The Federal Government yesterday warned religious leaders against incendiary messages capable of causing religious war in the country.
It also said allegations bordering on Islamisation of Nigeria and persecution of Christians were mere fallacies.
It said conflicts between Muslims and Christians were often fuelled by political motivation, ethnic differences, extremism, intolerance and terrorism.
It described as ridiculous the accusation by some leaders that the military was arming Fulani herdsmen to kill Christians.
Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed made the government’s position known at the North Central Town Hall meeting in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, yesterday.
The session was the eighth in the series of the Town Hall Meetings which was started in Lagos on April 25, 2016 by the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Mohammed said the government was worried about comments from religious leaders.
The Minister said: “Without equivocating, let me say that a lot has been achieved by this administration, despite the challenges that we have faced since assuming office. But whatever has been achieved in all spheres will pale into insignificance if there is no peace in the country.
” And there is no bigger threat to the peace and unity of our country today than religion-coated incendiary messages, which are being carelessly sent out there by some religious, political and opinion leaders.
“In recent times, the media has been increasingly awash with incendiary statements that seem designed to pitch the adherents of the two prominent religions in the country, Christians and Muslims against one another.”
He described as fallacies such insinuations that the government was either out to Islamise Nigeria or persecute Christians.
He added: “Such fallacies like the Islamisation of Nigeria, the killing of Christians by Muslims, the labelling of Nigeria as the most dangerous place for Christians in the world can only serve one purpose: trigger a religious war. Needless to say that no nation ever survived a religious war.
“Those who are making these allegations know that they are not true, but they have found in religion another tool to demonise the government of the day, divert attention from the government’s anti-corruption stance and create undue tension in the polity.
“The alleged Islamisation of Nigeria under the current Administration is totally false and should be perceived in its entirety as a campaign of calumny.
“The secular nature of Nigeria’s Constitution makes the issue of religious dominance and impunity improbable.”
Mohammed said the government believes that some comments by religious leaders had political connotations.
He said: “It is also important to note that the underlying principle of religious conflict may not be purely religious, but more often than not coloured with political connotations as vividly depicted in the case of the terrorist group Boko Haram.
“And more often than not, conflicts between Muslims and Christians are fuelled by political motivations, ethnic differences, extremism, intolerance and terrorism.”
He said the government considers it ludicrous to claim that the nation’s military was arming Fulani herdsmen to kill Christians.
He said: “Before I end my speech, let me appeal to the media to desist from providing a platform for exponents of incendiary statements, those who will latch on to religion and ethnicity to divide us, and those who have no qualms about leveraging their privileged positions to give Nigeria a bad name in the international community.
“Their foreign collaborators, including a section of the international media, have even gone as far as accusing the Nigerian military, a symbol of the country’s unity, of arming Fulani herdsmen to kill Christians, as if the army is made up of officers and men from only one religion.
“The Federal Government rejects this ludicrous and nonsensical accusation against the military and warns those behind it to desist forthwith.”