National Security: Senate Moves to Establish Commission on Religious Harmony

The Senate, on Wednesday, considered a bill to establish the National Religious Harmony Commission.

The National Religious Harmony Commission (Establishment) Bill 2022, sponsored by Senator Sadiq Suleiman Umar (Kwara North), scaled second reading during plenary.

Leading debate on the general principles of the bill, Umar the piece of legislation seeks to establish the NRHC to serve as an intervention to promote religious tolerance, peace and harmony in Nigeria.

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

He explained that the UN charter seeks 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 due to the Chequers history of religious intolerance in the Nigerian polity”, Senator Umar said.

He stated that the bill seeks to create an enabling environment for the peaceful coexistence of different religious beliefs within the Nigerian nation as well as provide a forum for public enlightenment and dialogue.

The lawmaker, noted that doing so would limit controversy and confrontation over allegations of discriminations based on religious identities to check the insidious effects of religious bigotry, profiling, stereotyping, violence, discrimination, extremism and hate speech.

According to him, the Commission would, among others, ensure the protection of right to religious freedom, assist victims of religious discrimination or violations, investigate cases of religious extremism and hate speeches, and detect and curtail early warning signals of acts capable of triggering religious tension in the country.

He added that the NRHC would be charged with the responsibility to review safeguards provided under 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 by the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, to the Committee on Establishment and Public Service Matters for legislative inputs.

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 State, by converting the existing College of Education (Technical) Arochukwu, to a Federal College of Education, also scaled second reading on Wednesday.

The bill was sponsored by Senator Orji Uzor Kalu (Abia North).

The bill after 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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