The Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC), under the leadership of the Co-Chairmen, His Eminence, Archbishop Daniel Okoh, President, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), and His Eminence, Alh....
June 15, 2023 more
The Nigeria Inter-Religious Council held its first quarterly meeting for the year 21018 after a long lull. The meeting which took place from 21st – 23rd March, 2018 at Sheraton Hotel Abuja was long awaited for and was graced by eminent personalities which include; the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Gida Mustapha, representative of the IGP, DIG Shuaibu Lawal Gambo, the United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Ambassador W. Stuart Syminton, representative of the Governor of Kwara State, Deputy Chief of Staff Mr. Leke Ogungbe among others.
The following presentations were made during the opening ceremony of the Council meeting:-
I welcome the Sultan of Sokoto and the President-General of Jama’ atul Nas-ril Islam (JNI), His Eminence Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III, who also is a Co-Chairman of this Council, the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council to this meeting. All eminent servants of God and delegates to this long awaited meeting and government officials here are also welcome. We give God the glory for bringing all of us here safety and pray that after a successful deliberation, we would all return home safety.
We have waited for long for this meeting to conve3ne. At a time, the government said that they did not have money to facilitate it because they did not put it in the budget. However, we are grateful to the New Secretary to the Federal Government, Mr. Boss Mustapha who quickly facilitated how this meeting can hold immediately he got to office.
You all know that the essence of this meeting is to foster meaningful dialogue from time to time between the two most dominant religious groups in Nigeria (Christianity and Islam) so as to enhance peaceful co-existence between the two religious adherents. We know that we need peace in our nation for development and progress. For some years now, this peace appeared to have eluded us. We have crises of different proportions to the extent that bloodletting has almost become a normal thing now in our nation. To move forward, we at this meeting need to put our acts together and chart the path to peace and mutual relationship along religious and ethnic divides. This is the only thing that can safe our nation from self destruction or full blown war.
There is no nation without its problem but the strength of a nation to overcome its problem depends upon the willingness of its leaders (both religious and temporal) to address sincerely the root causes of the problems. Our major problem today in Nigeria is insecurity which ranges from religious to ethnic and of course, socio-economic. These include the Boko Haram religious insurgency, herdsmen’s attacks, cattle rustling problem, kidnapping for ransom of outright killing, armed robbery, ritual killing and Niger Delta Militancy. Some of these problems were caused by bad leadership of the past and present and failure of we the religious leaders to rightly guide our followers. We have no choice now in Nigeria than for all of us to come together as we are doing now to address them if our nation would continue to exist or become theatre of war.
The Political class and the religious leaders need to dialogue from time to time and address the factors that contributed to the problems confronting our nation enumerated above in order for all of us to experience peace and progress.
We appreciate the commitment of this government to the wiping out of the Boko Haram insurgency in the nation especially in the North – East. We salute the courage of the gallant armed forces of Nigeria and other security agencies at confronting this evil frontally and the level of success achieved so far. However, Boko Haram appeared to have retreated in order to change tactic. The recent capture of the Dapchi School girls and the bombing of soft targets especially in the North- East up till date attest to this. The government is therefore challenged to do more to end insurgency in the nation.
Our Muslim brothers and Sisters also need to sit together and address how some of these guys within them took religious teaching tto far into reckless killings of others like this. The remote and immediate causes within and outside religious enclave ought to be identified in order to prevent future occurrence. I am saying this because these people claim publicity that they are fighting Jihad and the entrenchment of Sharia throughout Nigeria. We on the other hand know that many Muslim are peace loving and do not subscribe at all to what they are doing. All of us, both Muslim and Christians have suffered enough over this insurgency and we must bring it to an end before it is too late.
Another huge problem in our hands which may be more devastating than Boko Haram insurgency is herdsmen’s attacks almost all over the federation. They have the world rating as the 4th most dangerous armed terrorist group in the world. I am not sure today if they have not caused more destruction of lives and communities than Boko Haram in Nigeria. The worst thing is that they are in every community in Nigeria killing people. The government has to rise to its responsibility by probing the source of ammunition of all armed groups and prosecuting those behind the supply. They need to as well recover all the ammunition they carry about so that they might not cause further havoc.
The present exchange rate of naira to dollar and other foreign currencies and the mass unemployment in our nation must be addressed by government in order to douse the tension in the society. An idle mind is the devils workshop. Many of the problems of insecurity we are talking about may be traceable to economic deprivation. We cannot afford to allow our youth to be roaming the streets without gainful employment.
From our end as religious leaders, I will suggest Inter-Religious Education and empowerment programmes for our youths as ways of dousing the tension in our society. Inter-Religious education would allow all religious adherents in Nigeria to have a working knowledge of what people of other faiths within their society hold as pillar of their faith and respect them for it. This would remove stereotypes about other religious that come from ignorance. This can happen at different levels. It could be inform of civic education and history as we used to do it in those days in primary and secondary schools. Each religious group being given equal opportunity to lead such devotion. Should we fail to do this, the third religion of today, secularism, which is godlessness, would wipe all religions away in our nation.
We should also warn religious teachers and preachers to avoid provocative teachings and preaching which could set the nation on fire along religious lines.
All mosques and churches have to compliment the efforts of government by deliberately establishing empowerment programmes that would enable the unemployed youths acquire skills that can get them gainfully employed in order to meet their daily needs.
Let me conclude by underscoring the fact that in doing pilgrimage together as multi-ethnic and multi-religious nation, we need the acceptance of one another as a basic necessity. Furthermore, there must be mutual respect for one another irrespective of religious or ethnic differences. No one must parade himself or herself as better than others. In this same vein, there must be fair play in the scheme of things and there must be justice for all. If we adhere to these things and are sincere by carrying out our joint resolutions, it shall be well with us all in the nation. Ameen.
Thank you for your patience in listening. I wish us once again fruitful deliberations.
May I, on behalf of the Nigeria police force thank and appreciate the organizers of this meeting for their Nationalistic and pragmatic intent aimed at maintaining and sustaining the peace and unity of Nigeria.
Indeed, the import of the meeting cannot be over-emphasized as it would afford our respected religious and traditional leaders the ample and very important opportunity of brainstorming and interfacing on wide range of issues that will enhance peace, unity and peaceful co-existence which will ultimately lead to increase socio-economic activities, improved security and national development in the country.
I must eulogize the idea of the coming together of our religious and traditional leaders in charting this course for the good of Nigeria in view of the prevailing security challenges bedevilling the country ranging from IPOB agitations in the South-East, Militancy struggle in the Niger Delta, Terrorism in the North-East, Kidnapping in virtually all parts of Nigeria, Farmers/Herders clashes in states like Benue, Taraba, Zamfara, Plateau, Niger, Kogi and states in the South-East and South-Western part of the Country.
These security challenges have resulted in mass displacement of people mostly from the agrarian communities of the affected states with a lot people becoming refugees in their own country with resultant threat of shortage of food and food security as recently expressed by World Food Project (WFP). Also the displacement of families has the attendant implication of the disruption of academic endeavours of children and youths within school age.
It is hoped that this meeting coming at the heels of President, General Muhammadu Buhari’s visit and on-the spot assessments of troubled areas of Borno, Yobe Taraba and Benue states will attract the attention of this august gathering and spur this meeting meeting to consider areas of cooperation with the government to achieve everlasting peace.
SECURITY: Security is the bedrock of any society. It is responsible for its growth socially, economically and culturally. Neglect of these factors of development often leads to all manners of social ills including violent crimes such as witnessed in Nigeria today. It includes crimes like armed robbery, cultism, kidnapping, insurgency, and terrorism etc. Lack of security of lives and properties of the citizenry is a severe hindrance to meaningful development. Security also entails the state of being free from danger, threat, attack or injury. It equally entails the adoption of measures that nullifies the presence of any form of the variables mentioned above. Security is a very critical factor and vital to the economic, social, political and development of any country. The security apparatus of any given nation is statutorily instituted for the protection of lives and properties making economic activities possible.
NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT: It includes full growth and expansion of our industries, agriculture education, social religious and cultural institutions. It can be best defined as the all-round and balanced development of different aspects and facets of the nation viz. Political, economic, social, cultural, scientific and material.
Moreover, national development implies development of a nation as whole. It also includes the total effect of all citizen forces in addition to the stock of physical, human resources, knowledge and skill. National development is growth plus change.
From time immemorial, the religious and traditional institutions have played pivot roles in charting the course of peace, unity and peaceful co-existence within our communities creating a conducive atmosphere for socio economic activities such as food production, animal husbandry, industrialization, educational activities, religious and socio-cultural activities. The Pride of place of religious institutions as ordained by the creator is not contestable. As the divine arbiter of our cultural and traditional heritages, these institutions have consistently operated as the driving force in the galvanization of the peace, unity, peaceful co-existence, security and development in the country irrespective of our diversity.
In view of the above, the Nigeria Police Force at this juncture will like to seize this opportunity to appeal to our Spiritual and Royal fathers to intensify efforts in preaching peace, unity and peaceful co-existence among all Nigerians. The roles you play in this instance will to a large extent encourage the institutionalization of Community Policing Principles across the nation.
We want to further appeal to our Spiritual and Royal fathers to continue to play their co-coordinating roles as the rallying point for the Police Eminent Persons Forum nation – wide.
The spiritual roles of religious institutions and leaders in any nation cannot be over emphasized. The tenets of religion as inspirationally presented in the Holy Qur’an and the Holy Bible contain all the instructions to guide mankind through the preaching and teaching of the various religions. Thus, each and every religious leader gathered here holds in his hands the tool/capacity to galvanize the populace towards one brotherhood, love and peace, through the way you present the word of God to your congregation.
Since our dear nation is not under any direct threat of external aggressions, therefore emphasis should be on issues that will make us bond together and eliminate all forms of security threats that may jeopardize our internal peace and security which may in turn lead to decrease economic activities, loss of revenue and destruction of our economic infrastructures by ourselves.
However, the Police wish to appeal to the conscience of some our religious preachers who, in the style of preaching tend to incite rather than assuage their followers. They should rather concentrate on messages and sermons of building bridges of love, peace, tolerance, forgiveness, unity and peaceful co-existence which are the main message of Almighty Allah.
Furthermore, the partnership and collaboration the Police seek with this very important gathering is joining of hands to give succor to the people of this country, sensitize your followers and subjects on the issue of security consciousness and tolerance.
Finally, the Police will continue to join hands with religious leaders in ensuring Peace, Unity and Peaceful Co-existence, security and national development in the country.
After speeches and presentations were made, there was a question answer session in which different stakeholders made their various contributions. The Council later proceeded to a closed door session in which a Communiqué was issued at the end.
His grace, Pastor Ayo Oritsajafor, CFR a former CAN President was a Co-Chair of the Council from: January, 2011 to 2016
At present His Eminence, Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar, CFR, mni, the Sultan of Sokoto and President General NSCIA and His Eminence Rev. Dr. Samson O.A. Ayokunle National President CAN Co-Chair the meeting, while Professor Is-haq Oloyede OFR, FNAL, the current Secretary – General NSCIA, remains as the National Co-ordinator/Executive Secretary.