• Demands apology for Dogonyaro, Lemo, others

By Senator Iroegbu in Abuja

The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has raised the alarm over what it perceived as state sponsored persecution of its members, latest of which is the detention of four members of the Board of Trustees (BoT) of CAN Trustfund by the  Department of State Services (DSS).

The CAN Director of Legal and Public Affairs, Mr. Kwamkur Samuel, in a protest letter to the Director General of DSS, obtained by journalists in Abuja yesterday, demanded that DSS tender a written apology for detaining the BoT members  on the orders of its Director-General, Lawal Musa Daura.

Samuel cautioned the nation’s Secret Police to be “more circumspect in dealing with the ‘Body of Christ’ in Nigeria, if not for any other reason, but to ensure and promote the confidence of the average Nigerian Christian in the present government.

“Regrettably, despite assurances from your operatives, led by the Director of Operations, who said the invitation was only to interact with these distinguished Nigerian Christians and to seek their opinion and advice on how to address the lingering ethno-religious crises in Nigeria, it turned out that the main reason behind the invitation was your interest in the video jingle produced by CAN, under the slogan ‘I C A N support’ to raise funds for the support of the Church and distressed Christians in Nigeria.

“Having considered the negative effect of your interrogation ‘under caution’ of the distinguished members of BoT of the CAN Trust Fund on the Christian community in Nigeria, the leadership of CAN hereby demands that a written public apology be tendered to these distinguished Nigerians.

“It was therefore shocking to hear from your establishment that these materials were made to incite violence in response to the attempted annihilation of the Church in Southern Kaduna. With all due respect, such analysis and conclusion were vexatious and very wrong.”

The CAN lawyer described the BoT members arrested by the DSS as neither members of its National Executive Committee nor members of its registered Board of Trustees “and so did not deserve the action you took against them.”

According to him, “CAN was, and will always be, predisposed to dialogue with the DSS on issues relating to the general peaceful coexistence of the ethnic nationalities and religious communities in Nigeria.

“When we received information that your office has invited some eminent Nigerians who are members of the BoT of the CAN Trust Fund to your Abuja head office on various dates, January 27, 2017 inclusive, for some undisclosed reasons, my office was in turn directed to address the letter under reference to you. In it, the CAN leadership objected to the manner of the invitation.

“Unfortunately, you ignored our request while also insisting that the persons invited should report to your Head Office as a matter of extreme urgency, individually and on different dates. The most worrisome and reprehensible aspect of the whole exercise is that these respectable Nigerians, with the exception of General Dogonyaro, were compelled to write statements ‘under caution’ as if they were common criminals.”

The four BoT members of CAN Trust Fund who are also leaders of National Christian Elders Forum, were detained and quizzed for four hours at the DSS headquarters in Abuja, following a video in which they were soliciting mobilisation of funds for CAN to rebuild churches destroyed by Boko Haram terrorists in the Northeast.

Against this backdrop, the DSS interrogated a former Chief of General Staff during the administration of General Ibrahim Babangida (rtd), Lt. Gen. Joshua Dogonyaro (rtd), representing   TEKAN/ECWA bloc of CAN; a retired High Court judge, Justice Kalajine Anigbogu, representing Christian Council of Nigeria bloc; Mrs. Osaretin Demuren, representing Organisation of African Instituted Churches, and a former Deputy Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Tunde Lemo, representing Christian Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria and Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria.

Also, a former President of Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Dame Priscilla Kuye (SAN), representing the Catholic bloc; President of NCEF, Solomon Asemota (SAN), its General Secretary, Bosun Emmanuel, and many others were scheduled to be invited for questioning by the DSS in subsequent weeks.

Others billed for interrogation are the President of CAN, Dr. Samson Supo Ayokunle, and its General Secretary, Dr. Musa Asake.