President Goodluck Jonathan has urged the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC), the umbrella body of the two major religions in the country, to take a united position to commend or condemn actions and utterances of groups and individuals that may threaten the peace of the nation.
Jonathan spoke this yesterday when he held a closed-door meeting with the two co-chairmen of NIREC, the Sultan of Sokoto Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III and Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) president Mr. Ayo Oritsejafor, who led members of the executive committee of the council to the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
According to the president, such joint action would show the teeming adherents of both religions, especially the youth, that there is unity and love among their leaders.
Acknowledging the security challenges confronting the country, he said government would continue to do its best, adding that this was a passing phase in the nation’s development.
Jonathan assured NIREC that government would continue to consult with them and seek their advice as necessary.
Earlier, NIREC submitted recommendations to President Jonathan about various national issues in the country.
After the meeting with the president at the villa, secretary-general of NIREC, Prof. Ishaq Oloyede, told State House correspondents that, at the meeting, the two religious heads in the country and other members of NIREC presented suggestions to President Jonathan on how to tackle the security challenges in the country.
He said: “Our suggestions were well received and, of course, he (Jonathan) also let us into many other things because, you know, he has a vantage position. Definitely, we expected him to have more information at his disposal than we have. And he shared what we believe will be very helpful with us.”
On co-operation between Christians and Muslims, he said, “We want all the people in this country to know that we are together in this boat and the boat should not be rocked and we should do everything possible to live harmoniously together because, if God had wished, He would have made us a monolithic nation. The plurality of this country is a strength and it should be made so.
JNI tasks FG over security
Meanwhile, the Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI) national headquarters has decried the way serious security issues are being handled at the expense of the citizens.
It therefore called on all authorities to be more proactive in addressing the security issues with all the seriousness it deserves to bring to a permanent end the security challenges across the country.
In a statement signed by its secretary-general, Dr. Khalid Abubakar Aliyu, the JNI assured the government and the good people of Nigeria that they are working seriously and are ready to co-operate with whoever wants to work for harmonious corporate existence of the Nigerian federation.
According to Aliyu, JNI also wants an explanation from Oritsejafor, why Christians are disguising in Muslim attire to carry out heinous crimes and attempting to bomb or commit acts of terrorism, adding: “He should stop chasing shadows by giving the federal government what he calls ‘final call’.”
CAN replies JNI
But the special adviser to the CAN president on media, Mr Kenny Ashaka, reacted to the statement of JNI, saying that JNI is too desperate and hasty in covering up members of the Boko Haram.
Ashaka said: “Is the JNI now saying that all members of Boko Haram, arrested in Borno, Yobe, Kano, Jos and Kaduna are Christians?
“JNI should stop deceiving itself and its followers, because we the Christians of Nigeria know that no Christian would do what Islamic terrorists are doing and posting it gleefully on the internet.’’
Referring to the case of the man arrested in Abuja on Monday, Ashaka said: “The spokesperson of the State Security Service (SSS), Marylyn Ogar, yesterday said that the public was too hasty in passing judgement that the man was carrying grenades. She said that what was found on him were teargas canisters, not grenades. She said that investigation was still ongoing.
“The man arrested in Kano is a devout Muslim, though he came from a Christian home. The most important thing is that he is a Muslim.
“JNI is adding a new dimension to this crime against God and humanity. They are trying to give every Muslim caught in terrorism a Christian name. The public must be aware of this,” CAN stated.
Senate holds 3-hour closed-session
In a related development, the Senate yesterday was locked in over three hours closed-session to consider the security reports of its joint committees that took briefs from the nation’s security chiefs on the renewed bomb attacks by the insurgency group.
At the end, the lawmakers kept sealed lips on the resolutions reached, but sources within disclosed that the high point of the resolution was the directive to President Goodluck Jonathan to dialogue with the terrorists as a way out.
They were also said to have asked the terrorists to sheathe their sword and embrace dialogue. Chairman of the Senate Committee on Information Enyinnaya Abaribe, at a briefing after the executive session, said that the resolution of the Senate would be transmitted directly to President Jonathan for necessary action.
He did not however give details of the report discussed, but said the report was classified because it contains security issues that should not be made public.
Nonetheless, Abaribe said the Senate was satisfied with the progress of work so far done by the security operatives.
“The Senate considered the report of the committees and was satisfied with their recommendations. It was necessary to conceal the content of the report because of its security implication and the prevailing situation in the country,” he said.
Abaribe also informed that the Senate was satisfied with the way the federal government was handling the fight against the insurgents.
The joint Senate security panels were also asked to probe the recent bombing of some parts of Kano State by the Islamic sect. The panels, it was gathered, recommended dialogue, which of course influenced senators at the closed-session.
The Senate’s security committees had been meeting with heads of security agencies in the past weeks with a view to finding solutions to the situation of insecurity in the country.
A fresh report is being expected from the joint committees following another motion on the bombings in some parts of the country during the Easter period.
Senate president David Mark, in a separate event yesterday, also urged the terrorists to embrace dialogue in the interest of national peace.
He said that any aggrieved group should take advantage of the dialogue in the interest of peace.