•Tight security at DSS as Suleiman arrives with 30 lawyers
•Interrogated, released by 10.30pm last night
•We are with him, his harassment premeditated —CAN
•FG cautions clergymen on hate speeches
By Sam Eyoboka, Emma Ujah, Ben Agande & Caleb Ayansina
ABUJA—THERE was drama, yesterday, as the Department of State Services, DSS, rescheduled its appointment with the embattled Senior Pastor of the Omega Fire Ministry, OFM, Apostle Johnson Suleiman, twice.
In readiness for Suleiman, the DSS, yesterday morning, deployed a massive security wall around the premises of its national headquarters. Suleiman had told his supporters at a religious crusade in Ekiti State, last week, to defend themselves if they were attacked by herdsmen. The DSS officially invited Suleiman to appear before it, yesterday, for interrogation after their operatives’ initial plan to arrest him in Ekiti was foiled by the Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose.
Dressed in black suit, Apostle Suleiman, who said his invitation was in order, arrived the DSS headquarters accompanied by 30 lawyers and Christian leaders.
Indeed, the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, yesterday, said it was behind Suleiman, who was accompanied by a delegation led by the National President of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, PFN, Rev. Felix Omobude.
On arrival, Vanguard gathered that the large entourage was told that the appointment which was earlier meant for 10 a.m., had been rescheduled for 4p.m.
When the entourage returned for the 4 p.m. appointment, they were further told to come at 7p.m., by the DSS operatives, who did not expect such a large contingent.
Sensing the unwillingness of the Christian leaders to leave Apostle Suleiman to carry his cross, DSS operatives, according to a close source, began to plead with the clergymen to return to their hotel rooms, arguing that Suleiman would be fine.
At press time, last night, Suleiman had returned to the DSS and was being interrogated.
It was not clear whether he was followed to the venue by any of his followers when he returned the third time.
There was heavy presence of policemen and the DSS personnel with Amoured Personnel Carrier around the headquarters.
The DSS deployed a large number of its personnel to strategic areas surrounding the headquarters to prevent the possible protest by supporters of the pastor.
DSS operatives took over the Fountain Garden opposite the Transcorp Hilton, the Federal Secretariat and in front of the Yellow House national headquarters of the service.
Journalists, who had laid siege to the DSS headquarters were politely told to leave the area.
My invitation in order— Suleiman
Speaking to newsmen in Abuja, yesterday, Apostle Suleiman said his invitation by the DSS was in order, but insisted he stands by his statement.
“I presume the right thing was done. They have been in touch with me to come and that is why I am in Abuja, so that I can see them,” he said,.
He added that the statement for which the security agency invited him was based on information from a reliable source that herdsmen were coming to attack him.
He said he stood by his statement on self-defence. “I was talking in my personal capacity on information from a reliable source that certain people in the capacity of herdsmen were coming to attack me and I told the people around me that if it happens they should defend themselves.’’
Suleiman’s harassment premeditated – CAN
Throwing its weight behind Apostle Suleiman, the CAN insisted that the allegation against him was false and premeditated.
Christian youths across the nation, in a peaceful solidarity meeting, yesterday, at the Ecumenical Centre in Abuja, called on the DSS and other security agencies to stop harassing unarmed citizens and deploy their energy to curb violent attacks by Fulani terrorists on Nigerians.
Addressing newsmen after the meeting, the President of the youth wing of CAN, Engr. Daniel Kadzai, who decried several cases of harassments of clergies by security agents, said the move would not do any good other than plunging the country into anarchy.
His words: “It is sad, unfortunate and regrettable that law enforcement officers have taken to harassing and embarrassing Christian clergies in recent time. The harassment of two catholic priests by military men under one Captain Musa in Michika Local Government of Adamawa State and the assault on Pastor Alex Ocheinu of RCCG in Lide Camp Abuja, who was resuscitated at Gwarimpa Hospital is unacceptable.
“The attempted arrest of Apostle Johnson Suleiman by DSS Personnel over an alleged public incitement is not only false but used as a premeditated tool to achieve a long time ambition. We also insist that government has no business in regulating tenure or position of Christian churches or ecclesiastical matters. Under whatever guise, the church has its distinct peculiarities and leadership structures.”
Kadzai also described the silence and timidity of Christians in government as not only a betrayal of Christians but also the betrayal of the Nigerian people. ‘’ For their failure to stand up for social justice, the rule of law and good governance, posterity will count against them and we will direct our leadership at various levels to vote them out in the 2019 elections.”
FG cautions clergy on hate speeches
Meanwhile, the Federal Government has expressed worry over hate speeches by clergymen, which it said were capable of escalating the security challenges in many parts of the country.
The Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution, IPCR, said in a statement in Abuja, yesterday, that those who have the privilege of leading others must exhibit responsibility in their expressions, at all times.
While urging them to encourage peaceful co-existence, the IPCR said: “The Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR), the apex research agency and think-tank of the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN), on peace, conflict prevention, and management is concerned about the ugly and reprehensible trend of inciting preaching, hate speech and irresponsible use of the social media going on in the country.
“The IPCR is worried about the negative potential, which these practices portend for the peace, social cohesion and good governance of our great country. The Institute is particularly disturbed that religion as an important institution and age-long guarantor of peace is being deployed by some preachers to undermine the peace and stability of the country.
“This is a total negation of the sacred books, which propagate peace and good neighbourliness. The Institute is urging Nigerians to resent actions and utterances that could jeopardize the demonstrated commitment of the Federal Government to secure the lives and properties of the citizenry. While government continues to do everything to ensure citizens’ security, winning the peace in our communities remains a collective responsibility of all Nigerians.
“The Institute has observed with deep regret the inciting sermons by some preachers in places of worship across the country. The emerging phenomenon of irresponsible preaching and unwarranted utterances by some clerics is one which every responsible Nigerian must work hard to discourage. History has shown that the spinning of hate speeches by people who should be leaders and custodians of peace in the society is a recipe for social catastrophe that does no one good.”
“All religions, and especially Christianity and Islam are founded on the principles of peace, love and charity. Therefore, any preacher who incites his or her congregation to violence negates the principles of religion.”
Religion emphasizes peace, love, tolerance and respect for the sanctity of human lives. The Institute appeals to all leaders, temporal and spiritual, to be cautious in their pronouncements at all times.
“In exercising our constitutional rights to the freedom of speech, we all owe the larger society the duty of restraint by abhorring the use of inflammatory expressions capable of undermining public safety and the security of lives and properties. The Institute enjoins Nigerians to appreciate the significant progress made by the Government despite being confronted with challenges associated with insurgency, terrorism and other conflict disorders.
“The economic recession, notwithstanding, the Federal Government continues to confront insurgency and the resultant humanitarian crisis in the North-East with uncommon courage and determination. The IPCR commends the Nigerian Armed Forces and other security agencies for their commitment and sacrifices, which led to the restoration of the territorial integrity of the country.”
“While acknowledging the positive role of the media in sustaining democracy in Nigeria, the Institute advises against the publication of provocative information capable of fuelling centrifugal tendencies in the society. IPCR thus calls for the media to embrace the constructive path of peace journalism and conflict-sensitive reportage. It also advises social media practitioners and users to promote harmonious living and positive mobilization of the masses.
“Consequently, IPCR calls on all Nigerians to think and act responsibly in order to strengthen and consolidate the peaceful relations in communities across the country. It is only under conditions of Peace and tranquillity that the economy can grow jobs for the teeming youths of Nigeria for sustainable development.”