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Again, CAN, others allege persecution of Christians

By Nkechi Onyedika-Ugoeze, Kingsley Jeremiah (Abuja) and Sulaimon Salau (Lagos)
20 February 2020   |   4:24 am
The President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Samson Ayokunle, Senior Pastor of Dunamis International Gospel Centre, Dr. Paul Enenche and some civil society groups yesterday in Abuja...


• Ask Buhari to fulfill promise on abducted citizens
• Victims recount ordeals, demand Leah’s release
• MURIC asks govt to stop killing of Muslims

The President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Samson Ayokunle, Senior Pastor of Dunamis International Gospel Centre, Dr. Paul Enenche and some civil society groups yesterday in Abuja decried attacks against Christians across the country, insisting that the current administration has not done enough to halt the growing insecurity.

Ayokunle, who spoke at a press conference organised by Dunamis to mark the second year anniversary of Leah Sharibu in captivity, said the country had drifted into anarchy, insisting that Christians were being targeted amid the insecurity in the country.

Speaking amid tears from victims, families of victims and sympathisers, who narrated ordeals of onslaught by Boko Haram and kidnappers, especially in the Northeast, Ayokunle, who was represented by his deputy, Dr. Caleb Ahima, said: “We call on the Federal Government today that we are getting to a point of anarchy. It is the constitutional responsibility of government to protect lives and property of citizens.”

At the event, which hosted families of the slain chairman of CAN in Michika Local Government Area of Adamawa State, Rev. Lawan Andimi, survivors of Boko Haram attack, relatives of Leah and others, Ayokunle said there were reasons to be suspicious of the administration, alleging that Christians in the country had been subjected to evil.

“We want the world to know the evil that is happening in this country on the watch of government that promised to stop bloodshed. It is a shame that more blood is being shed. There is a cloud of confusion over the nation. And the people that are saddled with the responsibility of governing seems to be pleased with what is happening,” he said.

Enenche, who said Nigerians were not aware of the depth of the security challenges in the country, alleged high level persecution of Christians, especially in the northeast.

While offering to rehabilitate some of the victims that the church empowered with equipment that would aid their jobs, Enenche also decried the activities of armed bandits ravaging the north central and other parts of the country.

“Insecurity and the threat to Christianity in Nigeria today are real and must be arrested with urgency. This status quo must not be allowed to stand.

“All is not well in the land. But in the name of Jesus, it shall be well. We believe that as this awareness rises, people take responsibility to say no, instead of keeping silent in the name of passivity, timidity and allowing the status quo to go.

“There are people in this country who are silent as if they have gummed their lips. People are watching evil going on and they say nothing. I want to say that if you are a businessman, you can only do business if there is a nation. If you are a pastor, you can only pastor a church if there is a nation. These things cannot continue anymore,” he said.

A former Executive Secretary, Nigeria National Missions Movement, Rev. Gideon Para-Mallam, also insisted that the attacks on Christians demanded urgent attention.

Presenting a victim, who regained freedom from Boko Haram, Jenifer (other names withheld), Para-Mallam while urging the Federal Government to secure the release of Leah, asked Christians to rise in prayer against insecurity in the country.

He noted that many people, including eight Christian students of the University of Maiduguri taken captive by Boko Haram were yet to be released.

The wife of the late Andimi, who narrated her husband’s death in tears, called on well-meaning Nigerians to stop the killing of innocent citizens.

In a related development yesterday, CAN called on President Buhari to fulfill his promise of securing the release of Leah and other Nigerians in the captivity of Boko Haram.

In a statement yesterday in Abuja, the Director, Legal and Public Affairs, of CAN, Evangelist Kwamkur Samuel Vondip, said that the failure of the Federal Government to secure the release of Leah was highly disturbing, disappointing, depressing and unacceptable.

“Recently, President Buhari was widely reported in the media reiterating his resolve and promise to secure the release of all persons abducted by the Boko Haram terrorists, especially Leah Sharibu and the Chibok girls. The President made this same promise as part of his campaign promises before the 2015 presidential election. When will he do as he has promised repeatedly? More so that some abductees and persons kidnapped by the terrorists have had their ransoms paid and freed through the efforts of the Federal Government, relevant security agencies and some international non-governmental organisations. The recent sad narrative about Leah Sharibu’s maternal condition is worrisome,” he said.

According to Vondip, the “setting free of so-called ex-Boko Haram terrorists under de-radicalization, rehabilitation, empowerment of the arrested terrorists by the Federal Government is rather troubling and suspicious. What is the guarantee that the freed ex-terrorists would not return to Sambisa forest and pick up their arms against innocent Nigerians? Media reports have it that a kingpin of the terrorists who was released has found his way back to the bush.”

Similarly, the Director, Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), Dr. Ishaq Lakin Akintola, expressed displeasure about the “killing of thousands of Muslims and tens of sheikhs (Islamic scholars)”, urging the Federal Government to intensify efforts at protecting lives and property of all Nigerians, irrespective of religion or tribe.

“The figures are there, thousands of Muslims have been killed, tens of sheikhs have been killed right inside mosques. Our message to the government is that, as Muslims, we are peaceful and we are patient. We believe that government is working on this issue of insecurity and we are urging them to do more.

“The security agencies should protect Muslim leaders, the entire Muslim community and protect every Nigerian.

“There should be no religious identity to crime. If a man commits crime, it is not his religious or tribal identity that matters. There are criminals in all tribes and there are criminals in all religions. We should stop ‘religionising’ or tribalising these issues. We should be kind to ourselves and face the reality. The reality on ground is that there are too many criminals around and the security agencies must fish them out and deal with them according to the law.”