The Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, has restated its support for the founder of the Omege Fire Ministries, Johnson Suleman, after he was invited by operatives of the State Security Service, SSS.
The security agency summoned the controversial cleric after a video surfaced showing him calling on his congregation to kill Fulani herdsmen so as to protect themselves.
“If they are busy killing Christians and nothing is happening, we will kill them and nothing will happen,” he said.
Over 200 people have been killed in clashes between Fulani herdsmen and local farming communities in Southern Kaduna. Similar violence in other states of Nigeria have also caused the death of hundreds of people.
The Southern Kaduna crisis has since taken a religious dimension despite warnings to the contrary by government officials and peace envoys.
Reacting to rumours that CAN would send an entourage to accompany Mr. Suleman to the office of the SSS on Monday, media aide to CAN President Olasupo Ayokunle, Bayo Oladeji, said the association’s leadership would not go with the pastor, but was solidly behind him.
“I spoke with him (Mr. Suleman) this morning. CAN is solidly behind him. He was invited to the office of the SSS; let him go. We are behind him, but as for whether or not we are going to the SSS office with him, my answer to that is no. He was invited alone. But we are solidly behind him,” Mr. Oladeji said.
In his reaction to the invitation, the Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose, warned the SSS not to detain Mr. Suleman and the General Overseer of the Living Faith Church Worldwide, David Oyedepo.
In a statement on Sunday, Mr Fayose described the alleged attempt to detain the two clerics as “a development that could plunge Nigeria into religious crisis.”
He urged the security operatives to face the task of apprehending “culprits in the various religious crisis in recent times”, rather than “attacking persons who were forced to express their frustration” over “government’s failure to protect the citizens”.
“There is plan to charge Apostle Suleiman and Bishop Oyedepo for incitement and attempt to cause public disorder on Friday, and make sure that they are not granted bail so (as) to get them remanded in Kuje Prison perpetually,” Mr. Fayose alleged.
According to the statement signed by his media assistant, Lere Olayinka, the governor claimed that more Nigerians have been killed in this administration than in the last 20 years of Nigeria’s history.
“Apart from during the civil war, Nigerians have not been badly divided as a nation as we are under the President Muhammadu Buhari administration. Killings under this government in 18 months are more than what was witnessed in the last 20 years,” the governor said.
Mr. Fayose said the planned arrest was aimed at humiliating the men of God as well as silencing them and creating fear in the minds of other Christian leaders.
“Even though the SSS has allowed common-sense to prevail by properly inviting Apostle Suleman as against the gestapo manner with which the service attempted to abduct him last week Wednesday, it is still questionable that the SSS is more interested in a man who threatened to defend himself against any attack by Fulani herdsmen rather than those herdsmen that murdered thousands of Nigerians.
“It is sad and worrisome that after muzzling opposition politicians, judiciary and the press, the APC-led federal government has taking its desperation to suppress dissenting voices in
the country to the House of God. If the SSS had acted swiftly like it is doing on Apostle Suleman, so-called inciting comments when people were being killed by herdsmen across the country, so many lives would have been saved.”
The controversial Ekiti governor said he would defend the rights of Nigerians, regardless of religion or ethnic background and called for the immediate release of the Shiite leader, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky.
“Nigeria is already being ravaged by war of hunger, economic recession, job loss and lack of leadership direction. It will be disastrous for the country to be plunged into religious crisis,” he said.
In a related development, Mr. Suleman on Sunday asked the Kaduna State government to produce the persons it paid to stop further attacks on predominantly Christian communities in Kaduna State.
In a statement on Sunday by his spokesperson, Phrank Shuaibu, the pastor said the failure of the government to ensure the arrest of the said persons was a dangerous trend for Nigeria’s security situation.
“There’s no end to the killing of Christians in Kaduna. Those behind the heinous crime are known to the governor. Yet no one has been charged for murder. Instead people like us who speak the truth are being persecuted.
“The Federal Government must not give the impression of partiality or suggest that Christians are the target of this administration”, he added.
“Which is worse? Saying the truth or offering money to murderers? Did El-Rufai offer money to ghosts? For you to pay someone money, the person must have a known and fixed address.
“As chief security officer of the state, was it not his business to arrest and put these hoodlums on trial? How come no one has been caught or being prosecuted for the massacre in Southern Kaduna? Obviously, there’s more to it that meets the eye,” the cleric stated.