Sultan tackles CAN over U.S. report on religious persecution in Nigeria

The Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar lll, has reacted to the recent U.S. classification of Nigeria as a nation that tolerates religious persecution.

The monarch specifically dismissed claims made by the Christian Association on Nigeria, (CAN), who while reacting to the report, said Christians are being persecuted in Nigeria.

The Sultan said he was also shocked by CAN’s claims.


The inclusion of Nigeria in the religion violations list was announced by the U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo.

“On December 18, 2019, the Department of State re-designated Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan as Countries of Particular Concern under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 for having engaged in or tolerated “systematic, ongoing, [and] egregious violations of religious freedom.”

“The Department renewed the placement of Comoros, Russia, and Uzbekistan on a Special Watch List (SWL) for governments that have engaged in or tolerated “severe violations of religious freedom,” and added Cuba, Nicaragua, Nigeria, and Sudan to this list,” Mr Pompeo said.

CAN’s reaction

CAN immediately backed the listing of the country by the United States government among nations tolerating religious persecution.

In a statement on Sunday by Adebayo Oladeji, Special Assistant on Media and Communications to the CAN President, Samson Ayokunle, the association warned that “discrimination against Christians can result in another civil war which Nigeria may not survive.”

CAN also alleged that the cases of Christians persecuted and killed in states like Kaduna, Benue, Plateau Adamawa and Taraba states could not have gone unnoticed by the U.S. The association said although Muslims had also been reported killed in these states, it was evident that the major targets were Christians.

The association also noted the continued incarceration of Leah Sharibu who was held back after her schoolmates were released by their abductors, the Boko Haram terrorist group, following negotiations by the government in 2018.

Sultan disagrees

The Sultan of Sokoto, who was speaking on Tuesday at the closing ceremony of 77th annual Islamic Vacation Course (IVC) organised by the Muslim Society of Nigeria (MSSN) at Bayero University, Kano disagreed with CAN.

He said “if such persecution really exist, such is supposed to be tabled at the Interfaith forum where Muslims and Christians leaders meet periodically to discuss issues that would promote harmonious coexistence between the two religions (Christianity and Islam.”

The Sultan noted that most atrocities allegedly committed by armed Fulani herders were not triggered by religion, “as not all Fulanis are Muslims.”

The nation has been rocked with crises in recent years over the activities of armed herders, usually Fulani, who constantly clash with farmers leading to bloodbath.

Fulanis practice both Christianity and Islam.

But according to the monarch, “many Fulanis are atheists whose main interest is to protect their cattle.”

The Islamic Supreme leader appealed to Muslim faithful not to be provoked by CAN’s statement, which he described as “false and partial.”

Meanwhile, in his address, the Emir of Kano, Muhammad Sanusi ll cautioned Muslims “against growing their needs beyond their resources.”

The emir attributed the increasing rate of out of school children in Muslim dominated North to uncontrolled polygamy and a high rate of divorce.

He lamented how “Muslim concentrated North-west and North-east parts of Nigeria became the poorest regions due to “misunderstanding of Islamic religion.”

In his remarks, Kano State governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, represented by Commander General of Hisbah Board, Harun Ibn -Sina, said the state government is committed towards upholding Islamic values.

He said the state government has banned opposite sexes from plying same tricycles across the state from January, 2020.

Governor Ganduje charged participants to focus on their studies and shun drug abuse.

The Islamic Vacation Course (IVC) was attended by students of secondary schools and tertiary institutions from 19 Northern states and Abuja.