The Nigerian government has expressed disappointment in the Bishop of Roman Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, Rev. Matthew Kukah over his statements before the United States Congress where he criticised President Muhammadu Buhari over the security challenges plaguing the nation.
In a statement signed by Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to President Buhari, the presidency described as unfortunate that a church leader is criticizing their own country before a foreign parliament.
During a virtual presentation before the US Congress in Washington on the persecution of Christians in Nigeria by armed extremist groups in Northern Nigeria, Bishop Kukah expressed fears that the Nigerian government under President Muhammadu Buhari has failed to handle issues concerning religious violence correctly.
The Bishop also claimed that the extremists are targeting schools in Northern Nigeria especially Christian schools and they do “indoctrinate the children. They end up converting the children to wives, cooks, spies, sexual slaves and so on.”
However, the presidency has said the Bishop’s claims that only Christian schools were targeted by bandits or terrorists is not supported by facts on ground.
“It is sad to say but also true that victims of crime, kidnapping, banditry and terrorism cut across all levels of the society. Sad but true that the bandits, who kidnapped Kankara students in Katsina State are of the same Islamic faith as those they took away. The same might still be true of those still holding 134 students of the Islamic School Tangina in Niger State. The nation witnessed the sad incident of the female students abducted by bandits in Jangebe in Zamfara State and the over 100 mainly Muslim students of the Federal Government Girls College Birnin Yauri in Kebbi State, who are currently still in captivity.”
“The attacks on Christian students are sad and unacceptable; so also be is the case of the abduction of students of other faiths. The claim that it’s only only Christian schools that are targeted is totally untrue.” The statement said.
Another point the Bishop also complained to the US Congress is that President Buhari is deliberately appointing people of his ethnic group and “faith” into political offices.
He said, “for the first time, the top three officials; the President, Senate President and Speaker are all Muslims. This has never happened before. So, we require practical and measuring assistance that can help us and out children.”
But the presidency also rebuffed this allegations of bias within the government.
“There is no bias in this government when the president is from the north and a Muslim, the vice president from the southern and a Christian, and the cabinet is equally balanced between the two religions. But nothing is in our Constitution that states that political posts must be shared according to ethnicity or faith. It takes a twisted frame of mind for someone to believe that ethnicity is of primary importance in public appointments. It is yet more troubling to hear a cleric separating one group for criticism purely on ethnic lines.” The statement added.
Bishop Kukah is a well recognised Catholic cleric in Nigeria.
He shot into national limelight when he served as secretary to Nigeria Commission on Human Rights violation, which many remembered as the Justice Oputa panel in 2001.