30th June, 2019
The Nigerian Embassy in Washington, D.C., has frowned at a recent event in the U.S. capital where some “victims’’ of terrorism and farmers/herders conflict in northern Nigeria made “false” claims against the Federal Government.
The event, which was a panel discussion tagged “Insecurity in Nigeria: Eyewitnesses Speak’’, was hosted by The Heritage Foundation, a Washington-based conservative think tank, on June 11.
The embassy’s reaction came in a letter signed by Mr Mohammed Suleiman, the Senior Counsellor/Head of Chancery, on behalf of the Nigerian Ambassador to the U.S.
A copy of the letter, dated June 18, was made available to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in New York at the weekend.
It said: “The attention of the Embassy of Nigeria, Washington, D.C., has been drawn to an event your Foundation hosted on June 11, 2019, where you brought alleged Nigerian victims of violence and insecurity: Rebecca Sharibu, mother of Leah Sharibu; Alheri Bawa Magaji and Napoleon Adamu, who gave false and uncorroborated allegations about their experiences.
“The Embassy thought that as a reputable and respected organisation, you would allow unbiased individuals at the event to make their contributions.
“But to their dismay, no opportunity was given for any intervention on the presentations, which is uncharacteristic of your Foundation.
“In this regard, the Embassy wishes to register its very strong displeasure, and to protest and request that the Foundation provide a platform where the Nigerian Government and other unbiased individuals can inform the American public of the true security situation in Nigeria.’’
NAN reports that the forum, streamed live on The Heritage Foundation website, featured four witnesses, including Rebecca Sharibu, mother of Leah Sharibu, who was kidnapped by terrorists over a year ago.
Leah, a Christian girl, is among the 110 secondary school students abducted by the West African Province of the Islamic State (ISWAP), a Boko Haram faction, at Dapchi, Yobe, on Feb. 19, 2018.
About five of the girls died in captivity, while others were released weeks later by the terrorists, who held on to Sharibu reportedly because of her refusal to renounce her Christian faith.
Speaking through one Gloria Puldu, her translator, Rebecca alleged that her daughter was a victim of religious persecution, and pleaded with the U.S. government to intervene.
She said she had not heard from the Nigerian government for months about efforts to rescue her daughter, after President Muhammadu Buhari promised to do his best to secure her release.
Alheri Magaji, an alleged victim of Fulani herdsmen attacks in southern Kaduna, accused the federal and Kaduna state governments of backing the attackers to wipe out Christian communities in the area.
Another witness, Mercy Maisamari, narrated how the herdsmen allegedly kidnapped her alongside other family members from their home in southern Kaduna, and held them hostage for over 12 days.
Maisamari said security agencies later arrested her father, who was also held and beaten by the kidnappers when he went to pay their ransom, for allegedly participating in the killing of 66 Fulani herdsmen.
Magaji and Maisamari accused the government of inaction and the Nigerian media of silence whenever Fulani herdsmen killed their people almost on daily basis.
On his part, Mr Napoleon Adamu from Agatu, an agrarian community in Benue State which has suffered deadly herdsmen attacks, said the killings were well organised and politically motivated.
However, the embassy emphasised that no Nigerian “irrespective of religious creed’’ or ethnic affiliation was being persecuted as alleged by the witnesses.
“The Nigerian government is determined to address all the security challenges the country is currently facing,’’ it embassy said.