Nigeria’s Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo has called on citizens, no matter their religion to join in the fight against violent extremism.
He said doing so would help sustain peace and give room for more religious tolerance and development.
Professor Osinbajo made the call at the opening of the first National Judicial Roundtable on the intersection between Law and Religion, which took place a the National Judicial Council, Abuja.
Dwelling on the theme of the first National Judicial Round table on the Intersection between Law and Religion, the Vice President said all must join hands to deal with issues of violent extremism, emanating from religion.
“My contributions to the debate emanate from three personal beliefs; first, that multi-religious, multi-ethnic societies must accept the arbitration of law and its religiously neutral institutions for the maintenance of peaceful co-existence.
Secondly, a secular state where freedom of religion is allowed and rigorously protected is fundamental to an orderly society. Thirdly, the law and religion must protect the fundamental and inalienable right of every person to life in all its social and political implications,” he said.
Professor Osinbajo said the rest of society who reject the bloodthirsty approach to spreading a set of beliefs must be prepared to sustain a war against extremism which must lead to the military defeat of its forces but more importantly victory in the ideological battle.
He said the ideology of violent extremism such as that perpetrated by Boko Haram or ISIL rejects the common basis for human interaction under both the domestic laws of most societies and international law.
“Is it reasonably justifiable in a democratic society to make laws that restrict freedom of speech by the fact that it says you must seek permission before you can make certain types of public utterances? I am of the view that prior-restraint is open to abuse, will unduly restrict freedom of worship and is probably unconstitutional. Freedom of speech is not only a fundamental right but it is also the vehicle for the realization of other rights. The laws must however be enforced to punish offensive conduct such as the dissemination of hate speech or the perpetration of unlawful acts under the guise of religious beliefs. However it must be emphasized that our courts must be more careful and maintain their neutrality in the trial of such matters,” the Vice President stated.
On the sustenance of fundamental human rights, the Vice President said multi ethnic societies must accept the law and obey it especially freedom of speech, which opens the door for other rights.
Drawing a contrast between law and religion, he said Religion itself, in its classic meaning, is not just a belief system but also usually incorporates a set of rules and regulations which may well qualify as a legal system because most legal systems draw substance, form and procedure from formal religious systems.
Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justie Mahmud Mohammed, who was represented by Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, said the roundtable was timely, as he urged participants to provide a forum for rekindling the fire of patriotism among Nigerians.
Administrator of the National Judicial Institute, Justice Rosaline Bozimo said law and religion seek to establish standards for peaceful coexistence.
The event was organized by the Faculties of Law of the Universities of Lagos and Ilorin, in collaboration with the National Judicial Institue and the International Centre for Law and Religious Studies, Brigham Young University USA.