From Fred Ezeh, Abuja
Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has cautioned Muslim groups threatening the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto, Dr. Matthew Hassan Kukah, to stop their unlawful actions, asking security agencies to ensure the safety and security of the cleric.
CAN reminded the groups and the Federal Government that Bishop Kukah was posted to serve in Sokoto Diocese by the Papacy, and threatening him to leave Sokoto is a global threat to Christianity
Its General Secretary, Joseph Daramola, in a statement released in Abuja, yesterday, said CAN was keenly watching the unfolding scenario since Bishop Kukah spoke his mind on the state of the nation in his Christmas homily.
The Christian group called on President Buhari and all security agencies to ensure that no harm befell Bishop Kukah, even as it insisted that what he said in his Christmas homily was and is still within the ambit of the law.
“We wonder if those threatening the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto are above the law or if they are sacred cows in the country. We have studied the whole Christmas message of Bishop Kukah and we are yet to see any incitement against Islam or non-Christians. We see nothing wrong in his message to the nation that has been under the siege of terrorists, herdsmen killers, bandits and kidnappers as if there was no government in place. We see nothing wrong in telling a government whose lopsided appointments are against Christians the whole truth.
“When has it become an offence to speak the truth to power? When has it become a crime to criticise a government in the country? When did the lawful fundamental human rights suspended in the country? When did some sections of the Constitution got suspended without the awareness of the public?
“When did the police and the Department of State Security Services lose their power to miscreants and lawless people who are making boast of their lawlessness without a challenge? We wonder if those Muslim groups who are threatening to deal with Bishop Kukah get equal response from their Christian counterparts, ain’t we going to set the country on ﬁre? In this same country, we have a Catholic Bishop whose name is synonymous with President Muhammadu Buhari,yet the Catholic Church has not deemed it ﬁt to sanction him because freedom of speech and association is not only a constitutional matter, but godly.
“It is time those hiding under religious sentiments to promote violence and crises stopped doing so if we want this country to progress. We have had enough of bloodshed in the country and we call on the security agencies to rise up to their constitutional responsibilities. Nothing must happen to Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah,” CAN said.
Meanwhile, Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, has warned that the quit notice on Kukah is capable of causing the disintegration of the country.
The governor said directing the catholic cleric to apologise or leave Sokoto by a Muslim group affirmed clearly to the fact that Nigeria was being controlled by forces which are bent on setting it ablaze if their interests are not guaranteed.
The governor who spoke through his Chief Press Secretary, Terver Akase, said the group’s statement was a contradiction of provisions of the Nigerian Constitution which gave Nigerians the right to live freely in any part of the country.
“Calls such as the one made by Muslim Solidarity Forum can only lead the country to a state of lawlessness which does no nation any good,” he said.
Ortom said Bishop Kukah was not the first to speak out against impunity, injustice and the collapsing security situation being witnessed in parts of the country. The governor said Kukah remains a true patriot who speaks to give direction and make recommendations on the way the people should be governed in an equitable and just manner.
He, however, commended the Federal Government for quickly responding to the threat by issuing a statement to caution the group and reminding its members of provisions of the constitution which guarantees the right of Nigerians to reside in any part of the country.
He said Nigeria belonged to all citizens and no individual or group had the right to threaten others and whip them into silence.
He stressed the need for all Nigerians, both Christians and Muslims, to set aside religious and other sentiments, and come together in humility to fast and pray for peace and unity of the country, rather than the current situation where some persons are fanning embers of disunity and hatred.