Vanguard (Lagos)

31 January 2013

Nigeria: Sultan, CAN President Differ On Licensing of Preachers

Photo: Vanguard
Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor

Sokoto — Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa'ad Abubakar III, has called on the Federal Government to commence the process of licensing preachers in the country to reduce the incidence of wrong indoctrination of youths.

He aslo appealed to the government to dialogue with Boko Haram sect to ensure the return of peace and security in the country.

Meanwhile, National President of Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, yesterday said that licensing preachers was not the right approach to curtail wrong indoctrination of youths in the country, arguing that the moment government was involved in the censorship of religion then it would no longer be religion.

From Left: Co-Chairman, Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC), Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor; National Co-Ordinator/Executive Secretary, Prof. Is-haq Oloyede, and Co-Chairman, Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa'ad Abubakar III, at a meeting

Abubakar spoke at two separate functions in Sokoto and Abuja, yesterday. He was represented at the Abuja event by Alhaji Isa Mohammed.

Goodwill message

In his goodwill message at the opening ceremony of a two-day peace and security summit organised by the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, the Sultan said it was necessary for preachers to be licensed because, "it is in the process of preaching that people are indoctrinated."

He pointed out that in view of the security challenges confronting the nation, it had become imperative for anyone intending to become a preacher to secure a licence from the government.

Urges dialogue with Boko Haram

Speaking when he received the Chief of Army Staff, COAS, Lt. Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika, in his palace in Sokoto, the Sultan urged the Federal Government to engage in talks with the Boko Haram sect, which recently declared ceasefire, saying, "the dialogue would serve as a means of getting across to the other splinter groups within the sect."

He described the cease-fire as a welcomed development, saying that this was an opportunity the government should not throw away.

He said: "That is why, when a few days ago we heard a purported ceasefire by a faction within the Boko Haram sect, we welcomed it and I believe it is an issue we have to open up to."

Former Head of State and Presidential candidate of Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), also said in Abuja that "unless the country is mobilized to secure the nation, the black man will be a disappointment to man. We have all the human and material resources, we ought to be better."

But maintaining that licensing of preachers would ensure regulation, the Sultan said: "We are not saying that anybody should be stopped from preaching their religion. It is, however, a fact that violent preaching leads to destruction of lives and property.

"Nigeria has lots of challenges, but these challenges can be overcome by constant cooperation of eminent people. We need to recognise the fact that if there is any problem in this country, it is not only going to affect the perpetrators of such problem alone but all of us. We must therefore stand and preach peace. Our youths should be told the truth that taking arms against their brothers is criminal. The excuse that they do not have jobs is not enough."

Receiving the COAS in his palace, he said that Nigeria would not break up as being predicted by some people.

He said: "Nigeria will remain one entity. Those clamouring for the division of the country are just making noise to seek for relevance."

Don't subject religion to govt interference--CAN

Reacting, Pastor Oritsejafor said religion was a very sensitive issue that dealt with the conscience of people which should not be subject to the interference of government.

Similarly, Director of Social Communication at the Catholic Archdiocese, Lagos, Rev, Monsignor Gabriel Osu, opposed the move, saying that such would be the easiest way of gravitating towards totalitarianism in the country.

Ortisejafor said: "What must happen, if you ask me, is that preachers generally belong to organizations and such organizations must sum up the courage to monitor the activity and content of the messages of every preacher with a view to disciplining them when they derail."

He said that umbrella organisations were in a better position to monitor the contents of the messages of their members and are in a better position to also discipline such members whenever they go astray.

"Governments do not have the wherewithal to monitor activities of preachers across the length and breadth of the country. It is only the organizations that oversee the activities of their members that will be able to curtail their excesses." He, added that there are some preachers who do not belong to any group, noting that in such cases the relevant organisations should be bold to come out to say so.

The CAN president was emphatic in his recommendation that any preacher who runs foul of the law should be dealt with in accordance with the laws of the land.

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