The Nigerian Government on Thursday repudiated claims by a group styling itself as Northern Christian Elders Forum, who alleged that the Muhammadu Buhari administration is practicing bigotry and alienating Christians.
The response by the Nigerian Government, according to a statement by the Senior Special Assistant on Media and publicity, Garba Shehu, is contained in a letter to the British Parliamentary Group, signed by Nigeria’s High Commissioner to UK, George Adetola Oguntade.
He said “Two letters were addressed to Rt Revd Philip Mounstephen, a former secretary of the Church Missionary Society (CMS) and now Head, “Independent Review of Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Support of Persecuted Christians, “and Baroness Berridge, the Chair of “All Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief. ”
In the correspondences, he said, the Nigerian 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.
Responding to the interim report on Foreign and Commonwealth Office Support for Persecuted Christians, Oguntade, a retired Justice of the Supreme Court, told Rev. 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 explained that President Buhari’s deputy is a Pastor, adding that the President “has befriended Church leaders and church groups both within and outside Nigeria.”
He added that the President’s cabinet is 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 Osinbajo has maintained regular contacts with Christian and Muslim leaders as part of efforts to build and sustain interfaith dialogue.
Stressing that the country’s security challenges had no ethnic and religious colourations, 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 the desire to protect crops from encroachment and destruction by the farmers.
Oguntade explained that these clashes had a long history and the Buhari administration is taking a major step to address the root cause of these crises and violent clashes pitting Muslim and Christian farmers alike against the herders.
According to the High Commissioner, “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, therefore, assured the international community that the Buhari Administration would ensure that “the competition over scarce land is resolved peacefully for the benefits of all parties.”
The Nigerian government also rejected attempts by the reporting group to link Boko Haram terrorism with official policy, stating clearly that the violent acts by the terrorist group predated the Buhari administration, like many others that were inherited on coming to office in 2015.