The allegation by the Northern Christian Elders Forum (NCEF) that Muhammadu Buhari administration is practising bigotry and alienating Christians was denied by the Federal Government.
The Federal Government responded via a letter written to the British Parliamentary Group and appended by George Adetola Oguntade, Nigeria’s High Commissioner to the UK.
The presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu on Thursday the 27th of June, dispatched two letters. They were addressed to Rt Revd Philip former secretary of the Church Missionary Society (CMS) and now Head, Independent Review of Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Support of Persecuted Christians, and the Chair of the All Parliamentary Groups for International Freedom of Religion or Belief, Baroness Elizabeth Berridge.
In both letters, the Federal government strongly dismissed as inconceivable and outrightly false, allusions to the effect that the Boko Haram terrorism served a government agenda against Christians.
“It would be useful for me to engage with this process to ensure that you are thoroughly briefed on the situation in Nigeria, “High Commissioner Oguntade wrote in the correspondences”.
Oguntade reacted to the interim report on Foreign and Commonwealth Office Support for Persecuted Christians. He told Mounstephen that; “The safety and security of all Nigerians, whatever their faith, is a fundamental priority of the Buhari Government. The government knows that Nigeria can only achieve its potential if there are religious tolerance and cooperation.”
He went further to clarify that President Buhari’s deputy, Prof. Yemi Osibanjo is a Pastor, adding that the President “has befriended Church leaders and Church groups both within and outside Nigeria.”
To back up his point, the High Commissioner used the President’s cabinet structure as an example, saying that it balanced between Muslims and Christians, noting that he himself was a former Chancellor of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion).
Stressing that the country’s security challenges had no ethnic and religious colourations, the High Commissioner said the farmers/herders clashes have been in existence before the Buhari administration. Adding that the Buhari administration is taking a major step to nip the crises in the bud so that Nigerians can live in peace with one another.
Oguntade assured the international community that the Buhari administration would ensure that “the competition over scarce land is resolved peacefully for the benefit of all parties.”
The Nigerian government also rejected attempts by the reporting group to link Boko Haram terrorism with official policy, stating clearly that these violent acts by the terrorist group predated the Buhari administration, like many others that were inherited on coming to office in 2015.
“Since the Buhari administration has been in power, Boko Haram has been significantly degraded – with the support and assistance of the UK Government. We shall not rest until this mission is completed and the people of North East Nigeria – both Christians and Muslims – can live in peace again, “he said.
The two letters were each accompanied by a copy of an opinion article signed by the President and published on November 30, 2018, by London-based “Church Times,” entitled: Don’t Politicise Religion in Nigeria.
In the article, President Buhari, among other things, said Muslims and Christians can flourish together.
“These two great religions (Islam and Christianity) can not only peacefully coexist but flourish together. But we must first turn to one another in compassion”. The President said in the article published in Church Times.