​The Open Bar Initiatives (OBI), former Chairman National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Prof. Chidi Odinkalu and 30 other Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), have tasked the federal government to put an end to the violent threats against the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, Matthew Hassan Kukah.

​According to them, the government has refused or neglected to take action against the “persons inciting violence against Bishop Kukah.

​They stated that Section 15 of the 1999 Constitution guarantees the Federal Republic of Nigeria as a state based on the principles of democracy and social justice and confers sovereignty upon the people of Nigeria from whom government through the Constitution derives all its power and authority

​“Section 17(2)(c) of the 1999 Constitution requires that ‘governmental actions shall be humane.’

​“Bishop Kukah’s Christmas message invited the government to take this charge seriously. Rather than do that, the regime has launched a campaign of dog whistle against him in a  pattern consistent with the escalating efforts to shut down Nigeria’s civic space,” they claimed.


​They traced the sequence of threats against Kukah to include the following:

​“In a sermon on Friday, 15 January, 2015, Abubakar Malami, an Islamic cleric based in Sokoto, threatened to kill the Most Rev. Dr. Matthew Hassan Kukah, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, by ensuring that ‘he will be crucified’ if he challenges government, warning that they ‘will not listen to anybody when we are crucifying him.

​“On Tuesday, January 12, an unknown group calling itself the “Muslim Solidarity Forum” issued an ultimatum requiring Bishop Kukah to ‘quickly and quietly leave’ his seat in Sokoto, in north-west Nigeria.

​“In response to the statement by the Muslim Solidarity Forum, presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu,  January 13, issued a statement in which it accused Bishop Kukah deliberately of ‘anti-islamic rhetoric.

​“Bishop Kukah is the latest independent voice that the regime has moved to silence through targeted intimidation, based on invented, sectarian distortion of his Christmas Day 2020 Message,” they said.

​According to them, the government’s response to the threats against Kukah, may be interpretated as backing those planning to harm or run the cleric out of town.

​They noted that the constitution guarantees a right to “freedom of movement within the country to all citizens. Bishop Kukah is a full-blooded citizen of Nigeria. He is also un-armed.”

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​They claimed that the government’s conduct and that of its spokespersons and supporters is in keeping with a tradition of drowing voices who have sought to speak truth in the exercise of civic and constitutional rights and duties.

​“On New Year’s Day, officers of Nigeria’s security services severely assaulted and injured peaceful citizens, including the publisher of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore, exercising their right to symbolic protest as their act of cross-over into the New Year. They were released after 12 days in detention.  To be clear, citizens have a right and a duty to demand accountability from their government.”

​They demanded a country built on the ideals of freedom, equality and justice that can secure every Nigerian equal significance in the country’s affairs.

​“The campaign against Bishop Kukah confirms the fear that the regime is reluctant to conform to basic constitutional standards. The regime can end these fears by taking immediate action to bring those threatening Bishop Kukah to justice.

​“As long as it fails to do so, Nigerians and the international community must hold the regime responsible for any harm that befalls Bishop Kukah or any member of Nigeria’s civic  community,” they said.

​The statement was signed by House of Justice; Global Rights; TAP Nitiative; SESOR; Open Bar Initiative (OBI); CedarSeed  Foundation; We The People; Network of Disabled Women; CEE- HOPE; Open Bar Initiative, (OBI); Centre for Citizens with Disability, CCD;  Christian Solidarity Worldwide (C.S.W.); Srarina Initiative for Peace Justice and Development (SIPJAD); Kunak Foundation; Resilient Aid and Dialogue Initiative (RADi).

​Others were: Disabled People in Leadership; National Association of Catholic Lawyers (NACL);  Hope Builders ; Chidi Anselm Odinkalu; Abiodun Baiyewu; Gloria Mabeiam Ballason Mike Utasha; Silas Joseph Onu;  Steven Kefas; David Anyaele;  Savn DanielIer Jonathan; Ariyo Dare- Atoye; Ohimai Godwin Amaize; Ken Henshaw and  Okhiria Agbonsuremi.

​source: The Nation

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