The Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Cardinal John Onayeikan has described the proscription of the Shi’ite movement by the Federal Government as an error.
What this meant, Onaiyekan said, is that other religious beliefs in the country are under threat as the government could simply obtain a court order and proscribe them.
He said this while speaking to reporters in Abuja on the schedule for the celebration of his 50th priestly ordination and the launch of a book in his honour titled, ‘Thy will be done: A portrait of John Cardinal Onaiyekan,’ slated for Thursday.
The cleric said Nigerians must press the government to respect the rights of religious groups to exist and operate in the country.
He also complained that the 43 ministerial nominees confirmed by the Senate are too many to run government.
His words: “The proscription portrays us as a country where government can wake up one day, get a court order from nowhere that particular religious group is proscribed.
“If we allow that to go, it means Catholics and my own religion too can be prescribed any day by any government who manages to get any judge to issue an ex-parte or non ex-parte order.”
The Cardinal said the Shi’ite sect members had the right to protest the continued incarceration of their leader, Ibraheem El-Zakzaky, noting that if he (Onaiyekan) was detained unjustly, it would be difficult to prevent Catholic faithful from protesting against his incarceration.
He stressed: “If I was a Muslim, I will also fight for the freedom of every Muslim because freedom of religion is not only the freedom between different religions; there is also freedom within religions.
“I don’t know what will happen if I was detained unjustly and the court orders my release and they refuse to allow me to come out, I don’t know if anybody will be able to stop the Catholics from protesting.”
Onaiyekan said the government could hold a religious group accountable for breaking the law by prosecuting under existing laws, but proscribing them, according to him, is a mistake and a step taken too far.
Commenting on the security situation in the country, the Archbishop said the nation was in serious trouble, adding that the problem was persisting because the government had failed to acknowledge it.
The cleric stressed that the security situation had worsened in the last five years under the current administration, noting that Nigerians were no longer safe on the roads.
He said: “We have on our hands a pervasive system of insecurity and the government congratulates itself that they have done the best and that Nigerians should be grateful.
“Until government acknowledges that we have a problem, that in terms of security, our situation is changed for the worse in the last five years, you must admit the situation before you can tackle it.”
“We still want to believe the state can protect us because the alternative to is that we do not have a government; Because of the reluctance to accept that we have a problem, that was why it has been difficult to address it.”