A group of Christians in Nigeria led by National Christian Elders Forum has condemned the extension of the Eid-el-Kabir public holiday by the Federal Government.
The development was due to the non-sighting of the moon during the just-concluded Eid-el-Kabir celebration by the Sultan of Sokoto and President-General of Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III.
While insisting that the trend portends a dangerous precedent, the Christian group said it means that the government of President Muhammadu Buhari took instructions from the Sultan.
The coalition said the government and Islamic leaders should repay the country the extra day that was lost during the next Eid-el-Kabir: “in which we expect that only one day should be approved as Public Holiday.”
Key members of NCEF include Mr. Solomon Asemota (SAN) (Chairman); Gen. Joshua Dogonyaro (rtd); Prof. Joseph Otubu, Gen. Zamani Lekwot (rtd), Dr. (Mrs) Kate Okpareke, Dr. Ayo Abifarin, Bishop Joseph Bagobiri, Archbishop Magnus Atilade, Elder Moses Ihonde, Elder Nat Okoro and Prof. Vincent Anigbogu.
Others are Gen. Ishaku Dikko (rtd), Justice Kalajine Anigbogu (rtd), Elder Shyngle Wigwe, DIG P. L. Dabup, Sir John W. Bagu, Dr. Saleh Hussaini, Elder Mike Orobator, Chief Olaniwun Ajayi, Justice M. Ogebe (rtd), Mrs. Priscilla Kuye, Chief Debo Omotosho, Dr. Musa Asake, Joseph Daramola, Pastor Olatunbosun Emmanuel (Secretary).
The coalition in a statement by Asemota in Abuja on Sunday said it was obvious that the government is drifting the country to a wrong direction.
Apart from NCEF, other members of the coalition include Nigerian Christian Graduate Fellowship; Think Tank for the body of Christ; Christian Lawyers Fellowship of Nigeria; Association of Christian Schools in Nigeria; Students Christian Movement; Christian Professionals Forum; Intercessors for Nigeria and International Prophetic Ministerial Association (Inc. Worldwide College of Bishops and Ministers: Africa, UK and USA.
The coalition also has Intercessors without Walls; Wailing Women International; Full Gospel Businessmen Fellowship; Nigerian Fellowship of Christian Students; Ministers Prayer Network; International Christian Embassy Jerusalem and University Joint Campus Christian Fellowship as members.
The statement by Asemota reads: “As Nigerians, we congratulate the Muslims in the nation on their successful completion of the Ramadan fast in 2016. However, we are disturbed by the apparent shoddiness and confusion the Federal Government brought into the declaration of the Public Holiday rounding up the Muslim religious exercise.
“The Federal Government had earlier declared Tuesday 5th and Wednesday 6th July as Public Holiday only to reverse itself and declare Wednesday 6th and Thursday 7th July 2016 as Public Holiday. If this was done before Tuesday was observed as Public Holiday, it would have been tolerable but declaring Thursday 7th as Public Holiday in addition to Tuesday and Wednesday is bad. The implication now is that three days would be work free in the week.
“We are equally appalled that the Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazau based the decision to declare Thursday as Public Holiday on the directive by the President General of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, the Sultan of Sokoto, to the effect that the Ramadan fast continues today (last Tuesday) as a result of the non-sighting of the moon.
“We are not aware that Nigeria has transmuted into a religious theocratic state in which the leader of a religious group issues directive to the Federal Government. If the President General of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs confirmed Wednesday and Thursday as Public Holiday for the Ramadan fasting, then who advised the Federal Government to declare Tuesday a Public Holiday?
“As innocuous as some people may want to present this development, it is a dangerous signal confirming the worrisome direction of the party that promised Nigerians change from the lawlessness and impunity that seem to characterize this nation. Since the inception of the Buhari administration, it has left no one in doubt of its discriminatory leaning towards Islam as the preferred religion in Nigeria, in violation of Section 10 of the constitution.
“The Buhari Administration needs to be reminded again that Nigeria is not an Islamic Theocratic State that receives “directive” from a Sultan. Nigeria is a democratic and secular nation and preferential treatment should not be accorded any section of the nation but all should be treated equally.
“If indeed a mistake was made in declaring Tuesday a Public Holiday that does not warrant declaring Thursday a Public Holiday. Both the Federal Government and leaders of Islam should have maintained the statutory two days Public Holiday and learnt a lesson on how to not to repeat the mistake in future.
“It is very embarrassing the tardiness and shoddiness that the Buhari Administration has brought into governance in Nigeria.
“We wish to state clearly that declaring Thursday an additional Public Holiday is not only wrong but an insensitive approach to the management of the economy. The economic well being of the nation should not be sacrificed on the altar of religious fervor.
“Nevertheless, having illegally appropriated an additional day as Pubic Holiday during the Eid-el-Fitri, the Federal Government and leaders of Islam should be prepared to repay the nation the extra day during the next Eid-el-Kabir in which we expect only one day should be approved as Public Holiday. Nigeria should not be turned into a lawless nation.”