Some of the delegates insist that Nigeria remains a secular state.
A delegate to the ongoing National Conference has called on Nigerians to seek God through prayer and fasting in order to solve the country’s many problems.
The suggestion was made during the consideration of the report of the Conference Committee on Religion, Co-Chaired by Nurudeen Lemu and Felix Ajakaiye.
A delegate from Benue State, Jack Tilley-Gyado, strongly canvassed that a three-day fasting be declared during which the Conference would offer prayers to God to intervene in Nigeria’s intractable problems.
Mr. Tilley-Gyado said many Nigerians who claim to be adherents of the two major religions in the country were fakes because they do not practice what Christianity and Islam teach.
He maintained many Nigerians have hidden under the guise of religion to commit atrocious crimes against innocent persons and, therefore, called on the people to go back to God.
Mr. Tilley-Gyado said, “I know that no human being can keep God’s rules based on the holy books. But the problem is that we are not reading them, we are not practicing what the holy books teach them. We swear falsely.
“It is not the number of times that you pray and the religion you practice. It is how you relate with God. You cannot act smart to go to heaven. Let us go back to the core values of love.
“Ladies and gentlemen, if we leave this Conference; doing what we would wish our neighbours do unto us, this country would be better.
“Please do not serve lunch for three days. Let us declare a three-day fasting and pray to God for this country. We will achieve peace and those who are overweight will lose weight.”
Also speaking on the matter, Mike Ozekhome said many have used religion to cause havoc in the country even when the Bible and the Quran clearly define the tenets of Christianity and Islam respectively.
Mr. Ozekhome, however, insisted that the government should not be involved in matters pertaining to religion in view of the provision of Section 10 of the Constitution.
He disagreed with the recommendation of the Committee for the establishment of the Religious Equity Commission, saying that the responsibility of the proposed commission can be carried out by the National Human Rights Commission.
“The very hard working Nigerians are not recognised while those who steal billions are being awarded with degrees and national honours. Mr. Chairman, I suggest that we should do something to empower the poor in Nigeria,” Mr. Ozekhome said.
In his contribution, Ambrose Okoli complained about the indiscriminate erection of religious places of worships in the country.
“We must keep places of worships from residential areas and from highways. When people shout and scream and wake people from their sleep and block highways, then we must do something to check the situation,” he said.
Another delegate, Femi Okurounmu said the Committee shied away from insisting on the secularity of Nigeria.
He said: “I want to propose that we come out strongly to say that Nigeria should remain a secular nation.”
With the secularity of the country, he said, the government should hands-off every religious activities including sponsoring of pilgrimages.
A delegate, Yaro Mamman, said there is no compulsion in Islam but suggested that Friday be declared a work-free day for Moslems just as Sunday is observed a work-free day for Christians.
“Mr. Chairman, there is no compulsion in Islam. If a child is converted, the conversion cannot stand unless the parents agree. God does not make mistakes, he created us white, black, Igbo, Yoruba and Hausa.”
While presenting the Committee’s report earlier, Mr. Lemu had highlighted some of the major religious crisis in the country and the blame game among adherents of religious bodies in the country.
To ensure peaceful co-existence in the country, the Committee recommended the establishment of the Religious Equity Commission to protect existing religious freedom as guaranteed under the Constitution.
Mr. Lemu said, “There are so many cases of religious violence in Nigeria. From Ibadan to Shagamu, Lagos to Ife, Kano and Kaduna and even in the South-East, we have witnessed violence. It’s too much and it is not reducing. Whatever we were doing before is not helping.
“We have prepared a draft bill for an Act to provide for the establishment of a Religious Equity Commission and other matters related therewith.”
The Committee stressed the need for the strengthening of the National Orientation Agency, NOA, as well as the promotion of traditional values of love, honesty, and respect for elders, kindness and peaceful-coexistence.