April 06, (THEWILL) – The decision of the Nigerian Senate to establish the National Religious Harmony Commission (NRHC), on Wednesday, has stirred reactions among citizens.
According to the Senate, the bill which was considered at Wednesday’s plenary, will promote religious tolerance in the country.
Titled ‘The National Religious Harmony Commission (Establishment) Bill 2022’, the bill which scaled second reading during plenary, was sponsored by the Senator representing Kwara North, Sadiq Suleiman Umar.
Leading debate on the general principles of the bill, Umar said the bill sought to establish the NRHC to promote religious tolerance, peace, and harmony in Nigeria.
He said the United Nations (UN) Charter and several provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) were based on the principles of the dignity and equality of all human beings.
Umar explained that the UN charter sought the promotion and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction to race, sex, language, or religion.
“Having realised the sensitive role religion plays in national security, peace and harmony, the Federal Government wishes to promote inter-religious harmony and understanding”, Umar said.
He added that the move was due to the chequered history of religious intolerance in the Nigerian polity.
According to him, the bill seeks to create an enabling environment for the peaceful coexistence of different religious beliefs within the country as well as provide a forum for public enlightenment and dialogue.
This, he said, would limit controversy and confrontation over allegations of discrimination based on religious identities.
He said it would also check the insidious effects of religious bigotry, profiling, stereotyping, violence, discrimination, extremism, and hate speech.
According to him, the commission will, among others, ensure the protection of the right to religious freedom, assist victims of religious discrimination or violations and investigate cases of religious extremism and hate speeches.
Umar added that the commission would also detect early warning signals of acts capable of triggering religious tension in the country and curtail them.
He said the NRHC would be charged with the responsibility to review safeguards provided in the constitution or any law for the protection of religious rights and recommend measures for their effective implementation and enforcement.
After consideration, the bill was referred by the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, to the Committee on Establishment and Public Service Matters for legislative inputs.
The Senate charged the committee to turn in its report in four weeks.
Reacting to this development, some Nigerians have berated the Senate, wondering if that is the best move at this time where insecurity is rampant in the country, while some, however, commended the Senate.
Irene Osemeka, a Facebook user, urged the lawmakers to lead by examples noting that there is no need to create a commission.
She said, “Religious tolerance must be displayed by the leaders and the elite, it is not about creating institutionalising the effort. We as leaders must be examples, we must preach about tolerance using religious texts and showing it in action. We do not need a ministry or commission to do this.”
Muhammed Kabir Badamasi, praised the Senate for the decision, saying that religious intolerance has been the reason for hatred in the country.
“That would go a long way because that has been the specialty our religious preachers have been missing for years.
“The absence of religious harmony in Nigeria is the root cause of the UNEXPLAINABLE hatred amongst Nigerians, particularly the common men & women”, he said.
“So religious leaders should now carry Bible and Quran to fight terrorists right? Government should play their part well, religious leaders are trying”, Joel Mary Sanii stated.
On his part, Paul Daniel advised members of the National Assembly to work closely with psychiatrist facilities in the country.
“A psychiatrist is needed urgently in NASS to evaluate the brain of lawmakers to know each person’s level of madness.
“How can you go hunting for grasshoppers when your house is on fire? Are you normal?” he inquired.
Felix Magaji said, “Great one. But Nigeria will always be Nigeria except we cleanse ourselves from the tussle for religious superiority. After the creation of the commission, the question of who will head the commission will begin, thereby defeating the aim of its existence.”
Also, Yusuf Ademola Adeniyi alleged that it is “another commission to syphon public funds. We don’t want that please, religious harmony is already in existence among the masses through people with humanity.”
Olawale Rahman slammed them saying they should get to work immediately.
“You guys are becoming jobless. Can’t you people do something about the insecurity in Nigeria, our light issue, the ASUU strike, making food cheap for the poor”? he queried.
In a related development, a bill seeking to amend the Federal Colleges of Education Act to establish the Federal College of Education Arochukwu, Abia, also scaled through second reading.
The bill seeks to convert the existing College of Education (Technical) Arochukwu, into a federal college of education.
The bill sponsored by Sen. Orji Uzor Kalu (APC, Abia ), after its consideration, was referred to the Committee on Tertiary Institutions and TETfund for further work.
The committee was also given four weeks to report back to the chamber in plenary.