…Calls for Religious Tolerance in the country
Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom has again decried the activities of terrorists operating in Nigeria, saying “the country was under siege” and needs to be helped to come out from the pangs of terrorist groups holding the country to ransom.
Governor Ortom also challenged Nigerians in Diaspora to use the international environment with its free press to call attention to the evil going on in their country and speak against religious extremism.
In a statement issued by Rev. Peter Ichull, Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Diaspora Affairs said the Governor also called for religious freedom in Nigeria, insisting that the peoples’ fundamental human rights must be protected by the federal government.
Governor Ortom raised the alarm while addressing Nigerians in Diaspora and friends of Nigeria at the Freedom of Religion and Belief (FoRB) International Ministerial Fringe Events on Nigeria, organized by the Para-Mallam Peace Foundation and the International Peace-Building and Social Justice in London.
He said “The bombing of Churches and killing of worshippers was a calculated attempt to send fear into the living to restrict their religious freedom.”
The Governor stressed that freedom is humanity’s most valuable commodity, which is equally most contested.
According to him, it was for this reason that every just and progressive society must uphold certain freedoms for all people as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covention on Civil and Political Rights, the constitutions of most nations, including Nigeria and other rights’ documents.
While questioning the state of freedom in Nigeria, the governor emphasized that Freedom of Religion and Belief was all-important since it ensures that every individual retains the freedom to worship in peace and security as well as change religion or belief at any time without fear of persecution.
To solve the intractable security problems, the governor said his state was forced to enact “The Benue State Open Grazing Prohibition and Establishment of Ranches Law, 2017” and also put in place other security measures.
In addition to this legislation that has received wide support across the country and copied by other states, Ortom recommended among other things; honesty on the part of President Buhari in political appointments and siting of development projects to reflect the nation’s diversity.
He urged President Buhari to urgently address the flagrant attacks on Christians on account of their faith, belief system and religion.
Ortom also called for proportionate pressure from the international community and advocated for the “Mobilization at the local and international levels to ensure that we roll back this dark cloud of rabid religious intolerance and accompanying violence by radical Islam in Nigeria”.
Speaking further, the Governor urged the International Organization for Peace-Building and Social justice (PSJ UK), organizers of the International Ministerial Fringe Events on Nigeria, and other organizations with like-minded objectives to use their voices to ensure that the Federal Government of Nigeria lives up to its constitutional responsibilities of promoting and upholding Nigeria’s status in words and in actions.
According to Governor Ortom, for the Federal Government to ensure every citizen is given a sense of belonging, Nigerians of all religions and beliefs must be treated equally.
Other recommendations outlined by the Governor for the institution of sustainable peace in the country include “Prosecution of all religious offenders according to the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” and “ensuring the return and rehabilitation of all Internally Displaced persons to their ancestral lands” as well as “payment of full compensation to all victims of religious persecution and insecurity and ensuring that victims of religious persecution get justice”.
Responding, 85-year-old Baroness Caroline Cox, a Member of Parliament in the House of Lords observed that the invitation for Ortom to address such an important gathering was justified as his voice on topical issues in Nigeria had gained international recognition.
Cox assured participants that she would explore ways of ensuring that education and healthcare were a priority for those who are displaced.
The MP, however, lamented that the British government reports on problems affecting Nigeria were too mild and far from reality, saying, “The report, so far, is a government position and not adequate”.
She thanked independent researchers and other public-spirited organizations that have taken the responsibility of unearthing the truth about happenings in Nigeria, assuring that these reports will convince the British government to adopt policies that would help vulnerable people of Nigeria get international attention and justice at home.