Tension has risen sharply in northern Nigeria following the conversion of a pastor’s daughter from Christianity to Islam. While the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and its affiliate groups allege that the Igbo girl was abducted by Muslim fanatics, forcibly converted and married off, Muslims insist that she converted voluntarily and is with them based on her request.
The girl at the centre of the controversy is 24 years old Miss Charity Raymond Uzoechina, daughter of Pastor Raymond Uzoechina of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG). Her name has been changed to Aisha and she is presently in the custody of the traditional ruler of the Nupe people of Niger State in North-West Nigeria. Charity, according to the Bida Emirate, approached the Etsu Nupe, Alhaji Yahaya Abubakar, for protection on February 15, 2013 following her decision to convert to Islam against the wish of her father.
Yesterday, the Northern Christian Youth Solidarity and Emancipation Movement for Justice and Self-Determination (NCYSEM) raised the alarm over alleged abduction and forceful marriage of Charity. The group claimed that Charity’s case is not an exception and appealed for the Federal Government’s intervention.
Said the group in a statement signed by its Director of Publicity, Mr. James Gani, and released yesterday in Abuja, the Nigerian capital:
“For the benefit of those who are not aware or conversant with the facts of the matter, Miss Charity Raymond Uzoechina is a Nigerian and a daughter of Pastor Raymond Uzoechina of RCCG who was forcefully abducted by some Muslim fanatics and since then has been kept out of the reach of her parents under the so called ‘Protective custody’ of Etsu Nupe.
“We would like to call on the Federal Government to take a critical look at the issue of abducting Christian girls into forceful Islamic Marriages with impunity by some influential Muslims, particularly in the North with a view to invoking the relevant laws that deal with crimes of this nature on them. This case should be seriously viewed as such.
“Why should an Emir of the status of Etsu Nupe be as insensitive to his responsibility as a Royal Father to the extent of abducting and keeping someone under a “protective custody”? Does he have such powers? Against whom is he protecting the lady?”
NCYSEM condemned the utterances of the acting Director of Publicity of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), Muhammed Kabir Kassim, who had asked the Federal Government to call CAN President, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, to order for criticising the action of Etsu Nupe. According to the statement:
“Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor stands for and represents the Church and the less-privileged in Nigeria. To us, Ayo’s utterances and actions since becoming the President of CAN in Nigeria are what Nigeria needs to survive as a nation today.”
Continuing, NCYSEM said: “Whereas, we appreciate the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999 as amended) that provides for the freedom of worship and choice of religion, we do not believe and cannot be deceived that the case under reference has to do with choice of religion and or willful conversion.
“Everyone knows that Christians are lovers and makers of peace; if it were not so, the story would have by now been different in the face of this outright and senseless provocation on the Church. We want to categorically state that in this matter, the Emir is an abductor and if the story credited to Ayo in this respect is true, then Pastor Ayo is right as ever and therefore needs no one to call him to order.”