By Ikechukwu Okaforadi
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.