At a meeting held with President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), asked the president to withdraw Nigeria from international religious organisations, address insecurity in the country and ensure payment of workers’ salaries.
The President of CAN, Sampson Ayokunle, disclosed this to State House correspondents after the leadership of the association met with Mr. Buhari.
Mr. Ayokunle, who said the meeting was called by Mr. Buhari, long after the association complained that its request for an audience with the president had not been granted, said the meeting was “better to be late than never.”
The CAN leadership has been critical of many actions of the government under Mr. Buhari, including the recent receipt of a N100 billion Islamic Sukuk bond, which the government distributed for the construction of some federal roads.
CAN has also accused the president of plotting to Islamise Nigeria.
Speaking with reporters after the meeting, however, Mr. Ayokunle said the Christian leaders were “very humbled by the calm disposition of the President.”
He said such meetings with the president “will always make people be ready to offer help to the government.”
The CAN leader said the association’s objection to Sukuk was because it believes that it was an abuse of the Nigerian constitution.
“As I said before, there wasn’t any demon in Sukuk bond. But what was wrong is the constitutionality,” he said.
He said while no CAN member was opposed to any Muslim running their own financial system, “what is wrong is for the government to be the one who will be promoting it and initiating it. It was a violation of the constitution.”
CAN’s opposition to the Sukuk bonds has, however, been faulted by several analysts and economists including Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, a pastor. The proponents say while Sukuk might have an Islamic origin, it has been used by several non-Islamic countries including the UK to raise funds. The Nigerian government has already announced the infrastructure projects it will use the fund for.
Mr. Ayokunle said the meeting with the president discussed the need for the government to keep the sanctity of the constitution, which will guide the behaviour and actions of citizens.
He said apart from the demand to withdraw Nigeria from all religious organisations, CAN also asked the president to ensure constant payment of salaries to Nigerian workers.
He said government’s inability to pay workers’ salaries across the country has heightened tension and led to suicide and increase in crime.
“When people can’t find food to eat, they resort to whatever they can lay their hands on,” he said.
Mr. Ayokunle also said CAN advised Mr. Buhari to authorise the recruitment of more police officer to beef up security across the land.
“We have the problems of kidnapping, armed robbery, herdsmen attacks, militancy is also on the increase, about 300,000 police cannot police a nation of about 200 million people, even if they are given the best of equipment.
“There are lots of young people who are ready to work. Government should therefore vote more funds for security.
“We also advised the government to address the issue of Fulani herdsmen squarely,” he said.
The CAN leader said the president responded “in the affirmative.”
He said the menace of rampant attacks was as a result of the end of late President Muamar Ghadafi in Libya “whereby those who were armed by him have now moved down South, infiltrating into our country and are living with the herdsmen in Nigeria ravaging entire communities.”
He said Mr. Buhari said he was doing something to stop the menace.
CAN said it looks forward to more action from Mr. Buhari, especially in the area of “lopsided appointments, where some states have 30 people and another states having less than three. This will not give any sense of belonging to the government and to the country.”
He said CAN had been helpful to Mr. Buhari by constantly speaking out against what it perceived to be going wrong in the country.
“The people that don’t talk are the enemies of the nation. When you see things going wrong, you quickly speak out so that they can be corrected, so that the nation can move together as one,” he said.