*Below is the text of a statement by Prof. Ishaq Akintola, the Director of Muslim Rights Concern
The Christian Elders Forum, an arm of the Christian Association of Nigeria, yesterday at a press conference alleged that the Federal Government was planning to impose Shari’ah law on every state of the federation. The Forum based its allegation mainly on recent reports that Nigeria had joined the 32-nation Saudi-led Islamic military coalition.
The Muslim Rights Concern strongly rejects this allegation. It is baseless, unfounded and mischievous. The Christian Elders Forum and CAN are merely heating up the polity and crying wolf where there is none.
We remind Nigerians that MURIC had raised objection to Nigeria’s membership of the Islamic military coalition even before it was announced. Although we have not shifted our position in principle, we now have a clearer understanding of the picture after FG explained its raison d’etre. We are not unaware that blind opposition to issues even after new facts have surfaced is a mark of fanaticism
FG had made it clear that there is nothing religious about the coalition and that the motive is purely security concern. As a nation battling terrorism, Nigeria stands to benefit more from being a member of a coalition created for the sole purpose of fighting terrorism than remaining outside it.
We do not have to be soldiers or trained for security considerations to understand the implications of joining the coalition. By being a member, Nigeria does not need to contribute its military personnel to fight anywhere. But the country stands to gain a lot from sharing information with other members of the coalition and enjoying their cooperation in the area of anti-terrorism.
For instance, Nigeria can successfully put pressure on Saudi Arabia to repatriate a Boko Haram suspect who attempts to hibernate in that country if we are part of the coalition whereas we may not be able to do so if vice versa.
How time has changed! There was a time CAN was accusing Muslim leaders that they were not doing enough to fight Boko Haram. Muslim leaders responded that only a properly constituted authority like the FG could fight insurgents. Why is the same CAN spitting fire when FG has taken steps to cut the wings of Boko Haram by taking the battle to an international level? Is CAN being sincere?
What could Muslim leaders have used to fight Boko Haram? Any attempt by them to form an all-Muslim resistance group would have ended in a disaster. The same CAN would have accused them of planning to use the group to attack churches and Christian leaders. The security agencies also would have had to descend on the new Muslim group in the ensuing confusion and the latter would have been branded ‘second insurgent group’. Pandemonium would have reigned supreme and the country would have gone asunder.
MURIC salutes the Nigerian Muslim leadership for remaining level-headed and quietly taking all the vituperations from CAN leadership at the time. CAN accused Muslim leaders of sponsoring Boko Haram. It also threatened reprisals. Yet it was glaring that Boko Haram was attacking both Christian and Muslim targets and, to date, the insurgents have killed more Islamic scholars and ordinary Muslims than Christian clerics and individuals.
We call on CAN to stop heating the polity. Those who occupy the house of God should not play the role of agent provocateur. The umbrella body should join hands with the FG to create an enabling environment for religious understanding and peaceful coexistence. We urge Nigerian Muslims to remain calm, law-abiding and to ignore CAN’s provocative utterances.