Presidency denies persecuting Christians

The federal government has dismissed claims by Northern Christian Elders Forum (NCEF), who alleged that President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration was practising bigotry and alienating Christians.

In a letter to the British Parliamentary Group, signed by Nigeria’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, George Oguntade, yesterday, government dismissed as inconceivable allusions that the Boko Haram terrorism was serving a government agenda against Christians.

Two letters were addressed to former secretary of the Church Missionary Society (CMS) and now Head, Independent Review of Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Support of Persecuted Christians, Revd. Philip Mounstephen, and the Chair of All Parliamentary Groups for International Freedom of Religion or Belief, Baroness Elizabeth Berridge.

“It would be useful for me to engage with this process to ensure that you are thoroughly briefed on the situation in Nigeria,” Oguntade wrote in the correspondences.

Responding to the interim report on Foreign and Commonwealth Office Support for Persecuted Christians, Oguntade, a retired Justice of the Supreme Court (JSC), told Mounstephen: “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 is religious tolerance and cooperation.”

The high commissioner noted that Buhari’s “has befriended church leaders and groups both within and outside Nigeria.”

He added that Buhari’s cabinet was balanced between Muslims and Christians, noting that he himself was a former Chancellor of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion).

According to Justice Oguntade, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has maintained regular contacts with Christian and Muslim leaders as part of efforts to build and sustain inter-faith dialogue.

Stressing that the country’s security challenges had no ethnic and religious colouration, the high commissioner said the farmers/herders clashes predated the Buhari administration, noting that such clashes bordered on the desire for pasture by the herders and protection of crops from destruction by the herders.

“The issue of grazing routes is historically central to these conflicts and the Buhari administration is taking a holistic approach to the matter, with a view to ending it once and for all, so that Nigerians can live in peace with one another,” he said.