The Presidency has faulted the call by a group, Muslim Solidarity Forum, calling on the Bishop, Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, Rev Mathew Kukah to quietly leave the state or apologise to Muslims over his controversial Christmas message.
A statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, on Wednesday said the call is unconstitutional.
Shehu said that under Nigeria’s constitution, every citizen has freedom of expression and liberty to reside anywhere in the country without any inhibition.
He added that under the Nigerian law, groups and factions must not give quit notices, neither should they unilaterally sanction any perceived breaches.
The presidential aide however called on Kukah to respect the feelings of his fellow Nigerians in his private and public utterances.
The statement read in part; “Under our Constitution, every citizen has the right to, among others, freedom of speech and expression, the right to own property and reside in any part of the country, and the right to move freely without any inhibitions. Nigeria’s strength lies in its diversity. The right for all religions to co-exist is enshrined in this country’s Constitution. The duty of the government, more so, this democratic government, is to ensure that the Constitution is respected. But all must respect the rights and sensitivities of their fellow Nigerians.
“Father Kukah has greatly offended many with his controversial remarks against the government and the person of the President, with some even accusing him of voicing anti-Islamic rhetoric.
“On matters such as these, responsible leadership in any society must exercise restraint. Knee-jerk reactions will not only cause the fraying of enduring relationships, but also the evisceration of peaceful communities such as Sokoto, the headquarters of the Muslim community as beacon of pluralism and tolerance. The Sultanate has historically had good relations with followers of all faiths. That is why Father Kukah was received on his arrival in Sokoto with friendship and tolerance.
“Under our laws, groups or factions must not give quit notices, neither should they unilaterally sanction any perceived breaches. Where they occur, it is the courts of law that should adjudicate. Unilateral action is not the way to go.”
The Politico had reported that Muslim Solidarity Forum accused Kukah of insulting Islam and Muslim Ummah in his Christmas message where he knocked the administration of President Buhari for insecurity and alleged nepotism.
The group called on Kukah to quietly leave Sokoto State or apologise to the Muslims for his message.
The quit notice issued to Kukah had generated controversy on social media, Twitter especially, as many Nigerians warned that nothing must happen to the fiery cleric.
Former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, on his Twitter handle said there was no place in Kukah’s Christmas homily where he attacked Islam.
Also, former Personal Assistant to former President Goodluck Jonathan on New Media, Reno Omokri, warned that nothing must happen to the priest.
A former Senator representing Kaduna Central, Shehu Sani, also faulted the quit notice issued to Kukah by MSF.