An Islamic rights advocacy group, Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) has condemned the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Lagos Headquarters for planning to hold a meeting on the premises of a church in Ikeja, Lagos on Thursday.
Prof. Ishaq Akintola, Director of MURIC, who made this call in a statement made available to SaharaReporters, tackled INEC for picking Archbishop Vining Memorial Church Cathedral, Ikeja, as the venue of the meeting with the Resident Electoral Commissioner, Mr Olusegun Agbaje.
The statement reads: "The Lagos headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has scheduled a meeting for tomorrow, Thursday, 8th December, 2022. Unfortunately, the organisers have picked Archbishop Vining Memorial Church Cathedral, Ikeja, as the venue of the meeting with the Resident Electoral Commissioner, Mr. Olusegun Agbaje.
"This is very disappointing. How can an electoral body of INEC status pick a religious house of worship as venue for its meeting? Is the meeting for the Christian wing of INEC or what? Is INEC meeting members of the church? This is balderdash. It is unacceptable.
"The choice of a church as a venue for a meeting of INEC is very insensitive, particularly given the very volatile situation we are in Nigeria today. It is an open secret that Christian pastors are deeply involved in political campaigns. Many of them have turned the 2023 election into a straight fight between them and the Muslims.
"INEC Lagos Headquarters has taken a false step. Holding an electoral body's meeting inside a church is like holding it inside the secretariat of one of the political parties. It erodes confidence. It is totally wrong, particularly in a situation whereby the church has publicly revealed that it is an interested party in the ongoing electioneering exercises.
"Why pick a church when there are hundreds of neutral places all over Lagos? Is INEC promoting the church's vested interest in the 2023 election? Is some kind of connivance in the offing? INEC Lagos headquarters must prove to Lagosians that their votes will count. We call on Lagosians to watch the activities of INEC from now on because we are not convinced that it is going to be neutral. Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.
MURIC urged the electoral body to refrain from interfering in religious activities in order to fulfil its statutory duty of conducting free and fair elections in Nigeria.
The statement continued: "We advise INEC Lagos headquarters to steer clear of churches for any of its activities except those meant for church members alone. The same goes for mosques and shrines. INEC has no business using places of worship for their activities. It is hoped that the national secretariat of INEC will caution its Lagos headquarters."