…Says, ‘I was quoted out of context on 222 condemned criminals in Lagos’
From: Oluseye Ojo, Ibada
A legal luminary, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), has lashed out at the ruling class in the country, saying they were the masterminds of the incessant religious crises being witnessed in the country.
Faloana disclosed this at the ongoing week-long conference of the Nigerian Judicial Expert Group entitled: Law and Religion: The Role of the State, held at the International Conference Centre, University of Ibadan.
According to Falana, “When Karl Marx said ‘religion is the opium of the masses,’ he was only emphasising the manipulation of religion by the ruling class. This goes on in our country. Nigeria is a secular state, there is no apology about it. This does not mean the country or government must not recognise religion.
“What Section 10 of the Constitution simply says is that ‘Nigeria as state shall not adopt any religion as the official religion of the state.’ In Nigeria today, the ruling class has hypocritically adopted two religions – Christianity and Islam. In Osun State, Governor Rauf Aregbesola has recognised the third one – traditional religion.
Falana noted that though majority of political leaders in the country patronise Christianity, Islam as well as traditional religion, they do not recognise officially traditional religion.
“The ruling class is deceiving our people because when they get to the boardroom to manipulate the country, when they want to steal money, nobody remembers your religion. In fact, all the religions are represented where they are going to steal money. All the people stealing billions of dollars are Christians and Muslims.
“This has nothing to do with sex because the greatest crooks under the current situation are women. I am not saying this to really harass women. I am not being gender insensitive. I just want us to be critical and stop pretending. Don’t be used by the ruling class because our psyche is already militarised. Yet, we all feel as if we are still under military dictators.
“A lady, who was a former Managing Director of a bank, was made to forfeit to the Nigerian state N191.5billion. All the funds stolen by armed robbers since 1960 have not been up to N100billon. She had a jet. Some of them bought jets for their pastors in Nigeria,” Falana said.
He stated further that religion has become so divisive, powerful in the country and so dangerous in the way the ruling class manipulate religion, adding that the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, that has just been suspended from office “for allegedly stealing money for cutting grasses to construct camps for people who have been displaced by Boko Haram terrorists. For me it is a crime against humanity.
“Again, members of the ruling class stole the money meant for procuring arms and ammunition to fight Boko Haram. So, we lost 20,000 people in the last six years. $15billon have been stolen from the money meant for procurement of arms. The funds were stolen by Christians and Muslims.”
Falana also said he was quoted out of context in the recent media reports that he made case for Chukwnemeka Ezeugo, also known as Reverend King, the founder of the Christian Praying Assembly, saying he wrote a letter to the governor of Lagos State, Mr. Akinwumi Ambode, last week, and he asked him not to engage in the primitive act of killing people.
“I asked him not to sign a death warrant to kill anybody in Kirikiri Prisons because there are 222 people in Lagos, who have been condemned to death. I never mentioned Reverend King.
“By the time the press would report it, they said ‘Falana makes case for Reverend King, others.’ No. I am simply asking the governor not to engage in brutalisation. Individuals can kill and that is why we usually send them to mental homes. But a state or government that is required to be humane by the constitution cannot engage in the primitivity of killing people. That is why I advised him to commute the death sentence to life imprisonment.”