The prominent Civil Rights Advocacy Group:- HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) has asked President Muhammadu Buhari and the National Assembly to set up a pilgrims commission for the African Traditional Religion worshippers within three weeks or face litigation.
The Rights group also expresses optimism that the Federal government will heed to this public advocacy campaign urging it to set up such a pilgrims commission for ATR, similar to the Institutions that care for the pilgrimages of Christians and moslems at public expenses or else it will challenge the discrimination by government of millions of practitioners of the respected African tradition religion.
In a media statement by the National Coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and the National Media Affairs Director Miss Zainab Yusuf, HURIWA said it has already asked its legal unit to prepare to drag the President and the National Assembly to court to overturn the institutionalised religious apartheid should government fail to do the needful or atleast to take transparent steps to demonstrate a good will to set up a pilgrims commission for ATR.
HURIWA said it will on the alternative demands the scrapping of all the pilgrims Commissions to save the nation of the humongous public funds being consistently frittered to run the Christian and Moslems Pilgrims Commissions even as the millions of African Traditional worshippers are discriminated against by virtue of not setting up their distinctive Pilgrims commission to organise their annual pilgrimages to African Shrines scattered all over Nigeria.
“We wonder how Nigeria that brags to be the Nation with the largest black people globally, has continued to marginalize the segment of the population that adhere to their authentic and distinctive ancestral African traditional way of worship whereas the government keeps spending humongous tax payers resources to sponsor foreign pilgrimages to middle East, Jordan, Italy amongst other foreign jurisdictions but failed to introduce a mechanism to organize pilgrimages to ancient shrines and Iconic ATR Centres in Nigeria.
“We are going to officially write to the office of the Federal Attorney General and the National Assembly to begin the process of setting up a pilgrims Commission for African traditional worshippers so as to make the many ancient shrines and landmark institutions of African worship attractive to International Pilgrims and this process will energize the local economies of those places and states in Nigeria and ensure equity and equality of rights.”
HURIWA ssaid: “Our prayer for indigenous religions to have their pilgrimages and to have a publicly funded body to organise these spiritual exercises is because the federal and states governments are still making plans to fund the agencies responsible for Islamic and Christian pilgrimages. As learnt through media reports, in the proposal, the government said it has set aside a total of N2.6 billion it plans to spend on the programmes and activities of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria and the Nigerian Christian Pilgrim Commission for the year.
The two agencies are responsible for the religious interests of the Muslims and Christians, including the facilitation of annual pilgrimages by adherents of the two religions to Mecca and Jerusalem respectively.”
HURIWA recalled also thus: ” As reported, the budget to fund the agencies responsible for the travels by both Muslim and Christian faithful during the year is humongous. While the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria was allocated about N1.39 billion, the Nigerian Christian Pilgrim Commission was allocated about N1.38 billion. Apart from overhead costs totalling over N617.4 million, the National Hajj Commission is to spend a total of N130 million on general travels and transportation, including N20 million for local travel and transport for training, in addition to N50million for other similar trips during the year. Besides, about N10 million has been set aside for international travels and transport for training and N50 million for other overseas travels and transport during the year. Other allocations to the hajj commission are N25 million for consulting and professional services, in addition to N15 million for financial consulting, apart from another N25.4 million for general financial charges, including insurance premium.
About N10 million has been budgeted for refreshment and meals for the Commission; N15 million for honorarium and sitting allowances; publicity and advertisements (N20 million); welfare packages N70 million; monitoring activities and follow-up (N30 million).
Although the Nigeria Christian Pilgrims Commission does not have a provision in the budget for foreign travels and transport, about N71.3 million has been budgeted for allowances and social contributions during the year, while overhead costs, including general local travel and transport, would gulp N586.5 million. Also, the commission plans to spend about N42.3 million on general furniture, building and residential quarters and equipment maintenance; N25.1 million for training as well as N181.6 million for other services, like consulting and general professional services.”
HURIWA has said that it will give the government the benefit of the doubt to set up a pilgrims commission for ATR worshippers or it will definitely have no option but to deploy the force of law to compel the Federal government to end the policy of Religious discrimination and apartheid against the adherents of AFRICAN TRADITIONAL RELIGIONS.