Olusola Fabiyi and Friday Olokor
The Department of State Services has asked the General Overseer, Omega Fire Ministries, Apostle Johnson Suleman, to stop granting interviews.
Investigations by our correspondent also indicated that the cleric was directed to watch his tongue because of the importance attached to his messages by his followers.
A security source at the DSS told The PUNCH that Suleiman was equally told by security operatives to know that his followership cut across Christianity and Islam and should therefore mind the way he speaks.
The pastor was quizzed by the DSS on Monday in Abuja over his alleged sermon asking his followers to kill any herdsmen found within his church premises.
He had claimed that he was warned that unknown herdsmen were planning to either ambush him on the road or invade his church to cause havoc.
A few days after the alleged directive, he was said to have told members of his congregation at a religious crusade in Ekiti State recently to defend themselves if they were attacked by herdsmen.
The Governor of Ekiti State, Mr. Ayodele Fayose, was alleged to have stopped the DSS operatives from arresting the cleric on January 25, thus provoking controversy on the issue.
During his interrogation by the DSS, on Monday night, however, Suleiman, who was accompanied by a former governor, was said to have been told that some unsuspecting Nigerians could cash in on his messages to cause havoc in the country.
The source stated, “We asked him why he made such a provocative statement and he defended himself.
“He (Suleiman) said he made the statement based on available information that some herdsmen were planning to attack him and that he merely asked his church members to defend him and the church property.
“While we didn’t argue with him, we asked him to note that his followership cuts across the two dominant religions, which are Christianity and Islam.
“We also asked him to note that the Federal Government was doing its best to curtail the activities of the herdsmen and also fight crime generally.
“He said he knew, but added that the government needed to do much more and that he was not out to cause religious crisis but was merely expressing his anger at the refusal of government to take actions that he said could reasonably convince Nigerians that it (the government) is not partial.”
The source, who spoke on “strict confidence”, said both parties also agreed not to speak with the media on the outcome of the interrogation.
“None of us would speak on the issue. We need to douse tension in the country. That’s our agreement,” the source added.
In order to avoid further controversies, he explained that this was one of the reasons why the DSS asked Suleman to postpone his coming for interrogation from 10am to 8pm.
“We needed to manage the crisis and the crowd. That was one of the reasons we agreed that his coming should be devoid of any razzmatazz and long convoy,” the source added.
Reacting to his visit, Suleiman, who refused to speak on whether he was banned from speaking during his interrogation, commended the DSS operatives.
He said they exhibited what he described as professionalism in their work.
Suleman’s spokesperson, Mr. Prank Shuaib, who spoke with one of our correspondents on behalf of his boss, said the cleric was happy with the outcome of the interrogation.
He said, “It was a friendly interview that was devoid of any rancour. We need to commend the DSS operatives because they exhibited the highest degree of professionalism during the interview.”
A source added that though the cleric spent about three hours with the security operatives, the discussion between the two parties was less than one hour.
“Apostle Suleman spent about three hours in DSS but his discussion with the DG (Director-General, DSS) about his preaching was 55 minutes. It was a very friendly and cordial meeting between Apostle Suleman and the DG of DSS.
The source confirmed that the cleric was told to be cautious of his words because he had a large audience, including both Christians and Muslims, who watched his satellite channel, Celebration TV.
“The DSS categorically told him that there is the tendency for his followers to misinterpret him while mischief makers could, at the same time, capitalise on it to cause crisis in the country,” he added. (Punchng.com)