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•As NJI demands fairness, good governance
From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Sukuk Islamic bond, membership of the Organisation of Islamic countries (OIC), the frequent herdsmen/farmers clash, rise in armed robbery, kidnapping, equal representations in appointments as well as adequate attention to payment of salaries of workers were some of the things President Muhammadu Buhari and the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) discussed at a meeting on Friday.
Sukuk Islamic bond, is structured in such a way as to generate returns to investors without infringing on Islamic law that prohibits interest. Sukuk represents undivided shares in the ownership of tangible assets relating to particular projects or special investment activity.
CAN had strongly kicked against the floating of the Sukuk Islamic bond by the Federal Government in September. It alleged that the move has further confirmed its fears that the government was planning to Islamise the country through the back door.
CAN is also against Nigeria’s membership of the Organisation of Islamic countries (OIC), and wants the federal government to pull out of it since the country is multi-religious. This is the first time President Buhari will be meeting with the national body of CAN since he assumed office in 2015. He has however met with members of northern CAN before now.
The CAN delegation was led by its President, Rev. Samson Olasupo Ayokunle.
Speaking to State House Correspondents at the end of the meeting, Ayokunle said the meeting was better late than never, saying that CAN had sought audience with President Buhari since he won the 2015 presidential election.
He said, “Well, it is better to be late than never. We were very humbled by the calm disposition of the President and his humble response. l think this type of response will always make people be ready to offer help to the government.”
On the Sukuk bond, the CAN president said, Christians were not against Muslim running their own financial system, but was against the government initiating and promoting it which is against the spirit and the letter of the constitution.
He said, “Yes, we talked about keeping very close to the constitution. As l said before, there wasn’t any demon in Sukuk bond. But what was wrong is the constitutionality. No CAN member is opposed to any Muslim running their own financial system, but it is wrong for the government to be the one who will be promoting it and initiating it. It was a violation of the constitution. We have talked to the government today to keep the sanctity of the constitution, which will guide the behaviour and actions of everyone. They must be able to keep everybody together.”
On other specific demands CAN made, Ayokunle said, “We made certain requests: the organizations that are religious where Nigeria presently is a member and signed treaties, the government should pull out of them in order to keep the sanctity of the constitution.
“We advised government to pay immediate attention to the payment of salaries and allowances of workers. This may heighten the tension in the country as lack of payment of salaries had led to suicide and this has also led to increase in crimes. When people can’t find food to eat, they resort to whatever they can lay their hands on.
“We also advised that more police be recruited. We have the problems of kidnapping, armed robbery, herdsmen attacks, militancy is also on the increase. About 300,000 policemen cannot police a nation of about 200 million people, even if they are given the best of equipment. There are lots of young people who are ready to work. Government should therefore vote more funds for security.
“We also advised the government to address the issues of Fulani herdsmen squarely. The President responded in the affirmative that it was the result of the end of Ghadafi in Libya whereby those who were armed by him have now moved down South, infiltrating into our country and are living with the herdsmen in Nigeria ravaging communities. He stated that since the government now know that this is a problem, they are doing something to stop them.”
The CAN President said, the Christian body wants to see more action beyond promises. He said, “Action, action, action, beyond the promises we want to see physical changes that will make all of us to be happy. Especially in the area of lopsided appointments, where some states have 30 people and another state having less than three. This will not give any sense of belonging to the government and to the country.”
Asked how supportive has CAN been to government, he said, “We have been very supportive of this government. When you see people speaking out their minds, you should know that those people don’t want things to scatter. The people that don’t talk are the enemies of the nation. When you see things going wrong, you quickly speak out so that they can be corrected, so that the nation can move together as one.”
In attendance at the meeting were Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Head of Service of the Federation, Winifred Oyo-Ita, Dr. Habiba Lawal (who stood in for the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, National Security Adviser, Maj. Gen. Babagana Mongonu, ministers of Niger Delta, Usani Usani, Science and Technology, Ogbonnaya Onu, Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh among others.
Notable CAN members present were, Primate, Church of Nigeria Anglican Communion, Most. Rev. Nicholas Okoh, Chaplain, Aso Villa Chapel, Sheyi Malomo, former FCT CAN Chairman, Israel Akonji among others.
President Buhari also held a closed-door meeting with the leadership of the Muslim community at the State House, Abuja.
Also speaking to newsmen, Khalid Abubakar Aliyu, Secretary General, Jama’atul Nasirul Islam (JNI), said they demanded for fairness, good governance and speedy appointments. He said the group also prayed with the President and thanked God for his speedy recovery.