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Religious intolerance threatens Nigerian democracy: Jonathan

by Staff Writers
Abuja, Nigeria (AFP) July 6, 2010
Religious intolerance which has killed hundreds of people in central Nigeria this year alone, threatens democracy in the country, President Goodluck Jonathan warned on Tuesday.

"We must remember that some of the greatest dangers to our democracy and freedom are shrouded in the perils of ethnicity and religious intolerance," he said at an event to mark Nigerian Army Day in Abuja.

"These evils threaten our very existence as one sovereign and indivisible nation", Jonathan warned in a statement released by his office.

Bouts of ethnic and religious clashes in central Plateau State this year has claimed hundreds of lives. The state lies in the so-called "middle belt", between the predominantly Muslim north and the mainly Christian south.

More than 10,000 people have also died in other religious and ethnic clashes since the return in 1999 of democracy to Nigeria, whose 150 million population is divided almost equally between Christians and Muslims.

Jonathan warned soldiers to shun all forms of ethnic and religious sentiments in the discharge of their duties so as not to compromise their integrity and endanger the nation's democracy.

He said that with the high expectation from African nations in peacekeeping, Nigeria remained committed to international security and will continue to work in close collaboration with these nations to promote peace, stability and development on the African continent and the globe.

Jonathan, who hails from the volatile Niger Delta region, called on soldiers to "guard against economic saboteurs and their international collaborators who constantly plot to deny the nation of her resources and heritage."

Violence by armed rebels in the region between 2006 to 2009 played havoc with oil output, which dropped in this OPEC member state to around a million barrels per day as against 2.6 million barrels at peak production level.

Nigeria derives more than 90 percent of its foreign exchange earnings from oil.

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