Geoffrey Onyama

Tobi Soniyi in Abuja
Nigeria’s membership of the Islamic Countries Coalition against Terror being put together by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has nothing to do with giving the country an Islamic identity, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyama, has declared.

Reacting to reports which emerged at the weekend following a broadcast of an interview granted by President Muhammadu Buhari to Al-Jareeza where he disclosed that Nigeria has signed up to the coalition, the minister blamed the media for not being “responsible” enough in the presentation of their reports.

He was speaking with State House correspondents after a meeting with Buhari in Abuja monday.
The minister said rather than dwell on the religious perspective, the media ought to be more interested in the objectives of the coalition.

Onyeama observed that terrorism was a global phenomenon, and Nigeria was ready to support any move to deal with it.
He explained that the Islamic countries were uncomfortable with the perception that terrorism was Islamic and consequently wanted to show that this was not the case.

The minister noted that the coalition was keen to demonstrate that terrorists were not speaking for Islam as there was nothing in Islamic teaching that encourages terrorism.

Asked to react to the reservation expressed in some quarters on Nigeria’s membership of the Islamic coalition, he said: “What I say first of all is that you guys in the media have to be more responsible in the way you present news. First and foremost, get your facts right.

“It has nothing to do with religion as far as Nigeria is concerned. We have to look at what the objective is. We face terror challenges and it is a global phenomenon.

“Unfortunately, the problem we have today is that some of the terrorists groups are claiming some of the things they are doing is in the name of a particular religion and it is clear to everybody that this is not the case which is obviously a concern to people of Islamic faith and Islamic countries that their religion should be so abused.

“So, there is naturally a tendency to show that this has nothing to do with Islam. Terrorism has nothing to do with Islam. Islamic countries, Islamic people want to be seen as being in the forefront of the battle against these terrorists to show also that it has absolutely nothing to do with religion.

“That’s what this is all about. So, we are supporting every move to achieve this, to disabuse people’s minds that some of these terrorists are speaking in the name of Islam or are Islamic or that there’s anything about Islamic teaching that somehow condones these barbaric actions.

“I think it’s something we should all get together and support whoever is working towards it. And that’s what this coalition is for, to show too that we are a Muslim country, we are Muslims and these people do not speak for Islam, have nothing to do with Islam.

“Most of the victims of these people are Muslims if you look at it. So, that’s what it is.
“It has nothing to do with Nigeria, Christianity, Islam. I think the media should really get the main message across.”

Buhari had told the international television outfit that Nigeria had joined the coalition despite earlier statement from the presidency that he had turned down the invitation.

The president had been asked whether Nigeria was part of it and he answered: “We are part of it because we’ve got terrorists in Nigeria that everybody knows which claim that they are Islamic.
“So, if there’s an Islamic coalition to fight terrorism, Nigeria will be part of it because we are casualties of Islamic terrorism.”