Nigeria to screen preachers

Kano, Nigeria - STATE governors in northern Nigeria have set up a committee to regulate the activities of religious preachers in a bid to avoid further unrest in the mainly-Muslim region.

The Northern Governors Forum, comprising 19 governors, met in the city of Kaduna late Monday to discuss last week's uprising by an Islamist sect and a subsequent military crackdown which claimed more than 800 lives.

'This forum has resolved to constitute a preaching board that will screen and approve competent Muslim and Christian clergy for evangelical activities,' Niger state governor Babanginda Aliyu said.

'Islam means peace and we will therefore not condone any group of people who hide under its canopy to foment trouble and senseless killings in its name,' he told reporters.

Nigeria's 140 million population is divided between Muslims, mainly in the north, and Christians, in the south, and 12 of the 36 states adopted Sharia law in 2000.

The Boko Haram sect began a five-day uprising on July 26 over the adoption of Sharia law across the nation.

The governors condemned the uprising which they said affected five northern states, although violence had only been previously reported in four.

'The Forum condemns in totality the sectarian activities of the religious sect called Boko Haram which caused mayhem in the states of Borno, Bauchi, Yobe, Katsina and Kano,' he added.

Aliyu said the governors would empower traditional chiefs in the region to effectively monitor the activities of religious groups in their areas.

Fighting in last week's uprising was fiercest in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, where the military bombarded the headquarters of Boko Haram and killed hundreds of suspected followers, along with the sect's leadership.