“Society’s discomforts and disagreements should, however, not be enough reasons for us to approve the circulation of phony and injurious statements against any perceived foe,” the CAN chairman says.
The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Kaduna State Chapter, and the Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) have, separately, described as fake, the document linking communications minister Isa Pantami to the death of former Kaduna State Governor Patrick Yakowa.
The chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Kaduna State Chapter, John Hayab, made his stance known in a statement sent to PREMIUM TIMES Thursday.
Mr Hayab, who was Mr Yakowa’s former special adviser on religious affairs, noted that “as someone very close to the late Yakowa, I call on all Nigerians to ignore the insinuations linking Pantami with Sir Yakowa’s death, endangering national peace. This, I call on security agencies to step in and tame the circulation of such dangerous documents. We cannot afford to stock [stoke] fire when we should be pouring more water.”
“Sensitive documents like the ones purported to be from the JNI meeting in Bauchi should be subjected to thorough security investigation and trials, not tools for social media warfare,” Mr Hayab, who was Mr Yakowa’s former special adviser on religious affairs, said.
The purported document, said to be the minutes of a July 2010 meeting of Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI) where the group, among other things, allegedly plotted to “eliminate” Mr Yakowa.
The report, which had been online since August 2010, quickly caught online frenzy when it was reshared Wednesday as the said meeting was allegedly chaired by embattled communications minister, Isa Pantami.
Mr Yakowa died December 2012 in a helicopter crash alongside former National Security Adviser Owoye Azazi while returning from a funeral in Bayelsa State en route Port Harcourt.
But Mr Hayab said his association considered that the “communique could be doctored. We are aware that in this age of technological advancements, we have to take any allegations with a pinch of salt until we are confident of the authenticity of the source.”
“Society’s discomforts and disagreements should, however, not be enough reasons for us to approve the circulation of phony and injurious statements against any perceived foe,” he added.
He said CAN and Mr Yakowa’s family feared making the allegation “a media issue, instead of a legal and security issue that it ought to be, is that we stand to lose the most important point; that of bringing to justice persons accused to have wronged the law.”
He, therefore, called for caution in to avert further chaos in communities with strained relationships as what is needed are mediatory interventions and peacebuilding.
He noted that after Mr Yakowa’s death, there was no inquiry to determine the cause of his death.
“We the Christian community and indeed his immediate family acknowledged the tragedy, submitting to the will of God Almighty. For that purpose, there is no point, now or later, to open up what will not bring back our leader and father but rather open up old wounds in a very controversial manner.
“Those who feel they have information to help the security agencies investigate whatever crimes against groups or individuals should do so within the provided window, without exacerbating the tension of formulating tales in the public space,” Mr Hayab said.
Meanwhile, the deputy secretary-general of the National Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), Salisu Shehu, said the document was concocted as “we do not call our religious scholars clergies.”
NSCIA is the umbrella body of Muslims in Nigeria, including JNI, one of the foremost Islamic body in Northern Nigeria.
Mr Shehu, in a statement, noted that Mr Pantami was not a member of JNI, so he could not have chaired the group’s meeting.
“We don’t have Shehu Maigandu. We do not write Barkin Ladi. We don’t write Dogo Nahawa,” Mr Shehu said of the document.
“We never see Christians as dominant in the SW. The minute does not meet standard of rules of meetings.
“The Jos North/Bassa Federal Constituency seat is always won by Jasawa. JNI doe not need to struggle on it. The last occupant, Haruna Maitala died recently.”
Many Nigerians have called for Mr Pantami’s resignation following past statements he made supporting extremist groups like Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. The minister, however, said his views have changed over the years and he no longer supports such groups.