Alleged Religious Persecution: CAN supports U.S. stance on Nigeria

Samson-Ayokunle. [Photo credit: Hope for Nigeria]
Samson Ayokunle. [Photo credit: Hope for Nigeria]

The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has reacted to the recent listing of the country by the United States government among nations tolerating religious persecution.

In a statement on Sunday by Adebayo Oladeji, Special Assistant on Media and Communications to the CAN President, Samson Ayokunle, the association warned that discrimination against Christians can result in another civil war which Nigeria may not survive.

PREMIUM TIMES reported how the U.S. Department of State listed Nigeria among countries like Cuba, Nicaragua and Sudan who are now part of the US watch list for governments that have perpetrated or tolerated “severe violations of religious freedom.”

The inclusion of Nigeria by the department was announced by the U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, who had also renewed the placement of Comoros, Russia, and Uzbekistan on the same list.

In a reaction to the development, CAN said it had proffered several solutions to the issues fueling religious intolerance to the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, but added that the presidency had turned a deaf ear to its suggestions.

The association described as a slap on the face of Christians, the recent reports that the Chief Justice of Nigeria had called for a constitutional amendment to promote Shari’a contents and reiterated its complaint against the composition of Nigeria’s security council.

CAN alleged that the lopsided appointment of political officers is partly responsible for the recent stance by the U.S. against Nigeria and added that the second tenure of President Buhari has not been different from the first in terms of political preference for some parts of the country and the Muslim religion.

“All the key appointments that are being made since the second term of the President began, follow the same blueprint. These are facts and they are violations of some portions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended). These include but are not limited to Sections 10, 13 (3-4), 15 (2) (d) and (4).

“It is widely believed that no country survives two civil wars. We, therefore, call on the government to correct the imbalances and not to be insensitive to the new development but instead address all the factors that are responsible,” CAN said in its statement.

CAN also alleged that the cases of Christians persecuted and killed in states like Kaduna, Benue, Plateau Adamawa and Taraba states could not have gone unnoticed by the U.S. The association said although Muslims had also been reported killed in these states, it was evident that the major targets were Christians.

The association also noted the continued incarceration of Leah Sharibu who was held back after her schoolmates were released by their abductors, the Boko Haram terrorist group, following negotiations by the government in 2018.

Miss Sharibu was left behind, despite initial plans by the insurgents to release all the over 100 students abducted from the Government Girls Technical College, Dapchi, Yobe State, on February 19, 2018, because she allegedly refused to renounce her religion.

“It is a fact that not fewer than 95 per cent of those who are being detained by the terrorists are Christians and the government has been paying lips service towards securing their freedoms.

“Leah Sharibu is a case study and the only reason why the government that secured the release of her colleagues has not freed her is because of her religion. We wonder why the government has not done the needful to liberate this innocent girl who happens to be a daughter of a Police officer,” the statement said.

“CAN urges the Federal Government to let its policies be implemented according to the dictates of the Constitution. The bitter truth is Christians are yet to be given any sense of belonging since this government came on board. Our prayers include wisdom and courage for President Muhammadu Buhari to give all citizens a sense of belonging, irrespective of their religious, tribal and political affiliations,” it added.

The statement commended the U.S. for “standing with the oppressed and the truth.”

The Nigerian government had earlier faulted the stance of the U.S.

In a statement issued in Abuja on Sunday, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, said the good people of Nigeria enjoy unfettered freedom to practice their religion, and blamed failed politicians and disgruntled elements – some of them supposedly-respected leaders – for latching on to religion as their trump card, especially in the run-up to the last general elections, to oust the Buhari Administration.

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