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Kwara Gov advocates inter-faith dialogue as panacea for religious crises

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The Kwara State Governor, AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, says inter-faith dialogue is key to peaceful coexistence in Nigeria.

Governor AbdulRazaq stated this after he received the recommendations from the panel of inquiry’s report on the Hijab question at the public-funded Oyun Baptist School, Ijagbo, in the state.

He promised to convene an inter-faith dialogue that would strengthen peace, tolerance and understanding among the different religious faiths in the state.

“As the panel has recommended, the government will definitely commence inter-faith dialogue and look quickly into the report.

“From what you have said before we read the report, it is obvious you have done a thorough job,” the governor  said when he received the panel report from its chairman, Dr Shehu Omoniyi Ibrahim, at the Presidential Lodge, Ilorin.

He added, “We thank you very much. You have done a good job. It’s not an easy job. We do understand the sensitivity of the issues and we will ensure to do what is right.”

AbdulRazaq assured the people of the state that the government would soon reopen the school for academic activities in a peaceful atmosphere.

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“We have been eagerly awaiting the report. The government is in a hurry to reopen the school, but we also want to make sure there’s peace within the community before that is done, ” he said.

Dr Ibrahim called on the government to institute a periodic inter-faith dialogue or bi-annual inter-faith convention to promote religious harmony in the state.

He thanked the governor for finding the committee members worthy of handling the assignment and expressed the hope that the report would be a roadmap to peaceful coexistence in public schools in the state, not only on Hijab but on other conflicting inter-faith matters.

“We reviewed several reports of previous committees set up by the government on religious matters. We note with regret that the only point that could not be agreed upon is still the hijab issue.

“We scrutinised many past circulars, from the Ministry of Education to the chairman of SUBEB, on Hijab matters. We also noted that the issue of Hijab had been promoted to public discussion since 2007, and yet could not be resolved by previous governments,” he said.

The panel recommended, among other things, a review of the policy on grant-aided schools to clarify grey areas; police investigation into the violence that claimed one life and prosecution of any culprits to avoid a repeat; official action on specific individuals indicted of negligence or collusion in the crisis; (government) payment of hospital bills of those injured; and appeasement of the family that lost their son.

The panel also held that the government’s policy allowing any female Muslim child to wear her hijab in all categories of public schools is in order and should stand,  except the Supreme Court later holds otherwise.

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It added that government should restrict religious activities in public schools to those officially conducted by either the Muslim Students Society of Nigeria (MSSN) or the Fellowship of Christian Students (FCS), while disallowing clerics or individuals from outside the schools from conducting such activities in public schools, among other recommendations.

Other members of the panel were Pastor Modupe Agboola; Kwara State Chairperson of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations, Dr. Saudat AbdulBaki; Special Assistant to the Governor on Religion, (Islam) Alhaji Ibrahim Zubair Danmaigoro; Special Assistant to the Governor on Religion, (Christianity), Reverend Timothy Akangbe; and a director in the Ministry of Justice, Ishola Olofere, who served as secretary.

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Dare Akogun

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