after everybody has been killed by the various ethnic militia groups like the Boko Haram and the Ombatse before he acts?" he asked.

The ethnic militia Ombatse killed 47 police officers in Nasarawa in mid-May. By May 17, Bishop Audu said, the situation had calmed down as security agencies investigated the cause of the killing.

The bishop blamed the various Nigerian crises -- particularly in Nasarawa -- on politicians who pay young people to cause violence.

"The politicians know that they do not have the physical strength to cause political crises themselves, and so they employ the youths, who had nothing positive to dissipate their energies on," the bishop said.

He encouraged young people to work for national development "instead of carrying guns to shoot other human beings in exchange for money, because money cannot restore lost lives."

END


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