The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) on Friday, appealed to the Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, to use his status to speak up against “a sustained persecution of Christians” in Nigeria.
According to a statement released by the CAN President, Dr. Samson Ayokunle, where he stated that Osinbajo’s silence was worrisome, warning that failure to act against the forces trying to silence Christians in the country could be disastrous.
In communiqué by his Special Assistant (Media and Communication), Pastor Bayo Oladeji, listed the continuous killing of Christians, especially the recent Southern Kaduna massacres, failure to apprehend and prosecute the perpetrators coupled with attempted arrest of Apostle Johnson Suleiman who spoke against the rampaging Fulani herdsmen, as some of the current challenges facing Christians
The CAN President said: “We call on the acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, to intervene in this clampdown on the Church in Nigeria. After all, he is in the office primarily to represent the interest of the Christians and his studied silence is no longer golden.
“The last time we checked, Sections 38-41 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), it states clearly that every Nigerian is entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including freedom to change religion or belief, and freedom (either alone or in community with others, and in public or in private) to manifest and propagate his religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance.”
The Clergy noted that Christians were yet to recover from the genocide in Southern Kaduna by the murderous Fulani herdsmen and its attendant consequences, and that now, “the Jigawa State government has started pulling down our churches with impunity.”
As if that was not enough, he said, some operatives from the Department of State Services (DSS) reportedly invaded a hotel in Ekiti on Tuesday where Apostle Johnson Suleiman and his team, who were in the state capital for a crusade were lodging.
He continued: “According to what we heard, they insisted on remaining in the hotel until Apostle Johnson Suleiman surrendered himself for arrest. But for the timely intervention of the management of the hotel and other well-meaning Nigerians around, the invasion could have resulted into bloodshed as the Minister of God was there with some MOPOL men and officers.
“Apostle Suleiman has become a refugee in Ekiti state as security operatives are said to be searching every nook and cranny of the state with a view to arresting him.”
“If there is an urgent need to interrogate Apostle Suleman on any issue, it would only have been proper to extend a formal or informal invitation to him from the DSS rather than Gestapo approach used in the attempt to arrest him. It should be noted that under Nigerian laws, he is presumed innocent until a court of law proves otherwise. Or have they extended the proposed obnoxious law that forbids religious preaching without the permission of the state governor down south too?
“Treating Ministers of God and our members as common criminals is unacceptable to the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN). Enough is enough! Despite all the promises made by Governor Nasir el-Rufai, none of those who were responsible for the killings of our members in the Southern Kaduna had been brought to book.
“Instead, the Police have been releasing those who were arrested for the killing of our members in Kano and Kubwa (Abuja) while our leaders are being subjected to untold hardship for no just cause.
“It is high time the overzealous security agencies knew that Nigeria remains a secular state and any attempt to turn the country into a refugee camp for Christians will not be acceptable and will be resisted with every lawful means.”
Ayokunle stressed that every citizen of Nigeria was entitled to move freely throughout Nigeria and to reside in any part thereof and no citizen of Nigeria shall be expelled from Nigeria or refused entry thereby or exit there.
According to the CAN President, “the Constitution states unambiguously that every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference.
“Every person shall be entitled to assemble freely and associate with other persons, and in particular he may form or belong to any political party, trade union or any other association for the protection of his interests.”
In his reaction, Spokesman to the Acting President, Laolu Akande stated that the Acting President has always acted to defend the rule of law and course of Justice. “He is firmly committed to the best standards of governance that primes and values the life of every Nigerian, regardless of religion or ethnicity. As far as he is concerned, All Nigerians are equal and loved by God, and does not discriminate on the basis of religion.”
Stating further, Osinbajo is unwavering in ensuring that anyone who violates the law, should and must be made to face the full extent of the law. “He has spoken out publicly on the inherent weaknesses in the nation’s Criminal Justice System, and is working assiduously within government to bring the reforms necessary, including the option of community policing.
The current limitations of the criminal justice system however affects virtually every kind of crime, including the example of high profile murders of the past, many of which remain unsolved.
“This administration will continue to defend and protect the lives of all Nigerian citizens. It’s the reason the President gave firms instructions to security agencies-military and police to send reinforcements to Southern Kaduna to enforce the peace. The Southern Kaduna crisis has become a worrying recurrent decimal over the years.
“We all of us in government, political, religious leaders, traditional rulers and the entire Nigerian people, especially the elites- must work to find a lasting solution.
Situations like the crisis in Southern Kaduna while capable of provoking emotive reactions and potent for divisive rhetorics, call for the display of true leadership virtues from everyone of us. We should resist the temptations to succumb to divisive tendencies,” he said.