The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has threatened to oppose the recent decision of the Kaduna State governor, Nasir El-Rufai to arraign the pastor of the Dunamis International Gospel Centre Paul Enenche over what the governor described as inciting comments coming from fake news.
In a statement signed by the media assistant to the CAN president, Samson Ayokunle, the association defended Mr Enenche and accused Mr El-Rufai of deviating from the point of focus regarding the killings in Kasuwan Magani, a community in Kaduna State.
Reacting to a video where Mr Enenche blamed the governor the death of a Kaduna state traditional ruler, Raphael Galadima, Mr El-Rufai threatened to bring the pastor from Abuja to Kaduna on trial for inciting comments.
In a report published by the Cable online newspaper, Mr El-Rufai told the information minister, Lai Mohammed, that his government would do its best to ensure the prosecution of fake news purveyors whom the governor regarded as threats to the peace of Nigeria.
Mr El-Rufai made particular reference to an Abuja based pastor, whose video comments were blamed for the escalation of the crisis in Kasuwan Magani earlier this year.
“The recent crisis we had in Kaduna metropolis in Kasuwan Mageni was largely as a result of hate speech. The second round of crisis was because rumours started circulating that the abducted chief of Agada had been killed and within an hour, 22 people were killed, and it was totally false,” he said.
“There was a clip going round, a pastor in Abuja that said I was the one that arranged the abduction and murder of the agom of Kachia. I have filed a complaint to the IG. We intend to bring him to Kaduna to try him.
“The clip was circulated in Kaduna and he is in Abuja, we will get him,” the paper quoted Mr El-Rufai as saying. The governor said the escalation of the crisis and the death of the Kaduna traditional ruler was fuelled by rumours allegedly peddled by Mr Enenche.
However in a reaction on Wednesday, CAN backed the pastor, saying his alleged comments were a reported speech and should not be the cause of any prosecution.
The association accused Mr El-Rufai of peddling inciting information that the Christian body blamed for the various crisis in the state and threatened to consider the planned arraignment of Mr Enenche as an attack on the Christian community.
“The attention of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has been drawn to a threat issued by Governor Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai of Kaduna State in some online news media over his determination to get the Founder and Senior Pastor of Dunamis International Gospel Centre, Dr Paul Enenche arraigned in Kaduna over “hate speech” that he allegedly claimed escalated recent killings that rocked Kasuwan Magani on October 18, 2018 that was followed by the assassination of the Agom Adara, Dr Maiwada Raphael Galadima, on October 26, 2018.”
“While CAN abhors hate speech in whatever form, it is becoming very difficult to determine what constitutes “hate speech” and who should be responsible for assessing what constitutes the hate speech. It has become much difficult to know whose speech is to be regarded as hate speech and which speech should not.
“We have carefully read the threat by Governor El-Rufai and his claim to know who is responsible for the “hate speech” that promoted the crises in Kaduna State and his vow to get Pastor Enenche arrested and prosecuted in Kaduna State.
“We have also examined the video clip of the Pastor and are abreast of all the facts concerning the Kasuwan Magani killings, among others. The main subject of Dr Enenche’s clip which Governor El-Rufai is alleging to be a “hate speech” to us is an outright condemnation of the fate that has befallen the Adara people and Christians in Southern Kaduna through the creation of new emirates namely; Lere, Kagarko and Kujuru. By the creation of these emirates, especially that of Kajuru, the Adara people have been subjugated.”
CAN backed the pastor in his alleged comments, saying Mr Enenche should not be considered the purveyor of hate speech.
The association said Mr Enenche only reacted to what was reported and therefore should not be made to face what CAN described as humiliation and persecution.
“While we will continue to condemn hate speech by religious leaders and other Nigerians, we cannot stand and watch our respected leaders being set up for molestation, humiliation and prosecution for an unfounded “hate speech.”
“We have also followed the speeches of Governor El-Rufai and have felt strongly that he has been engaged in making inciting speeches, but several efforts deployed to draw his attention have been fruitless. His statement that his government had paid herdsmen to stop the killing in his state without any due compensation to the victims of attacks is still fresh in the minds of Nigerians.
“The questions in the minds of the church is; why is it very easy for government to identify those lamenting over the unabated killings of Christians in Kaduna and other states in the middle belt for persecution?
“Why is it easy by government to seek to apprehend and prosecute the crying victims and almost an impossible task to bring killers to justice? Why is it easier for the El-Rufai government to know and get “the agents of careless statement…” but most expensive and almost impossible for him to identify the Kaduna killing agents despite years of such continuous killings?
“Have the killers of Agom Adara, Dr. Maiwada Raphael Galadima, been apprehended? How long will it take the Governor El-Rufai to apprehend them?
“Any attempt to arrest and harass any of our pastors again will be considered as an attempt to silence the voice of the Church and reasoning in our nation. Let the government define clearly the difference between what is considered hate speech and advocacy for dying victims of continuous killings in Nigeria.
“What do you expect from a church leader whose members and fellow citizens are being killed daily without any satisfactory measures to abate the killings? Are we to keep clapping for government while people are being massacred in cold blood?”
The association, in its statement, said it believed the Kaduna State government would also not want its citizens to die without any repercussion to the killers. It, therefore, urged Mr El-Rufai to focus on getting the perpetrators of the many killings in Kasuwan Magani, adding that negative information about will always be heard about people in power.
“The polity is already heated up and polarised along ethnic and religious divides. All of us in leadership have had an inappropriate news item carried or published about us before; it is part of the burden of leadership. The best that could be done in such a circumstance is for the governor to debunk inaccurate news items like he has done.
“On the basis of the above, we again caution that care must be taken in handling what Pastor Paul Enenche read, which he wanted people to pray over. The idea of making Christians endangered species must stop, for the sake of peace and unity of this country. We have had enough of troubles in this nation in the past years. We deserve to have our peace.”
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