A group of Christians in Nigeria, led by National Christian Elders Forum (NCEF), have condemned the extension of public holiday by the Federal Government over the non-sighting of the moon during the just concluded Eid-el-Fitri celebration.
The fasting came the full cycle of 30 days based on the instruction of the Sultan of Sokoto and the President-General of Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III.
While insisting that the trend portends a dangerous precedent that the government of President Muhammadu Buhari was taking 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-Fitri “in which we expect that only one day should be approved as public holiday.”
NCEF has Solomon Asemota as chairman, with members being General Joshua Dogonyaro (retd), Professor Joseph Otubu, General Zamani Lekwot (retd), Dr Kate Okpareke, Dr Ayo Abifarin, Bishop Joseph Bagobiri, Archbishop Magnus Atilade, Elder Moses Ihonde, Elder Nat Okoro and Professor Vincent Anigbogu.
Others are General Ishaku Dikko (retd), Justice Kalajine Anigbogu (retd), Elder Shyngle Wigwe, DIG P. L. Dabup, Sir John W. Bagu, Dr Saleh Hussaini, Elder Mike Orobator, Chief Olaniwun Ajayi, Justice M. Ogebe (retd), Priscilla Kuye, Chief Debo Omotosho, Dr Musa Asake, Joseph Daramola and Pastor Olatunbosun Emmanuel as secretary.
The coalition, in a statement by Asemota, obtained by Religious Affairs correspondents in Abuja, said it was obvious that the All Progressives Congress (APC), which promised Nigerians change from the lawlessness and impunity that seemed to characterise this country, was 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 and International Prophetic Ministerial Association (Inc.) Worldwide College of Bishops and Ministers in 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 read: “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 public holiday, only to reverse itself and declare Wednesday, 6th and Thursday, 7th July 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 a mark of institutional unseriousness. The implication now is that three days were work-free in the week.
“We are equally appalled that the Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazzau, 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 characterise this nation. Since the inception of the Buhari-led administration, it had 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-led 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; 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-led administration has brought into governance in Nigeria. Decent and respectable people are ashamed at the flagrant acts of discrimination, nepotism, and impunity of the APC led government.
“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. The APC-led government should call itself to order.”