The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has accused the Chairman of the national conference, Justice Idris Kutigi, of executing an Islamic agenda by scheming the body out of a very sensitive Committee on Religion.
In a statement issued on Tuesday by Mr. Sunny Oibe, Director (National Issues) in CAN, the body wondered why Kutigi should pick a delegate from his state, Niger to chair the Committee on Religion while CAN is not represented in such a very sensitive committee.
The members of the Committee on Religion obtained from the Conference Secretariat are Alhaji Nuruddeen Lemu (chairman); Bishop Felix Femi Ajakaiye, co-chairman (representing Ekiti State in the confab); Hajia Shetu Alfa, Bishop Joseph Bagobiri, Hadija Dije Dattijo, Prof. Obini Ekpe, Pastor Bosun Emmanuel and Prof. Layi Erinosho.
Others are Mallam Muzzammil Sani Hanga, Prof. Andrew Haruna, Monsignor Obiora Ike, Godswill Iyoha Iyoke, Prof, Munzali Jibril, Hajiya Talatu Nasir, Justice Mamman Nasir (retd), Dr. Jonathan Obaje, Prof. Ishaq Oloyede and Hajia Amina Omoti.
However, CAN kicked against the choice of Bishop Femi Ajakaiye, as the co-chairman of the committee, saying he is from the south-west and not a member of CAN and and therefore, could not know what Christians are going through in the north.
The statement reads, “We hereby express our reservations on the composition of the members of the National Conference Committee on Religion and without fear or contradiction state that the Chairman of the Conference, Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi, has done his wish to ensure that the leadership of the committees favours Muslims in Nigeria.
“He is from Niger State and the Committee on Religion should be a sensitive committee. The chairman has decided to scatter the Christians in the confab and now brought Nurudeen Lemu, the son of Sheikh Lemu, who is also from Niger State to chair the committee and did not pick any delegate representing the Christian Association of Nigeria.
“The supposed Christian in the committee, Dr. Jonathan Obaje representing the Diaspora in the confab has been given express permission by Kutigi to travel back overseas for holiday; he is not even in Nigeria at present and does not represent CAN.
“The delegate is not around and Christians will be affected during voting. Bishop Felix Ajakaiye who was named co-Chairman in the committee is representing Ekiti State and not CAN. In that case, we have already lost and the ratio will now be 12 members for Muslims and 6 for Christians.
“To us in CAN, Justice Kutigi is working out a script to undermine the interest of the Christians in the confab. Ordinarily, the Christians who have been on the receiving end from the members of the Boko Haram Islamic sect in the North should be a co-chairman in the Committee on Religion.
“But what Kutigi did was to pick a Muslim from the North as chairman and a Christian from the South West (Ajakaiye) who has little or no knowledge of what is happening in the North as co-chairman. The interest of Christians in this case, will not be adequately protected. Already, the confab is a stage-managed conference. President Goodluck Jonathan has a good intention; but there is a problem in allowing Kutigi to be chairman.
“Justice Kutigi is from Niger State and he decided to pick his Muslim brother from Niger State to head such a sensitive committee. So Christians in Nigeria are not happy and we don’t expect that a man who is highly placed like Justice Kutigi would allow his religion to override national interest. “That is why he decided to keep the issue of religion and the committee to himself closely. So we are asking the Vice Chairman of that Conference, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi what he is doing there? It may also interest Nigerians to note that none of the delegates sent by CAN were allowed to head any committee in the confab; this is unfortunate. Where is the transparency? Where is the equity and fairness?
“For us, we have no problem with Ajakaiye but we see his choice as a mischief by Kutigi. Ajakaiye is a Christian from the South West but to us, a Christian from the North and CAN delegate who knows how Christians are being slaughtered on daily basis by Boko Haram should be the co-chairman of the committee. But Kutigi refused because he is carrying out an Islamic agenda. These are the same people who claimed that Jonathan skewed the conference to favour the Christians. But the truth has now been revealed that Kutigi is the person who skewed the committee to undermine the Christians.
“What we need is equal representation in the confab; if Muslims are 12, Christians must be 12 in the religious committee. We demand that the man in Diaspora should be replaced because he doesn’t know what is going on in this country. We want a Christian from the North to be a co-chair. Anything short of that means that Kutigi, is biased and playing an Islamic agenda against Christians in this country. We are therefore, doubting his credibility to pilot the affairs of the good conference put together by the Jonathan’s administration”.
Meanwhile, the Assistant Secretary, Media and Communications, Mr. James Akpadem, while reacting to the accusation of an Islamic agenda, said CAN was just looking for trouble where there is none.
According to him, the membership of the committee comprises of Muslims and Christians from the north and the south, reminding CAN that not all Christian bodies are members of CAN.
“Is Bishop Ajakaiye not a Christian? Somebody is a Christian and because he is not a CAN delegate he shouldn’t be co-chairman?
“Look, CAN is just an association and it is not every Christian that is a member. Not all churches in Nigeria are members of CAN. Must somebody come from Borno or Yobe State before heading a committee on religion?
“We had few people representing CAN and is that a group that should dictate what to do? The committee is made up of Christians and Muslims, whether you are a member of CAN or Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs in Nigeria. Are there not other members of SCIAN? People are just looking for trouble where there’s none,” Akpandem submitted.