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Confab: Tempers rise as delegates clash over religion

Tempers rose on Tuesday at the venue of the ongoing national conference in Abuja as adherents of the two major religions engaged in a debate over the dominance of Islam in the 1999 constitution.

But the intervention of the leadership of the ongoing national conference saved the situation.

The drama ensued when two Christian delegates representing Christian Leaders, Bishop of Kafanchan Diocese of Catholic Church, Joseph Bagobiri, and Pastor Emmanuel Bosun (Ogun State) raised an issue which they described as unfair treatment of Christians and Christianity in the country.

This angered their Muslim counterparts who opposed their submissions.

They had both submitted that the constitution of Nigeria was skewed in favour of Islam and Muslims with a call on delegates to ensure that the imbalance was corrected.

Bagobiri  opened the debate on religion. He gave a detailed analysis of how the Nigerian constitution did not have any mention of Christianity or the church, but Islam was repeatedly mentioned.

He also argued that the adoption of a particular religion by states must be done away with, adding that in a country like Nigeria, neutrality was needed.

According to him, since Islamic courts have been created, it was only normal to extend the hands of fellowship to Christianity in order to create a fair state.

He called for the establishment of Ecclesiastical Courts to handle Christian-related disputes, just like Sharia courts.

Bagobiri said funding should also be provided for the Christian courts, just like Sharia courts so that Christians could have a sense of belonging in their own country.

In his contribution, Bosun argued that the conference must address religious imbalance in the country adding that the conference needed to address religion squarely before it destroys Nigerians.

He said, “In the 1999 Constitution, Shariah was mentioned 73 times, Grand Khadi 54 times, Islam 28 times , Muslims  10 times and there is no single mention of  Christ, Christian, Christianity or church. Some mischievous elements are taking these lapses in the Constitution to come to the ungodly decision that probably that the state is an Islamic state.

“So what are Christians doing here? 100 of our churches were burnt down, Christians are being killed. In fact it has reached the stage of genocide. I will cite one example – In one denomination in Plateau State, the Women’s Fellowship as at 2001 had 500 registered widows  and by 2008, they had 900 registered widows. By February 2014, they had 25,000 registered widows.”

But a former Governor of Kebbi State, Adamu Aliero, citing Order 9 rule 7, raised a Point of Order.

He said, “A delegate must confine his contribution to the subject under discussion and will not introduce matters irrelevant thereto. The speaker on the floor is bringing issues that are not related to Mr Presidents speech. I therefore want the Chairman to call him to order. He is bringing diversionary issues that are very sentimental.”

But the Deputy Chairman of the conference, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, said Bosun could not be ruled out of order since others had been allowed to speak, he would only plead that delegates should mind their contributions so as not to offend the sensibilities of other people.

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