From Fred Ezeh, Abuja
The Nigerian Supreme Council on Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) has engaged in a verbal fight with the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) over the later’s position on the recent shortlisting of 20 Justices-designate by the Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC) as well as other misgivings.
NSCIA said its attention was drawn to CAN’s insinuations and rebukes that trailed the action of the FJSC, informing its decision to join issues with CAN as a matter of principle.
NSCIA Deputy Secretary General Prof Salisu Shehu, in a statement released in Abuja, on Tuesday, said:
‘The grouse of CAN, as amplified was that 13 of the 20 recently shortlisted Justices are from the North and are Muslims, even when the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem, confirmed that procedure of the appointment followed due and usual process and that the recommendation was done without preference for tribe, creed or association, but mischief makers, ethnic jingoists and religious bigots resorted to blackmail,’ HR said.
‘The unassailable truth is that Justices of the Court of Appeal (JCAs) are 70, but the North with 19 States has 34 while the South with 17 States has 36. Out of the 36 JCAs from the South-West where Muslims are majority, South-East and South-South in both of which Muslims have considerable indigenous populations, all the JCAs are Christians except for Justice Habeeb Adewale Abiru of Lagos state and Justice Mistura Bolaji-Yusuf of Oyo State.
‘In three geo-political zones of the North where Muslims are predominant, there are 34 JCAs, out of which 15 are Christians. The North-East has four Muslim JCAs and seven Christians, North-Central has six Muslim JCAs and seven Christians while the North-West has nine Muslim JCAs and one Christian JCA.
‘However, the three geopolitical zones of the South have only two Muslim JCAs while the three geopolitical zones of the North have 15 Christian JCAs! Who is wickedly intolerant?’
It added: ‘Though religion preaches love, honesty, sincerity, tolerance, good neighbourliness and kindness, among other virtues, but CAN has succeeded in creating a Nigerian version of Christianity which is anchored on morbid hatred, undisguised dishonesty, caustic insincerity, religious intolerance, perennial hostility and outright wickedness.’
The Council renewed its call that the federal government urgently conduct a full-scale religious census of the entire workforce of its Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
‘The statistics would be helpful as it would reveal a lot, particularly the states of origin and religious affiliations of the Nigerian workforce. Muslims can no longer tolerate the psychological terrorism of those whose stock-in-trade is campaign of calumny and bigoted propaganda anytime a Muslim happens to be at the helm of affairs in Nigeria.
‘This is the way forward at this time as the vilification of Muslims by CAN can only be redressed by publishing the statistics and letting the world know who is marginalising who.’
On the hijab crisis in Kwara State, NSCIA maintained that the right to wear the hijab is constitutionally guaranteed.
It said: ‘The schools in question are public schools which are financed and administered by the state government. A number of the female teachers in these schools use hijab. Will CAN also ask the state government to disengage them?
‘The matter was put to rest in Suit CA/IL/49/2009 where the appellate court in Ilorin ruled unequivocally that the use
of hijab by female Muslims qualifies as a fundamental right under Section 38 of the Constitution.
‘Also, in AbdulKareem vs Lagos State Government (2016) 15 NWLR (Pt 1535) 177, the Court of Appeal further reaffirmed its decision in Appeal No CA/IL/49/2009 and upheld the unalloyed right of a female Muslim to wear hijab to school.
‘However, CAN argued that the use of hijab in the affected schools will cause discrimination and allow terrorists to easily identify our children and wards. That’s a jaundiced argument.
‘Assuming that’s true, would the withdrawal of all the Hijabi students in the affected schools not make the children to be more easily identified? It therefore beats imagination that CAN can be so blinded by Islamophobia as to promote anarchy in the land by denying willing Muslim girls the right to hijab in state-funded schools in Ilorin of all towns, repaying the tolerance of the Muslim hosts with intolerance.’