Prominent pro-democracy and Non-Governmental Body- HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) has condemned the display of unbridled tendencies and unwholesome disrespect shown by the Senior Special Assistant on media and Publicity to President Muhammadu Buhari Mr. Garba Shehu in the rejoinder he issued against the presentation to the American Congress made by the Roman Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese Right Reverend Mathew HASSAN Kukah , Ph.D.
The statement of Matthew Kukah, Bishop of the Catholic diocese of Sokoto, to the US congress committee on foreign affairs needs not to have generated controversy if not that Nigeria under the dispensation of the government of President Muhammadu Buhari has degenerated to a Banana Republic whereby the elected leaders of the Country have transposed themselves into tyrants who are scared of the truth and who are doing everything under the Sun to crush independent voices.
HURIWA recalled that the Cleric, Bishop Mathew HASSAN Kukah had alleged that President Muhammadu Buhari was showing preference for people of his religion and ethnic group in matters of appointments and in the enforcement of the relevant policies and legal framework against the rising insecurity.
The bishop also said Christians were being targeted by insurgents and bandits, but with the government unable to tackle the security challenge.
The presidency reacted to the statement on Sunday, describing it as false just as the Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari Mr. Garba Shehu also made assertions that are crude, primitive, puerile, tendentious and absolutely disrespectful to the person of the revered Roman Catholic prelate.
HURIWA recalled that Bishop Kukah made the following truthful observations summed up thus: “In October 2019, two Pastors with the Church of Christ in Nigeria, COCIN, Beyond the physical elimination of Chrsitian missionary Pastoral agents, other strategies adopted in the persecution of Christians are, the total or partial destruction of Church related infrastructure such as Churches, Schools, Convents, Health facilities, and Presbyteries across the country. In some Dioceses in the North East such as Maiduguri and Yola, priests have had to leave their Parishes after they had been destroyed and the community sacked. The scenario has moved to the north Central and North West zones.”
“There are also cases of abduction of Christian girls, turning them into sex slaves, forcing them into marriages and forced conversions to Islam. In some cases, these girls and boys have been forced to become spies, cooks, messengers, foot soldiers for their captors. The scope of persecution is wide and cross cutting including men and women. Again, as I have said earlier, these stories are known to most of the audience. Perhaps what is most important is for me to speak to what kind of short, medium and long term solutions should we be contemplating. No one has the answers, but we must continue to prepare for a life after this tragedy.”
“For us at the Catholic Bishops Conference, we have remained relentless and consistent in speaking prophetic truth to power. We have done this through many Communiques and Statements calling attention of government to the tragedies afflicting our people and the nation’s slide to chaos.”
” By way of conclusion, let me make a few appeals. First, to the international community. The persecution of Christians based solely on their faith and not on any crimes they have committed poses one of the greatest threats to our existence and common humanity. Christians make up over one third of the world’s population and have laid the foundation for human civilisation. It is in the interest of our collective survival that we must rise in defense of the freedom of Christians everywhere in the world to live and practice their faiths. Where it occurs, I believe Muslims of believers of other faiths will air their concerns.”
BISHOP Kukah said too that: “It is important to restate that even though the purveyors of terrorism, banditry, kidnapping and murders of our people continue to appeal to Islam as their source of inspiration, what we are dealing with is the Jihadist/Salafist supremacist strain of the faith that is at best a cancer that threatens the Muslims who do not believe what they themselves believe. We must name the devil so as to cast it out. This means that first, a majority of those who are good Muslims must rise in defense of their religion by reversing this inhuman view of religion which pretends to be working in the name of the religion. Muslims in northern states have suffered disproportionately in our conflicts in Nigeria. Sadly, this is occurring after the President has continued to privilege Muslims in appointments in the country.”
“In Nigeria, the Muslim elite have been at their hypocritical best, using religion as a tool for political mobilisation. No one expected that the Buhari administration will end up exploiting the support he received from across the country only to turn around and run such a nepotistic administration. The challenge of rebuilding our country, moving it away from the brink requires collective efforts on our part. However, the policy choices of this government have reversed the gains we made in the area of peaceful co-existence and dialogue. We cannot give up. We must renew our commitment to creating a just society.”
But the Presidency lambasted the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Dr Matthew Kukah over his comments about persecution of Christians in Nigeria by armed extremist groups in the North.
Reacting to his claims, the Presidency in a statement signed by Senior Special Assistant to the President, Media & Publicity, Garba Shehu considered it “troubling when a so-called man of the Church copies the worst excesses of those seeking personal advancement in public office.”
It argued Kukah’s assertion on only Christian schools being “targeted by bandits or terrorists is not supported by the facts on the ground.”
Citing cases of affected Islamic students, the statement reads in part: “Sad but true that Kankara students in Katsina State were stolen by bandits of the same Islamic faith as those they took away.
“The same may be true of those who are still holding the 134 students of the Islamic School at Tegina in Niger State.
“The nation witnessed the sad incident of the female students abducted by bandits at Jangebe in Zamfara State and the over 100 predominantly Muslim students of the Federal Government Girls College Birnin Yauri in Kebbi State who are currently in captivity- and the nation’s security agencies are hard at work to release them unharmed.
“The attack on Christian students is sad and unacceptable; so also is the abduction of students of other faiths. The claim that only Christian schools are being targeted is totally untrue.”
The Presidency expressed disappointment that some citizens threw their weight behind Kukah following his comments.
“It is unfortunate, and disappointing, for citizens of Nigeria to bear witness to one of their Churchmen castigating their country in front of representatives of a foreign parliament,” it said.
Challenging other Kukah’s claims, the statement reads in part: “To suggest that investment in infrastructure between Nigeria and Niger is wasteful and biased – when a similar infrastructure project between Lagos and Benin has revolutionised the two neighbouring economies to the advantage of both our countries – is quite disturbing.
“There is no bias in this government when the president is northern and Muslim, the vice president southern and Christian, and the cabinet equally balanced between the two religions.
“But neither is there anything in our Constitution to state that political posts must be apportioned according to ethnicity or faith. It takes a warped frame of mind for a critic to believe ethnicity is of primary importance in public appointments.”
The HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) in its reaction through the National Coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and the National Media Affairs Director Miss Zainab Yusuf said the Spokesman of the President has only succeeded in celebrating his scanty understanding of the Constitution by making the above unintelligent and insensitive remarks.
HURIWA has asked the Presidential spokesman to do a short intensive programme on the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria of 1999 so he understands the fuller intents of the relevant sections that speak to the issues if Federal character principles such as section 14(3) and also read through with an open mind the whole ramifications of section 42 of the Constitution. The Rights group said the Federal character of Nigeria includes the fact that Nigeria is a Country with two dominant religions of Christians and Moslems and others such as African traditional worshippers.
“We totally endorse the presentation made by His Lordship the Bishop of the Catholic diocese of Sokoto for these are facts that are empirical and we are witnesses to the ongoing nepotistic appointments of President Muhammadu Buhari and the consistent killings of Christian clerics by Islamists are facts which President Muhammadu Buhari can’t hide from”.