Cardinal Onayeikan blasts FG for proscribing Shiites
Says proscription a grave error
The Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Cardinal John Onayeikan, has condemned the proscription of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria [IMN], also called Shi’ites, by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government.
Cardinal Onayeikan stated his position while speaking to journalists in Abuja on Tuesday during the preparation 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’.
The ma,’ slated for Thursday.
Describing the move as an error, Onayeikan said that it means that other religions are not safe as the government could simply obtain a court order and proscribe them.
He called on the government at the center to respect the rights of religious groups to exist and operate in the country.
He said that such right “should be given not only to the Catholics, the Sunnis, the Anglicans and other groups but also to the Shi’ites.
“My hope is that having made that blunt mistake, the government will reverse itself because the impression the Shi’ite proscription gives about Nigeria around the world is terrible.
“It 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 proscribed any day by any government who manages to get any judge to issue an ex-parte or non-ex-parte order.”
The cleric noted that the Shi’ites have the right to protest the continued incarceration of their leader, Ibraheem El-Zakzaky.
He said that it would be difficult to prevent Catholic faithful from protesting against his incarceration in the event he himself was detained unjustly.
“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,” he stressed.
The Shiites movement was proscribed on Friday via an ex-parte order issued by a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja.