A coalition of 22 Christian groups in Nigeria led by National Christian Elders Forum, NCEF, yesterday, said the declaration of September 12 as public holiday in commemoration of Eid-El-Kabir celebration by the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, was the height of impunity.
A similar incident took place in July 2016, when Christian organisations criticised the extension of public holiday by the Federal Government over the non-sighting of the moon by the Sultan.
A statement issued by the chairman of NCEF, Mr. Solomon Asemota (SAN), on behalf of the coalition and obtained by journalists in Abuja, said it was “very improper for the head of the Islamic faith in Nigeria to announce, declare, or extend public holidays.”
The statement entitled: ‘Is the Federal Government Abdicating Its Responsibility?’ reads: “We unequivocally wish to state that it is very improper for the head of the Islamic faith in Nigeria to announce, declare, or extend public holidays.
“This is the function of the Federal Government and need not be abdicated. This kind of anomalous development has not been taking place in Nigeria until the advent of the Buhari administration, which has gone to great lengths to deepen religious divide and tension in Nigeria.
“Again, we have no objection whatsoever to the Muslim public holiday but our concern is that in a secular society as enshrined in Section 10 of the constitution, the responsibility of declaring or announcing a religious public holiday is vested in the Federal Government and such responsibility is sacrosanct.
“We are not unaware of various manipulations and acts of impunity to transform Nigeria from a Liberal Democratic society to an Islamic Theocratic State. As we stated in our previous paper, the full membership of Nigeria in OIC, in 1986, by the Babangida Military Administration is tantamount to making Nigeria an Islamic state.
“The nation is yet to resolve this unilateral imposition of one religion over the nation by an individual. We also conclude that the present distress in the nation, occasioned by religious intolerance and insurgency, from the development of Boko Haram to the evolving of fanatical Muslim assailants, like the Fulani herdsmen, derive from this unilateral and improper decision of the Babangida Administration.
“Even the sponsors and actors of the membership of Nigeria in OIC in 1986 were aware of the illegality of their action and as such, kept it out of public knowledge for 10 years until 1996 when Sultan Dasuki confirmed to the Pope that Nigeria was a full member of the OIC.
“We wish to remind the present Administration that religion is a very sensitive and emotional aspect of Nigerians. The wisdom of the founding fathers of this nation to adopt Liberal Democracy as national ideology to accommodate all the divergent groups in the nation cannot be faulted.
“Any attempt to distort that delicate balance in the Nigerian society shall produce nothing but destruction and devastation as the nation is currently witnessing. There is still time for religious extremists to desist before they push Nigeria off the brink of the precipice,” it concluded.