Protect Interest of All Religions, Traditionalists Tells Tinubu

The International Council for Ifa Religion (ICIR), has called on President Bola Tinubu to protect the interest of all religions in the country as enshrined in the nation’s constitution.

The council in an open letter signed by President, ICIR (Worldwide), Oluwo Solagbade Popoola, lamented the alleged harassment and intimidation of their members by the dominant religious beliefs in Nigeria.

He said setting aside certain days as public holidays for Christians and Muslims to celebrate their special festivals such as Christmas, Easter, Good Friday, Eid al-Fitr, Ramadan Eid al-Adha, Mawlid among others and granting holidays to two religions, out of many, in a religiously diversified nation like Nigeria, was a contradiction to the secular character of Nigeria as established and recognised by the constitution.

In the letter, he reminded Mr. President of the Section 10 of the Constitution of Nigeria which he noted unequivocally stated that “The Government of the Federation or of a State shall not adopt any religion as a State Religion.”

“This provision prohibits the establishment of a state religion and affirms the secular nature of the Nigerian state. ‘Section 42 of Nigeria’s constitution prohibits discrimination based on religion and states that no Nigerian can be discriminated against on the basis of their religion or belief”, the ICIR chief counselled.

“ICIR hereby call on the President to, as matter of fairness and equity “establish a legal framework that recognizes and protects the rights of individuals to practice traditional religions. This should also protect sacred sites and access to such places. “It should also allow religious ceremonies and rituals, and ensure that traditional religious practitioners are not subjected to discrimination or persecution.

Nigeria Police and other Security Agencies should be authorized to arrest and prosecute anyone who tries to harass or intimidate any individual with the view preventing them from free exercise of their freedom of religion or right to affirm their individual belief whether in public or in private. “Bearing the above in mind, it may interest Your Excellency to know that traditional religion as well as its practitioners have continued to suffer persecutions and harassment in the hands of the two dominant religions in Nigeria which are Islam and Christianity.

Successive administrations of government across all tiers have also continued to discriminate to a large extent against traditional religions.

“The case of intimidation and harassment of a practitioner of traditional religion by the royal envoy of the Emir of Ilorin is a recent and fresh example. Like messengers of death, some Muslims leaders had besieged the home of an Ọṣun Priestess and threatened her never to practice her faith within specified areas of Ilorin.

“Up till this moment, the Nigerian Police and the Kwara State Government are yet to take any reasonable action that could deter such illegality.

Yet Section 42 of the Nigeria’s constitution prohibits discrimination based on religion and states that no Nigerian can be discriminated against on the basis of their religion or belief. “This provision also emphasizes the equality of all citizens irrespective of their religious affiliation”, he said.