•Says membership ‘ll serve Nigeria’s interest
From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari at the weekend admitted that Nigeria has joined the Islamic Coalition against terrorism formed by Saudi Arabia. He disclosed this in an interview he granted Aljazeera news agency.
Buhari was asked whether Nigeria was part of the group, to which he said: “We are part of it because we’ve got terrorists in Nigeria that everybody knows who claim they are Islamic.
“So, if there’s an Islamic coalition to fight terrorism, Nigeria will be part of it because we are casualties of Islamic terrorism.”
Asked whether he had suggested Nigeria’s membership of the coalition during his meeting with King Salman Bin Abdul-Aziz during their meeting in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia recently, Buhari replied, “yes.”
The President, however, refused to disclose how such coalition would work for Nigeria. He said: “Well, that we mentioned under Lake Chad Basin Commission, our regional grouping compromising Cameroon, Chad, Niger, Nigeria and Benin and we dedicated a certain number of troops to be deployed in our own sub-region and I don’t think we have to tell the Press the details of that.”
Asked if such membership would serve Nigeria’s security interest, the President said: “Certainly. I’ve just told you it is the Boko Haram itself that declared loyalty to ISIS.
“ISIS is basically based in Islamic countries. Now, if there’s a coalition to fight Islamic terrorism, why can’t Nigeria be part of it, while those that are fighting in Nigeria as Boko Haram claim to be Muslims. But the way they are doing it is anti-Islamic.”
When he was informed that since Nigeria was evenly divided between Christians and Muslims and that some Christians were complaining he was giving Islamic identity to Nigeria, Buhari wondered why such Christians had not gone to fight Boko Haram in the North or militants sabotaging installations in the South.
“Why can’t those Christians that complained go and fight terrorism in Nigeria or fight the militancy in the South. It’s Nigeria that matters, not the opinion of some religious bigots,” he stated.
On whether he was trying to change Nigeria’s religious identity, Buhari said, “How can I change the religious identity of Nigeria?
“No religion advocates hurting the innocent and just because the Muslims are the ones that claim to be Boko Haram and they are killing innocent people whether in the church, in the bus or in the market place, then, I will just sit and look at them because I am a Muslim? Islam is against injustice in any form,” he said.
Buhari’s admission of Nigeria’s membership of the coalition came just under two weeks after a Presidency statement seemed to suggest that he had turned down the invitation to be part of the coalition.