Sa’ad Abubakar, sultan of Sokoto, says he is shocked by the claim of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) that Christians are being persecuted in the country.
But the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) had 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.
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.
CAN had backed the inclusion of Nigeria by the US in the list of nations that tolerate religious persecution.
CAN had cited cases like that of Leah Sharibu – the statement read. “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.”
But speaking at the closing ceremony of 77th annual Islamic vacation course (IVC) organised by the Muslim Society of Nigeria (MSSN) at Bayero University, Kano, Abubakar said CAN’s claim is “false and partial”.
He said the criminal activities perpetrated by armed “Fulani herdsmen” were not triggered by religion, “because not all Fulanis are Muslims”.
He said there are Christian Fulanis just as there are Muslims ones.
“If such persecution really exist, such is supposed to be tabled at the Interfaith Forum where Muslims and Christians leaders meet periodically to discuss issues that would promote harmonious coexistence between the two religions,” Abubakar said.
“Many Fulanis are atheists whose main interest is to protect their cattle.”
The federal government in July also refuted claims that the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is alienating and persecuting Christians.
But 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.
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.