Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) support for the U.S. Department of State’s decision to place Nigeria and six other countries on a watch-list over religious freedom is part of a large conspiracy, the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) has said.
In a statement issued on Tuesday by its Head of Media and Public Affairs, Aselemi Ibrahim, NSCIA accused the Christian body of working with the U.S. and other foreign countries to undermine Nigeria.
It also declared that the listing of Nigeria on the watch list of countries with religious rights violations is based on bias and misinformation, adding that it is all because Nigeria’s current president is a Muslim.
“If CAN is sincere on her claims of religious oppression against Christians in Nigeria, let it produce one such case for which it has challenged in the court of law.
“On the contrary, Muslims in Nigeria are the ones that have come under untold persecution on account of their faith. That their persecution is not reported by the Christian-dominated media does not reduce the authenticity of this assertion.
“Even though the Muslims have borne these assaults with philosophical calmness and equanimity, our courts are saturated with litigations ranging from mosque demolitions to attacks on the Muslim Hijab” NSCIA stated.
The statement went on: “Our biggest worry is that truth and falsehood appear to be losing their distinctiveness.
“This is because CAN has been peddling a lot of conspiracy theories to America and other foreign countries and they have accepted these lies without regard to the rules of evidence and investigation.
“The Council views the listing of Nigeria on the watch list of countries with religious rights violations as misinformed and biased, just because a Muslim is the leader of the country. It is now obvious that CAN is working with foreign interests to undermine the unity of the country and stoke the fire of instability.
“On former CJN Walter Onneghen, everything that CAN has alleged is only based on conspiracy theory; the suspension of the immediate past CJN by President Buhari was ordered by the Code of Conduct Bureau, based on an allegation of false declaration of assets, which the then CJN owned up to though he said that he forgot.
“While the suspension was on, the National Judicial Commission recommended the compulsory retirement of the CJN however, on Thursday, the 4th of April 2019, he tendered his resignation.
“Not all Nigerians are suffering from amnesia and the trajectory of the event is still fresh in our memory.
“It is therefore worrisome and disingenuous that CAN would descend to the level of political irritants who would read meanings to a matter that followed due process and for which Justice Onneghen voluntarily resigned,” NSCIA stated, adding that CAN even has an aversion to President Muhammad Buhari’s ongoing fight against corruption.
It called on Nigerians not to be swayed by the: “antics and bigotry of CAN”.
“CAN got it wrong when it decided to allow religious bigotry blind her to issues that are quite within the ambit of free speech and the law.
“We warn that CAN desist from playing to the gallery and know that the drumbeats of war and disaffection she is always dancing to is a whirlwind that would blow off everyone regardless of religious persuasion.
“We urge CAN to pick the petal of patriotism and drop the metal of heating the polity. We hope that CAN would desist from move from undisguised bigotry to unconditional love as exemplified by Jesus to fellow Nigerians regardless of their religious, ethnic and political affiliations.
“ These are trying times for Nigeria where religious ethics and morals are being jettisoned by those who should be leaders and CAN has a responsibility to reverse the trend, not fuelling the fire”.
NSCIA further condemned CAN for asking for the amendment of some aspects of the constitution following the comments made by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Muhammad Tanko, in a keynote address read on his behalf by the Grand Khadi of Niger State, Justice Muhammad Danjuma, at the Judges Conference at Ahmadu Bello University.
“Specifically, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Muhammad Tanko, in a keynote address read on his behalf by the Grand Khadi of Niger State, Justice Muhammad Danjuma, at the Judges Conference at Ahmadu Bello University, poignantly pointed out the lacuna that exists in the Constitution with respect to certain aspects of Muslim lives and the need for the yawning gaps to be filled through appropriate constitutional amendment by the National Assembly.
“However, in a bellicose reaction issued on Saturday, December 14, 2019, Mr Samuel Kwamkur criticized the CJN, in a most uncharitable and uncouth manner, for what he considers an attempt to Islamise Nigeria.
“According to CAN, the position of the CJN is ‘the most reprehensible, reckless and insensitive statement ever made by a public officer, a jurist and the head of Nigeria’s judiciary…’
“He called for amendment to alter Nigeria’s current constitutional status to be religiously inclined – inclined towards one religion – Islam.
“ Clearly, this looks like the path to making Islam a state religion.”
“This intervention is compelled by the need to put the records straight in view of the seriousness of the allegation that CAN has levelled against the CJN, whose remarks are well within his constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of expression (within the context under discussion) and its implication for Shari’ah and Muslims in Nigeria.
“It is a known fact that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria grants every Nigerian the unfettered right to practise his/her religion without any encumbrances.
“Hence, as we continue to advance and expand discussions on religious freedom and tolerance within the ambit of our civil democracy, Council is open to any discussion that will accelerate these rights. Therefore, Council supports the idea to amend the Constitution to address current challenges faced by Muslims in the application of the principles of Shar’iah as contained in the Constitution.
“For instance, the 1999 Constitution, in Section 237, (2), (b) provides for 21 judges for the Appellate Court, three (3) of whom must be experts in Islamic Jurisprudence.
“The number of the judges has since been increased from 21 to 49 without a corresponding increase in the number of judges with expertise in Islamic Jurisprudence; this is an imbalance that can only be addressed through a constitutional amendment.
“This is one of the many issues that the CJN brought to the attention of his audience.
“Our Constitution already recognises and accommodates Shari’ah as contained in Section 275 which addresses the Shari’ah Courts of Appeal. Similarly, Sections 262 and 277 of the Constitution restrict the application of Shari’ah to Personal Law such as marriage, inheritance, divorce, etc.
“So, contrary to the impression being made, the issue of Shari’ah is not alien to the Constitution,” the NSCIA stated.