The Nigeria Inter Religious Council NIREC held its first quarterly meeting this year in Uyo. The venue of the event was the Le Meridiene Golf Resort, Uyo the Akwa Ibom capital from February 11- 13 2013. The road from the airport to the city was straight and smooth. It was free of potholes and other distractions.
The streets were clean and the schools we drove past were well maintained. The transformation of the state capital was remarkable and visitors coming to the state cannot help but notice it. Members were received on arrival by Professor Is-haq Oloyede, the former Vice Chancellor of the University of Ilorin and National Coordinator of NIREC.
The fifty members of NIREC who attended the event under the Co-Chairmanship of the Sultan of Sokoto, who is also the President-General of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), His Eminence, Alhaji Muhammadu Sa'ad Abubakar, and the President of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, paid a courtesy call on the Governor of the State, Dr Godswill Akpabio at the Government House and were introduced to the Governor and members of his Executive Council. From there they proceeded to the Ibom Hall in the heart of the city for the opening ceremony which was attended by a cross section of the Muslim and Christian community in Akwa Ibom.
In his welcome address, the Governor said his administration has focused on meeting the needs of the people, promoting social justice and non discrimination. Education is free for all children of those residing in the state. As he spoke, the audience cheered and sang his praises as a detribalised leader of the people.
A paper titled "International Relations and Terrorism" was presented by Professor Samuel Egwu, an accomplished political scientist from the of the University of Jos. The paper explored the international dimensions of terrorism and highlighted the relationship between violence and underdevelopment. He underscored the fact that peace and security are necessary ingredients for the sustenance of democratic principles and economic development of the country. Prof Egwu said equity and justice are the basis of peace in any society and emphasised that the outbreak of political violence is strongly associated with poverty, underdevelopment and mal-distribution of resources. An interactive session followed the presentation where the NIREC Co Chairmen responded to issues from the audience. They called on the people to promote interfaith harmony and unity among the various groups, emphasizing that God had a purpose in bringing all the diverse people of this country together.
In a communiqué issued at the end of the meeting, NIREC observed as follows:
- No religion teaches violence;
-The persistent loss of lives and property occasioned by acts of terrorism, pipeline vandalisation, communal strife, kidnapping, armed robbery, rape, political and religious intolerance in several parts of this country have become very worrisome; These acts of terrorism and the attendant problems have assumed frightening dimension threatening the cordial relationship between two main religions in the country thereby working against national unity and cohesion
-The sacredness of human life must be safeguarded at all times;
-The Council remains an essential medium in addressing issues that affect the corporate existence of Nigeria as an inseparable entity.
-Religious and Traditional leaders have critical and major roles to play in promoting political harmony, peace, stability and correcting societal ills;
-Reiterated its appeals to political, religious and traditional leaders at all levels to desist from making offensive and divisive comments capable of heating up the polity;
-Urged political, traditional and religious leaders to imbibe the spirit of courage to speak the truth at all times, be forthright in all their utterances and demand accountability from the Governments at all levels;
-Appealed to both Muslim and Christian religious and traditional leaders to make concerted efforts to reach out to the citizenry in order to dissuade them from intolerance.
Recommended continuous interfaith dialogue amongst adherents of the major religious.
On the Acts of Terrorism, Violence and Vandalism, NIREC condemned in strong terms the orgies of terrorism, violence and vandalism that have permeated the country and calls on the perpetrators to desist from their evil deeds;
-It also condemned the vicious attack on HRH Alhaji Dr Ado Bayero, the Emir of Kano and his entourage and called for a halt of such dastardly acts;
-Expressed concern on the killing of the 10 health workers in Kano, Kano State, and the killing of 3 North Korean doctors in Postikum, Yobe State; the doctors were discharge of their duties and commiserated with the families of the those killed and prayed that they be strengthened in their moments of grief. The Council the called on the Federal, State and Local Governments to detect, expose and prosecute those responsible for these reprehensible acts;
-NIREC also expressed concern about preachers who promote hate and violence urging that such preachers should be identified and appropriately prosecuted;
-The Council then called on the Federal Government to exhibit the political will to tackle all forms of security challenges using its relevant agencies;
-It called for the establishment of Police Community Relations Committees where they do not presently exist adding that security agencies should be appropriately funded, the personnel adequately trained, equipped and motivated at all times for maximum results.
-The Council recommended that inter-service collaboration should be encouraged for effective and efficient results and urged Governments to focus on designing and implementing pro-poor policies and developing an inclusive framework that integrates the poor and the vulnerable into the process of decision-making in order to discourage terrorism.
-On the ongoing review of the Constitution, NIREC appealed to the National Assembly to let the will of the people prevail and urged the legislators to make laws that would ensure that no Nigerian is made a "Settler" anywhere in the country.
On corruption, NIREC strongly condemned the extent at which corruption has eaten deep into the polity and urged Governments at all levels to put in place strategies that would ensure that corrupt people are severely punished. It also urged Government to promote good governance and be accountable to the people.