NIGERIA – The United States Mission in Nigeria has opened communication with the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, towards clarifying allegations of religious and sectional partisanship in last week’s visit to Nigeria of the U.S. Secretary of State, Mr. John Kerry.

U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry The move came as the embassy, yesterday, affirmed that it did not disparage Christians in the meeting with religious leaders in Sokoto as it claimed that the secretary interacted with both Muslims and Christians during the engagement in Sokoto.

The mission’s assertion came upon mutterings of insensitivity on the part of the United States in publicly engaging the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar, who is the head of the Islamic Umma in Nigeria, without a corresponding interaction with the Christian community.

Responding to the issues raised, in an email to Vanguard, a spokesman at the U.S. Mission in Nigeria, Larry Socha said: “In Sokoto, Secretary Kerry met with both Christian and Muslim leaders to discuss religious tolerance and ways to counter violent extremism affecting all Nigerians.

“The Embassy is in communication with CAN to clarify the media reports and any misunderstandings. In addition to his meeting with Christian and Muslim leaders and the individuals you mentioned below, Secretary Kerry also met with FM Geoffrey Onyeama, U.S. exchange programme alumni, non-governmental anti-corruption activists, young Nigerian women at a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) event, and others while in Nigeria.”

The Secretary General of CAN, Rev. Musa Asake, confirmed that the embassy had already opened communication with the Christian body and that an appointment with the CAN president would be made in the nearest future towards clarifying the issues involved.

Secretary Kerry has now visited Nigeria on three occasions; in January 2015 to Lagos, May 2015 to Abuja for the presidential inauguration, and August 2016 to Sokoto and Abuja. However, the failure of President Barrack Obama, the first African American president to pay a visit to Nigeria, the country with the world’s largest black population has continued to rankle among Nigerians of all faiths.

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