In view of the crisis associated with the secularism of the Nigerian state, the National Conference Committee on Religion has unanimously adopted the establishment of a Religious Equity Commission to oversee religious activities in the country.
In a rare show of solidarity, the committee sitting at the NICON Luxury Hotel venue of the committee sessions of the National Conference debated religious privileges and also took a common stand that government must hands off sponsorship of religious pilgrimages.
According to Professor Layi Erinosho, a committee member and delegate sponsored by the Academy of Social Sciences, a Religious Equity Commission as an organisation will help protect the rights of people so they can practice their religion.
His said: “We are trying to evolve a Nigerian model of religious co-existence in this meeting. We are now proposing a Religious Equity Commission. Yes there is a consensus. Committee members have agreed on that, and I think that’s a way out for the country.
“This organisation will help us to protect the rights of people so that they can practice their religion; so that they cannot be denied opportunity to establish a place of worship and so on.
“We are mindful of the fact that there is a Human Rights Commission and somebody might raise the issue that there is already a human rights commission.
“But we think that religion is so important that there is need for dedication of an organisation to this cause, so that the organisation will be in a position to take on the huge mandate of enforcing the rights of people-like taking people to court and ensuring that somebody whose rights have been violated can seek proper redress.
“We feel that the commission will be able to do advocacy work because in our society, there are many people who are not aware of their rights.
“And where there is awareness they cannot afford to enforce it because they lack the resources. So if you have this commission like the INEC or Human Rights Commission with powers and the force of law, it will be able to take on any organisation or any state that appears to be violating the rights of people wherever they live in this country.”
In his contribution, Prof. Ishaq Oloyede said: “Equity presupposes the possibility of inequity. The question is when does inequity arise? Inequity will arise when anybody does anything that contradicts or is inconsistent with the principles of equity.
“What is the effect against somebody who suffers mishap on account of that particular act? The natural thing to do is that the Religious Equity Commission would have powers to sanction. It is the power of the commission that actually gives it effect and purpose.”