Kidnapping: Islamic Clerics, CAN at Loggerheads over N300m Ransom Claim

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John Shiklam in Kaduna

The Council of Imams and Ulama in Kaduna yesterday accused the Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Rev. Joseph Hayab of politicising the security challenges in the state.

The Islamic clerics made the accusation in reaction to a statement by the CAN chairman that the churches in the state had paid over N300 million as ransom to kidnappers in the last four years while over 500 Christians where abducted within the same period.

In a swift response, Hayab noted that he never said only Christians were being kidnapped. As the leader of Christians in the state, according to him, he owed it a duty to cry out if his house was on fire.

At a news conference he addressed in Kaduna yesterday, the secretary of the council, Mallam Yusuf Arigasiyu said Hayab’s statement was capable of inflaming crisis in Kaduna State.
Arigasiyu said Hayab’s statement was “divisive and patently false, especially the claim that kidnappers only abduct Christians in Kaduna State.
He said that kidnapping has become security challenge nationwide and that criminals as well as their victims cut across ethno-religious divides.

He said: “For instance, along Birnin Gwari-Kaduna Road alone, between June 22 and 30, over 55 persons have been kidnapped and over 20 persons were killed, including five Nigerian Air Force and Army personnel, according to news reports.

“Majority of the citizens killed and kidnapped along Birnin Gwari, Giwa, Igabi and Abuja-Kaduna roads and the border towns with Niger, Katsina and Zamfara States have been Muslims. Muslims never viewed the unfortunate situation from a religious angle.”
Arigasiyu said Muslims had always condemned acts of criminality and called on the state and federal governments to protect the lives and property of all Nigerians, irrespective of where they were or how they worshipped.

He said: “If we may ask, where was Rev Hayab when on July 24, 2018, Prof. Halima Idris, former Commissioner of Education in Katsina State was killed along Kaduna-Abuja Road by kidnappers?
“Where was he on September 18, 2017 when Sherriff Abidu Yazid was killed on the same Kaduna-Abuja Road by bandits who also went away with his wife?
“Even recently, top civil servants from Zamfara State were kidnapped and killed on July 16, 2019 along Kachia-Kaduna road, what did the likes of Rev Hayab say about all these killings?

“Only Friday, the CAN Chairman also resorted to telling tale on television, by mischievously dressing a security issue as a religious one. In his wild allegation, Hayab claimed that there is a grand design to exterminate Christians and pastors in Kaduna State.
“This conspiracy theory is already breeding tension in the state. We also have it on good authority that Hayab’s divisive campaign is a ploy to set the stage for a bloodshed that is being hatched by the CAN chairman.”

Reacting to the accusation, Hayab denied ever saying that only Christians were being kidnapped, saying the Islamic clerics were being sponsored by some faceless people who have resorted to divide and rule to divert attention to the security challenges in the state.
He said: “We did not say only Christians were being kidnapped. We said they have been kidnapping people in Kaduna state, but the new trend these days is that they are kidnapping pastors, so what are they up to?
“We even said that they are kidnapping pastors so that they will trigger reaction from Christians and we called on Muslims to join hands with us to expose the criminals.

“Those who sponsored the Ulamas made a mistake by asking them to accuse me and twist my words. Let them go and ask the commissioner of police whether we are not informing them about those kidnapping incidents.

“Interestingly , the commissioner of police is a Muslim. The Director of DSS is a Muslim. We are only telling them to do their work. As the leader of Christians in Kaduna state, if my house is on fire and I cry and you say I am raising issues for war, then it is quiet unfortunate!

I will be a bad leader if I don’t speak out on the issues that are threatening the existence of my people. Even in the interview that I granted to Liberty (a local radio and Television station), I stated very clearly that people should not take it to be religious, because we even have some Muslims who contributed sometimes to the payment of ransom for some of our abducted relations.
“Their sponsors want to divert attention to the real issues that is making us cry. Let me say that I also have some Ulamas that we have been talking together because they are also affected.

“The Muslims are also suffering in the hands of kidnappers, but you will only cry about your own. If there is a flood in your house, you will only cry and say what happened to your house.

“Your neighbour should also cry and say what happened to his house… So I can only talk about what is happening to Christians. I expect the Ulamas to say we are also in this cry with you.

“We have had more than this number of people who have also been kidnapped. We have also paid this amount of money. So, together we should fight and ensure we have security. But yielding to divide and rule and twisting the story is unfortunate.

“The kidnappings along Kaduna – Abuja road is general. It affects everybody. “But we are talking about people who are being abducted in their own homes. We have never said the kidnappers are Fulanis or Muslim.
“If the Ulamas are confessing that these kidnappers are of Fulani and are of their faith, let them come out and tell Nigerians because we never call the kidnappers by tribe or by faith.