Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom has once again condemned terrorist activities in Nigeria, claiming that “the country was under siege” and that it needed assistance to recover from the pangs of terrorist groups holding the country hostage.
Governor Ortom also challenged Nigerians in Diaspora to use the international environment, with its free press, to draw attention to the evil that is occurring in their country and to speak out against religious extremism.
The Governor called for religious freedom in Nigeria in a statement issued by Rev. Peter Ichull, Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Diaspora Affairs, insisting that the federal government protect the people’s fundamental human rights.
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Governor Ortom issued the warning while speaking to Nigerians in Diaspora and friends of Nigeria at the Freedom of Religion and Belief (FoRB) International Ministerial Fringe Events in Nigeria, which were co-hosted by the Para-Mallam Peace Foundation and the International Peace-Building and Social Justice in London.
“The bombing of churches and the killing of worshippers was a calculated attempt to instil fear in the living in order to limit their religious freedom,” he explained.
The Governor emphasised that freedom is humanity’s most valuable commodity, but also its most contentious.
According to him, this is why 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.
While questioning the state of freedom in Nigeria, the governor emphasised the importance of Religious and Belief Freedom, which ensures that every individual retains the freedom to worship in peace and security, as well as the freedom to change religion or belief at any time without fear of persecution.
In order to address the intractable security issues, the governor stated that his state was forced to pass “The Benue State Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranch Establishment Law, 2017,” as well as other security measures.
Ortom also advocated for President Buhari’s honesty in political appointments and the citing of development projects that reflect the nation’s diversity.
He urged President Buhari to address the flagrant attacks on Christians based on their faith, belief system, and religion as soon as possible.
Ortom also advocated for “local and international mobilisation to ensure that the dark cloud of rabid religious intolerance and accompanying violence by radical Islam in Nigeria is rolled back.”
The Governor urged the International Organization for Peace-Building and Social Justice (PSJ UK), organisers of the International Ministerial Fringe Events on Nigeria, and other organisations with similar goals to use their voices to ensure that the Federal Government of Nigeria fulfils its constitutional responsibilities of promoting and upholding Nigeria’s status in both words and actions.
According to Governor Ortom, in order for the Federal Government to provide a sense of belonging to every citizen, Nigerians of all religions and beliefs must be treated equally.
Other recommendations made by the Governor for the establishment of long-term peace in the country include “prosecution of all religious offenders in accordance with 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, as well as ensuring that victims of religious persecution receive justice.”
In response, Baroness Caroline Cox, a House of Lords Member, stated that Ortom’s invitation to speak at such an important gathering was justified because his voice on current issues in Nigeria had gained international recognition.