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CONFAB Blasts CAN Over Attack On Kutigi, Says No Plan To Undermine Christians

Ayo Balogun, Lagos

The National Conference Secretariat has blasted the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) over attack on the Chairman of the conference, Justice Justice Idris Kutigi that he undermines the Christians at the conference for appointing Muslims ahead of Christians in the Religion Committee.

Mr. Akpandem James, Assistant Secretary, Media and Communications of the confab in a statement said it was unbecoming of a body like CAN to be peddling such lies and falsehood against Kutigi.


Chairman of the conference, Justice Justice Idris Kutigi

“Our attention has been drawn to a misleading statement issued by Mr Sunny Oibe, who signed as the Director (National Issues) in the Secretariat of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN). There is no truth whatsoever in the unfortunate alarm raised in the press statement which tends to give the impression of an attempt to undermine Christians in the National Conference.

“In trying to whip up unnecessary sentiments, Oibe claimed that the Committee on Religion is made up of 12 Muslims and eight Christians. That is not correct. The Committee has 21 members-11 Muslims and 10 Christians,” he said.

Akpandem said it must be noted that delegates were asked to submit names of three committees they would prefer to serve, in order of preference, saying that seven Christians indicated Religion as their first choice, four as second and two as third choice, which brought the total number of Christians to 13, while three Muslims made Religion their first choice, seven made it their second choice and eight made it their third choice bringing the total number to 20.

According to him, some of those who had other committees as first and second choices were placed in the primary committees of choice leaving the Committee on Religion with a lesser number than was required to form a full Committee.

“It must also be noted that the official list of delegates showed that both Muslims and Christians have six representations each; which means that only 12 out of the 492 delegates are at the conference as Christian and Muslim leaders. The specification below shows faith-based delegates and the status of their preferences.

“Because all the Committees must have the least required number of members, which was put at 24 (average), delegates with related credentials were moved from other loaded committees to Religion, but they protested and opted out. As at the last count, the Committee on Religion still had the least number of members, 21, followed by the Committee on Citizenship, Immigration and Related Matters which has 22.

“In terms of preference, the Committee on Religion, as sensitive as CAN would want the public to perceive, was placed 18 out of 20. Efforts were made to complete and balance the Committee on Religion but delegates would not want to serve in the Committee. It would therefore be mischievous for anybody or group to insinuate or accuse the Chairman or the leadership of the Conference of “working out a script to undermine the interest of Christians in the dialogue body,” he explained.

He added that the chairmanship of Committees was shared equally between the North and the South and that those that were seen as contentious Committees were co-chaired by a delegate from the North and South, explaining that the two co-chairmen of the Committee on Religion could not have come from the North as CAN would have wished as it would amount to peddling ignorance to think that a Christian from the South did not know what Christians in the North were facing, as Christendom is one body.

“It is unfortunate that a body like CAN, if it indeed authorised the statement, would make such frivolous and unfounded allegation against the Chairman of the Conference, Justice Idris Kutigi, to the effect that he picked Alhaji Nurudeen Lemu as the Co-Chairman of the Committee, because they are from the same state. The Chairman had excused himself from selecting the leadership of any committee and did not recommend Alhaji Lemu.

“During deliberations at the plenary sessions, particularly during the discussion of the President’s speech, Lemu received accolades for his insightful contributions. His intellectual insight and moderate views on religion naturally recommended him for selection unanimously, and had nothing to do with the preference of any principal officer of the Conference.

“Although Oibe indicated that CAN does not have a problem with Bishop Ajakaiye as Chairman,  but it would have preferred a Christian from the North; the issue may well be that Bishop Ajakaye is a Catholic Bishop and thus may have issues with CAN. Not being active in CAN does not make Bishop Ajakaye a lesser Christian,” he stated.

Akpandem said it was unbecoming of a religious body to peddle falsehood in a bid to prove a non-existent point, saying that Dr Jonathan Obaje is not on holiday as he applied to the Secretariat (not to the Chairman) indicating that he would be traveling briefly to Japan to keep an appointment which he had fixed early this year before his nomination to the Conference.

“He is one of the Diaspora delegates and lives in Singapore. Dr Obaje would not be the first to do so, and certainly not the last. Permission granted Dr Obaje by the Secretariat has nothing to do with his membership of the Committee on religion,” he said.



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