New attacks in central Nigeria worry church leaders

By Fredrick Nzwili
Posted Aug 9, 2012

[Ecumenical News International] Tensions have heightened in central Nigeria following the killing on Aug. 8 of four people near a mosque, a day after 20 worshipers in a church in the Okene area of Kogi state, were shot dead.

In the mosque attack, news reports said the armed men came in a van chanting Islamic songs before they attacked some Muslims who were holding tafsir (a Ramadan lecture) at the Central Mosque in Okene. Two of the dead were soldiers who were on surveillance duty.

In the church incident, armed men entered Deeper Life Bible Church on Aug. 7 and fired at worshipers. Church leaders have pleaded for increased security in places of worship.

Anglican Archbishop Nicholas Okoh of Nigeria urged the government to protection all Nigerians. He condemned the attacks, called for improved strategies to fight the violence and urged Christians to desist from acts that would worsen the situation.

“At the rate we are going, the country is drifting fast into anarchy,” the Nigerian newspaper Punch quoted Okoh as saying on Aug. 8. It is the government’s responsibility to provide defense for the people, he added.

Following the attacks, the government ordered a dusk to dawn curfew in the state, while the country’s inspector general has also ordered a 24 hour surveillance of all places of worship, according to reports.

No group has claimed responsibility for the latest attacks, although the Islamist militant group Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for attacks on churches and government installations in northern states. The latest attacks have occurred south of the areas that have experienced violence previously.