Senate moves to establish commission on religious harmony


Ahmad Lawan, Senate President

The Senate, at Wednesday plenary, considered a bill seeking to establish the National Religious Harmony Commission (NRHC).

The National Religious Harmony Commission (Establishment) Bill 2022, sponsored by Sen. Suleiman Umar (APC Kwara), passed the second reading during the plenary.

Leading debate on the general principles of the bill, Umar said the bill sought to establish the NRHC to promote religious tolerance, peace, and harmony in Nigeria.

He said the United Nations (UN) Charter and several provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) were based on the principles of the dignity and equality of all human beings.

Umar explained that the UN charter sought the promotion and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction to race, sex, language, or religion.

“Having realised the sensitive role religion plays in national security, peace and harmony, the Federal Government wishes to promote inter-religious harmony and understanding, Umar said.

He added that the move was due to the chequered history of religious intolerance in the Nigerian polity.

According to him, the bill seeks to create an enabling environment for the peaceful coexistence of different religious beliefs within the country as well as provide a forum for public enlightenment and dialogue.

This, he said, would limit controversy and confrontation over allegations of discrimination based on religious identities.

He said it would also check the insidious effects of religious bigotry, profiling, stereotyping, violence, discrimination, extremism, and hate speech.

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According to him, the commission will, among others, ensure the protection of the right to religious freedom, assist victims of religious discrimination or violations and investigate cases of religious extremism and hate speeches.

Umar added that the commission would also detect early warning signals of acts capable of triggering religious tension in the country and curtail them.

He said the NRHC would be charged with the responsibility to review safeguards provided in the constitution or any law for the protection of religious rights and recommend measures for their effective implementation and enforcement.

The bill, after consideration, was referred to the Committee on Establishment and Public Service Matters for legislative input.

The committee was given four weeks to turn in its report.

In a related development, a bill seeking to amend the Federal Colleges of Education Act to establish the Federal College of Education Arochukwu, Abia, also scaled through second reading.

The bill seeks to convert the existing College of Education (Technical) Arochukwu, into a federal college of education.

The bill sponsored by Sen. Orji Uzor Kalu (APC, Abia ), after its consideration, was referred to the Committee on Tertiary Institutions and TETfund for further work.

The committee was also given four weeks to report back to the chamber in plenary.

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