As delegates at the ongoing National Conference commenced more rigorous debates on some critical issues at the committee level, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) tUESday in Abuja expressed its reservations over the composition of the Religious Committee.
In a statement, CAN Director of National Issues, Sunny Oibe said the association was worried over the move by the leadership of the conference to favour Muslims at the expense of Christians.
However, a delegate representing the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Godswill Iyoke, told THISDAY yesterday that members of the committee have resolved to ensure that the imbalance between Muslims and Christians were corrected.
” We all agreed that if there is any lopsidedness in respect of the membership of the committee we should all respond accordingly to get it corrected in order to sustain the cordial atmosphere that we have developed so far.
“What happened was that we had 18 members of the committee on religion, six of whom are Christians and 12 are Moslems. So when we raised the issue we had assurance from the conference secretariat that some other delegates who volunteered to join us were going to be part of the meeting of the reconstituted committee. We are still expecting, that to happen but it has not yet, he said.
Oibe said going by the recent appointments of leadership of the various committees at the conference, CAN “expresses reservations over the composition of the members of the Committee on Religion and without fear of contradiction state that the chairman of the conference, Justice Idris Kutigi, has done his wish to ensure that the leadership of the committee favours Muslims in Nigeria.
“He is from Niger State and the Committee on Religion should be a sensitive committee. The chairman has decided to scatter the Christians in the conference and now brought Nurudeen Lemu, the son of Sheikh Lemu, who is also from Niger State to chair the committee and did not pick any delegate representing the Christian Association of Nigeria.
“The supposed Christian in the committee, Dr. Jonathan Obaje representing the Diaspora in the conference has been given express permission by Kutigi to travel back overseas for holiday; he is not even in Nigeria at present and does not represent CAN. The delegate is not around and Christians will be affected during voting. Bishop Felix Ajakaiye who was named co-Chairman in the committee is representing Ekiti State and not CAN, “he said.
In that case, we have already lost and the ratio will now be 12 members for Muslims and 6 for Christians.
“To us in CAN, Justice Kutigi is working out a script to undermine the interest of the Christians at the conference. Ordinarily, the Christians who have been on the receiving end from the members of the Boko Haram Islamic sect in the North should be a co-chairman in the Committee on Religion. But what Kutigi did was to pick a Muslim from the North as chairman and a Christian from the South West (Ajakaiye) who has little or no knowledge of what is happening in the North as co-chairman.
“The interest of Christians in this case, will not be adequately protected. Already, the conference is a stage-managed conference. President Goodluck Jonathan has a good intention, but there is a problem in allowing Kutigi to be chairman,” Oibe said.
The clergy went further to explain: “Justice Kutigi is from Niger State and decided to pick his Muslim brother from there to head such a sensitive committee. So Christians in Nigeria are not happy and we don’t expect that a man who is highly placed like Kutigi would allow his religion to override national interest. That is why he decided to keep the issue of religion and the committee closely to himself.”
CAN also expressed concern over the role of the Vice Chairman of the conference, saying that, “we are asking the Vice Chairman, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi what he is doing there? It may also interest Nigerians to note that none of the delegates sent by CAN were allowed to head any committee in the conference; this is unfortunate. Where is the transparency? Where is the equity and fairness?
“For us, we have no problem with Ajakaiye, but we see his choice as a mischief by Kutigi. Ajakaiye is a Christian from the South-west but to us, a Christian from the North and CAN delegate who knows how Christians are being slaughtered on daily basis by Boko Haram should be the co-chairman of the committee. But Kutigi refused because he is carrying out an Islamic agenda.
“These are the same people who claimed that President Jonathan skewed the conference to favour the Christians. But the truth has now been revealed that Kutigi is the person who skewed the committee to undermine the Christians.
“What we need is equal representation in the conference; if Muslims are 12, Christians must be 12 in the religious committee. We demand that the man in Diaspora should be replaced because he doesn’t know what is going on in this country. We want a Christian from the North to be a co-chair.
“Anything short of that means that Kutigi is biased and playing an Islamic agenda against Christians in this country. We are therefore doubting his credibility to pilot the affairs of the good conference put together by the Jonathan’s administration,” Oibe stressed.
It will be recalled that the leadership of the conference had listed members of the Committee on Religion to include Alhaji Nuruddeen Lemu (chairman); Bishop Felix Femi Ajakaiye, co-chairman (representing Ekiti State); Hajia Shetu Alfa, Bishop Joseph Bagobiri, Hadija Dije Dattijo, Prof. Obini Ekpe, Pastor Bosun Emmanuel and Prof. Layi Erinosho.
Others are Mallam Muzzammil Sani Hanga, Prof. Andrew Haruna, Monsignor Obiora Ike, Godswill Iyoha Iyoke, Prof, Munzali Jibril, Hajiya Talatu Nasir, Justice Mamman Nasir (rtd), Dr. Jonathan Obaje, Prof. Is-haq Oloyede and Hajia Amina Omoti.
Iyoke said the Co-.chairman of the committee on Religion has informed the members that a new list is going to made that will address the imbalance. Probably wears going to get it by tomorrow.
Iyoke said the staff of the secretariat who would have brought the new list did not show up yesterday’s proceedings at the NICON Luxury Hotels but that there is hope that by Wednesday when he comes the matter will be resolved.