- Presidency hits CAN, says ransom payment allegation divisive
- ACF, Afenifere, Atiku fault president’s claim on ratio of Boko Haram victims
Deji Elumoye, Omololu Ogunmade, Chuks Okocha, Olawale Ajimotokan, Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja, Segun James in Lagos and John Shiklam in Kaduna
Concerns about worsening insecurity in the country remained on the front burner wednesday as the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) urged President Muhammadu Buhari to declare state of emergency on insecurity and accused Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) of playing politics with the security challenges confronting the country.
The Christian umbrella body also took a hit from the presidency, which in a statement yesterday accused it of making utterances that could deepen the rising division in the country.
Buhari too was not spared as Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Afenifere, and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar upbraided him for his comment on the ratio of victims of Boko Haram killings, which he put at 90 per cent Muslims and 10 per cent Christians.
Weighing in yesterday the NSCIA urged the federal government to declare a state of emergency on insecurity in the country, describing the scale of the crisis as unacceptable.
NSCIA voiced this sentiment on the state of the nation when it briefed journalists yesterday.
The council called on government security agencies to use every means to arrest the descent into anarchy, saying the country can’t continue under the atmosphere of needless killing of the innocent and human security being at its lowest ebb.
The council that spoke through its Director of Administration, Mr. Yusuf Nwoha, accused Christian leaders of seeking to score cheap political goals and engaging in propaganda rather than see the current insecurity as a monstrosity that has become a national challenge and requiring collective action.
He faulted the recently organised street protest in Lagos, led by the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor Enoch Adeboye, describing it as a show to give colouration to insecurity.
It said the protest was fueled by hypocrisy and hubris.
Nwoha accused CAN of intentional misrepresentation and of discrediting the government and Muslims to provoke foreign occupation of the country by attributing the spate of bombings in the country to Muslims.
He said Christians had been committing murder and kidnapping in Nigeria and had been resorting to propaganda to put Nigeria and its Muslim population on the defensive.
Nwoha cited the attempted bombing of the Living Faith Church on February 2 by one Nathaniel Samuel, saying Muslims would have been blamed had the mission succeeded.
“It is incontrovertible that more Muslims, including Imams have been slaughtered, displaced and dismembered than Christians since Boko Haram became a hydra-headed monster. Indeed more mosques have been bombed or destroyed in the bloody campaign, which has consumed precious lives including those of our professors. To suggest that Christians are killed because they refuse to embrace Islam stands logic on its head. Were Muslims killed in mosques, markets and villages because they refused to denounce Islam?” NSCIA queried.
Presidency Hits CAN, Says Ransom Payment Allegation Divisive
Also in Abuja, the presidency accused the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), of engaging in disinformation which it said could further divide Nigerians.
This is coming as the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF); pan-Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere; and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar have disputed Buhari’s claims that 90 per cent of the victims of Boko Haram were Muslims.
While Afenifere insisted that majority of the victims were Christians, ACF said the number of Muslims or Christians affected by Boko Haram attacks was not known.
Atiku, however, argued that Buhari should not rationalise killings.
CAN, in its reaction to the opinion piece written by the president, where the latter claimed that 90 per cent of those killed by Boko Haram were Muslims, dismissed Buhari’s statement as untrue.
The apex Christian body, in contrast to the president’s claim, argued that the reason the government of Buhari had failed to pay ransom for the release of all Chibok girls kidnapped by Boko Haram in 2014 was because 80-90 percent of the girls were Christians.
According to the Christian body, in a statement by its Director of Legal and Public Affairs, Mr. Kwamkur Samuel, the government of Buhari quickly paid ransom for the release of Dapchi schoolgirls in 2018 because the girls were Muslims, adding that the only Christian girl among the Dapchi girls, Leah Sharibu, was left in the captivity of her captors till date.
But in a swift reaction to CAN’s allegations, presidential spokesman, Mr. Femi Adesina, in a statement, titled: “Ransom on Chibok/Dapchi schoolgirls: Again, CAN Misses It,” reiterated the comment of the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, in 2018 that the federal government did not pay any ransom for the release of 105 Dapchi schoolgirls as alleged by the United Nations (UN).
Adesina said CAN was engaging in “disinformation” and advised the Christian group “to desist” from it, wondering why CAN would choose to believe the report of the UN as against that of Mohammed, adding that it was needless for CAN to be antagonistic to government moves all the time.
He said: “When the media in August 2018 quoted a United Nations Report alleging that the Federal Government paid a ‘huge ransom’ for the release of the abducted Dapchi schoolgirls on March 21, 2018, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, immediately disputed the report, insisting that no ransom was paid, ‘little or huge.’
“According to the minister, ‘there must be a conclusive evidence to support such a claim. Without that, the claim remains what it is – a mere conjecture.’ And we ask who should Nigerians or CAN rather believe, if there is good faith?
“We urge CAN to desist from disinformation which can further divide Nigerians. The letter and spirit of the Holy Bible do not support discord, which CAN’s allegations are liable to cause.
“The Christian body need not be antagonistic to every attempt by the administration to move Nigeria forward, before it can champion or defend the Christian faith.”
Adesina also said Buhari had stated clearly in 2015 that if paying ransom would guarantee the release of Chibokgirls, the president would not hesitate to pay it, describing Buhari’s remark as “a testament” to his commitment to the girls’ release.
He described every Nigerian as a stakeholder in the necessity to promote peace in the country, saying promoting peace is also scriptural.
“President Muhammadu Buhari made it very clear in 2015 that if ransom needed to be paid to free the Chibok schoolgirls, he would pay. That is a testament to his commitment to get the girls back.
“Notwithstanding our different faiths, we are all stakeholders in the promotion of peace in our fatherland. And the Holy Bible enjoins us to, ‘Seek peace, and pursue it,” Adesina added.
ACF, Afenifere, Atiku Fault President’s Claim on Ratio of Boko Haram Victims
However, ACF; Afenifere; and Atiku have reacted differently to Buhari’s claim on ratio of victims of Boko Haram killings.
On its part, Afenifere insisted that majority of the victims were Christians.
Reacting to Buhari’s statement, the leader of Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, told THISDAY yesterday that the president’s statement that 90 per cent of the victims of Boko Haram insurgence were Muslims was regrettable and an admission of failure.
Adebanjo, who called on Buhari to resign for admitting failure, lamented: “Is that why they are killing us? He has lost focus. Is he saying that because they are Muslims their lives do not matter? Is he saying or admitting that he cannot control them? We are saying they are killing the people and he says they are fellow Muslims; does that make sense?
“It is unfortunate that such a statement is coming from the president.
“The role of the Commander-in-Chief is to protect the people. If he knows he cannot do it, let him resign,” Adebanjo said.
Also speaking on behalf of Afenifere, the spokesman of the group, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, told THISDAY that evidence available from recent and past attacks by the Boko Haram insurgents clearly showed that more Christians were victims of the unwarranted attacks and killings in the country.
“From all empirical evidence, most of the mourning arising from Boko Haram killings is from Christians. It’s most unfortunate that a president who took oath of office to protect all Nigerians could be giving the impression that the killings of Nigerians of a particular faith is tolerable than others.
“The question to ask is whether the federal government is doing census of the dead with their faiths on their foreheads or they are using Boko Haram diary?” Odumakin queried.
Atiku condemned Buhari’s opinion article for claiming that over 90 per cent of the victims of Boko Haram were Muslims.
The former vice President argued that there was no need to rationalise those being killed – whether they are Christians or Muslims, adding that they are human beings.
“We must not rationalise killings. Whether Christian, Muslim, Traditionalist, or Atheist, the killing of any human being, by Boko Haram, or any other misguided group, is wrong and should be condemned unequivocally,” Atiku said in a statement.
“There is no compulsion in religion. Only love,” he added.
However, the Secretary of ACF, Mr. Anthony Sani, told THISDAY that it would be difficult to know the proportion of Muslims and Christians killed by the Boko Haram insurgents since the terrorists attack both adherents of the two religions.
Sani said he does not know the proportion of those affected by the killings.
“That is a known fact that most of Boko Haram sects are not only Muslims but are also people from North East – the same with their victims most of whom are Muslims and from North East. But I cannot know the exact proportion.
“The sects do not target only Christians but also Muslims whom they consider are not willing to adhere to their version of Islam, even though we all know Boko Haram is not pursuing any jihad but in search of mundane things like political power. Their resort to religion is for strategic reasons meant to attract the gullible as canon fodders.
“That was why President Obama once made a clear distinction between Islam and Islamic terrorism which desecrates Islam.
“No true Muslim can desecrate Islam by killing people for God Who does not need anybody to kill for Him,” Sani explained.