Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Mathew Kukah has expressed hope that President Muhammadu Buhari will address the challenges being faced by the Church in Northern Nigeria where Christians are “treated with so much contempt and tolerated like nuisance”.
Reacting to President Buhari’s inaugural speech, Bishop Kukah noted that “He said things that had never been said before. And I hope that he will have the ability and capacity to deal with some of those issues.
“The issues demand salient questions. For example, why is it that churches are treated with so much contempt and tolerated like nuisance in Northern Nigeria? Why is it they have become subject of attacks? Why is it that despite the provisions of the constitution, the right of worship is being frustrated in the North? I don’t think that there is a single governor in far Northern Nigeria that can proudly say that he has signed a certificate of occupancy allocating land to Christians to build churches? Most of the lands that Christians have are lands that were given by the colonial administrations. This is totally unacceptable. And Christians have to buy land to build churches,” he told Vanguard in an interview.
“For example as I am talking to you, I am waiting for a phone call in respect of the land we want to buy at Tsafe for the building of a church because our church was burnt down. This is not the first time, it was burnt down in 2011. We are relocating the church to another site for safety reasons. What I got from government for the burnt church cannot build a church. Right now, if I want to negotiate to buy a land, I cannot wear my suntan (pastoral regalia) because I will be told that I cannot buy the land. And I cannot live in a country like this. This is totally unacceptable.
“We buy land and build a church with little resources, but when a woman has an abortion in that locality, the first thing Muslim youths will do is to go and burn a church even if it is sited five kilometres away from the scene of the abortion.
“There is no single governor in northern Nigeria except former Governor Makarfi of Kaduna, who commiserated with Christians when churches were burnt down,” Kukah said.
“…for me as a Christian, I believe that living in Northern Nigeria, I still don’t get the sense that freedom of worship, expression that are guaranteed in the Constitution are sufficiently protected and taken care of,” the cleric said. However, he expressed hope that things will change under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari, who has shown the impression that he is prepared to wrestle with that problem.