The House of Representatives has passed for second reading a bill seeking to establish the National Religious Harmony Commission.
The bill is co-sponsored by the Speaker, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila and chairman, House Committee on Rules and Business, Hon Hassan Fulata.
Fulata said the bill seeks to provide a statutory framework for the protection of fundamental human rights of Nigerians as it relates to matters of religious freedom and liberty.
After the second reading, the bill was referred to the Committee of the Whole for accelerated legislative action, thereby skipping the committee stage where the public could make input during a public hearing.
As encapsulated in Clause 5 of the proposed bill, the Commission on Religious Harmony when established shall “deal with all matters relating to the protection of the fundamental human right to freedom of religion and belief as guaranteed by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and other international treaties and instruments on human rights to which Nigeria is a signatory and or has ratified.
“Monitor, investigate and prosecute all cases of religious discrimination, victimisation and harassment and take such other actions as it may deem expedient in each circumstance and assist victims of religious discrimination or violations and seek appropriate redress and remedies on their behalf.
“Undertake studies on all matters relating to religious rights and practices and assist the Federal Government in the formulation of appropriate policies on the guarantee of the right to freedom from religious discrimination and victimisation as well as monitor and investigate all cases of religious extremism, hate speeches and utterances meant to incite religious violence and prosecute persons responsible for such hate speeches.
“Detect early warning signals of speeches or acts that can trigger religious tension and take appropriate measures to curtail such; Review the safeguards provided by or under the Constitution or any law for the time being enforce for the protection of religious rights and recommend measures for their effective implementation and enforcement; and review the factors, including acts of bigotry, stereotyping, religious profiling, terrorism, violence, discrimination and religious extremism that inhibit the enjoyment of the free exercise of religious rights and recommend appropriate remedial measures.
“Publish regular reports on the state of religious rights protection and promotion in Nigeria; and create awareness and promote advocacy through seminars, workshops and conferences on religious harmony and inter-faith peaceful co-existence and any other programmes,” among others.