NOSCEF frowns at skewed religious demographics
THE Chairman of Christian Elders Forum of Northern States (NOSCEF), Mr. Olaiya Phillips, has cautioned against the use of inadequate statistics to create more tensions between Muslims and Christians.
Phillips, who was reacting to an article titled ”U.S.: Nigeria ineffective in quelling violence” in some online publications last week, faulted the attribution of 50% of the nation’s population to Muslims and 40% to Christians.
He described the statistics purportedly generated from the latest United States’ Department of State Report on Religious Freedom as “false and insulting to the Nigerian Christian community.”
Page 67 of the 2014 annual report, Phillips pointed out, stated that “Nigeria’s population of 170 million people is equally divided between Muslims and Christians.”
He also cited the official webpage of the Federal Republic of Nigeria stating that “45% of the population is Christian, 45% Muslim and the rest 10% is a mixture of quite a few indigenous religions.”
The Christian leader said “Accurate Calculations of our exact population – never mind the religious beliefs of our people – are hard enough to come by.
“Research by the Pew Research Centre Forum on Religion and Public Life in 2011 estimated the number of Nigerian Christians to be 80.5m – roughly 50% of the population, which with the 50% of Muslims would not leave any room for the millions of Nigerians who believe in indigenous religions.”
He said citing religious demographic at a time the country is fighting the terror war is a great disservice to national unity.
“Nigerians do give a great importance to religion. Publishing incorrect – or at the very least inaccurate – statistics regarding the country’s demographics at a time when the Boko Haram insurgency in the North is attempting to raise tensions between Christian and Muslim communities, is both insensitive and irresponsible – especially to the communities on the front line of the insurgency in the North,” he stressed.
Phillips stated that Muslims and Christians in Nigeria are evenly populated, saying any attempt to paint one as more populous than the other should be discouraged.
According to him: “We all know that the two largest religious groups in the country are Muslims and Christians – each with their many denominations. Both groups are roughly the same size. This we know and should remember.
“But the reporting of incorrect or inaccurate information only helps to drive wedges between our communities. This is exactly what Boko Haram wants.”