Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, on Thursday, called for religious freedom for all Nigerians.
Governor Ortom stated this in London when he addressed Nigerians in Diaspora and friends of Nigeria at the Freedom of Religion and Belief International Ministerial Fringe Events on Nigeria organised by Para-Mallam Peace Foundation and the International Peace-Building and Social Justice.
In a statement issued on Friday and made available to journalists in Makurdi by his Senior Special Assistant on Diaspora Affairs, Peter Ichull, the governor maintained that freedom is humanity’s most valuable commodity, and equally it’s most contested.
The Governor however submitted that Nigeria, as a country is presently under siege due to the activities of terrorists with its attendant bombing of churches and killing of clergy and worshippers, adding that all these were to send fear into the living to restrict their religious freedom
“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 covenant on civil and political rights, the constitutions of most nations, including Nigeria and other rights’ documents,” Ortom said.
The governor challenged Nigerians in the Diaspora to use the international environment with its free press to draw attention to problems in their country and speak against religious extremism.
To solve the intractable security problems, Ortom said his state was forced to enact the ‘Benue State Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law 2017’ and other security measures.
The governor listed steps Nigerians expect the Federal Government to take to include: Treating all religions and beliefs equally; prosecuting all religious offenders according to the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; Ensuring the return and rehabilitation of all Internally Displaced persons to their ancestral lands, and 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 (House of Lords) observed that the invitation to Governor 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. She however lamented that the British government reports on problems affecting Nigeria are too mild and far from reality, saying, “the report so far is a government position and not adequate” and thanked independent researchers and other public-spirited organisations who have taken the responsibility of unearthing the truth about happenings in Nigeria.
Cox gave the assurance that such reports will convince the British government to adopt policies that would help vulnerable people of Nigeria get international attention and justice at home.