During a press briefing this week, the spokesperson of the Nigerian State Security Services (SSS) allegedly called on churches around the country to be alert and security conscious.
The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) takes this call with a pinch of salt. It exposes the prejudice in Nigeria’s security circles against Muslim faithfuls. It is unprofessional and highly unethical for a security outfit of the status of Nigeria’s SSS to focus its attention on faithfuls of a particular religion.
This call is totally out of place. It has hurt the sensitivity of Muslims who already feel oppressed, marginalized and unintegrated.
This does not augur well in a multi-religious country like Nigeria. Security agents must be seen to be neutral. Events in the last few years have proved that Muslims have been exposed to danger just like their Christian counterparts. Muslims have lost more Imams to the misled Boko Haram marauders than Christians have lost their clerics.
Who are those being massacred in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe today? How many Christians were among the 43 boarding house students killed by Boko Haram at the Federal Government College in Yobe State on 25th February, 2014? How many of the 129 girls abducted by Boko Haram on Monday, 14th April, 2014 are Christians?
The truth of the matter is that both Christians and Muslims are victims of the Boko Haram onslaught and the security agencies should treat both groups equally. Both should be given a sense of belonging. Fighting terrorism is a collective effort. Our security agencies should not divide Nigerians along religious lines otherwise the battle will be lost before it begins.
Therefore, instead of calling on churches alone to be security conscious, the SSS spokesperson should have called on all Nigerians to be on alert. It is not people inside churches alone who deserve protection. Afterall, public places are also being attacked. The Nyanya tragedy of Monday, 14th April, 2014 is a glaring example. She might lay emphasis on places of worship, but definitely not churches.
The leadership of Nigerian Muslims came out boldly to call Boko Haram an evil group. He called on righteous men among the Christians and Muslims to come together to fight this evil. This is what we should be doing. Leaders of other Islamic organizations have taken the cue by condemning Boko Haram and its satanic activities. By their body language, Nigerian security agents seem to be giving the Muslims and their leaders a rebuff.
Hundreds of Muslims were recently burned in public in Burma. The killing of Muslims by mobs is still ongoing in the Central African Republic. We have every reason to be alarmed that Nigerian security agencies are showing this kind of bias particularly at a time that a Christian occupies Aso Rock. Are we to assume that this parochial action has the tacit approval of the Nigerian leader?
Are we actually in the era of a Christian president who consistently marginalizes Muslims, openly idolizes Christian clerics and dons the toga of a Christian crusader fighting for the rights of Christian minorities while depriving the Muslim majority the dividends of democracy and its Allah-given and fundamental human rights? Is somebody somewhere using government paraphernalia to repress Muslims?
We remind the SSS and other security agencies that apart from forming an integral and substantial part of the population of this country, Muslims are also tax-payers and they contribute their quota to the growth of the economy. They also voted massively for the government in power today. Therefore Muslims deserve to be protected like their Christian counterparts. Our rights are our rights.
MURIC charges public office holders to guard their utterances because the Nigerian project is extremely fragile. We charge the National Assembly to investigate the mode of recruitment into Nigeria’s security agencies with a view to ensuring a balance between all religious and ethnic groups.
For the records, we call the attention of the international community to the growing dehumanization and suppression of the liberty of the Muslim person and the deliberate attempts to distance Muslims from civic activities in Nigeria.
Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)