Fr. Prof. Cornelius Afebu Omonokhua, Executive Secretary of The Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) has debunked the allegation that the association which major objective is to promote peaceful co-existence in a multi-ethnic and multi-religious nation, has been silent on national challenges.
Omonokhua maintained that NIREC on a daily basis monitors and evaluates events and responds when necessary.
He said a publication tagged: “Whatever happened to NIREC” in a national newspaper had posed some questions, bothering on the near-absence of the voice of NIREC, if not total invisibility, in these days of religious intolerance among Nigerians and the consequent divisiveness in society and politics of Nigeria.
NIREC in a statement on Thursday through Omonokhua stated: “Mr. Lekan Sote made a publication on the Punch newspaper of Wednesday 22nd September 2021 titled ‘What ever happened to NIREC’. In the spirit of dialogue, I called Lekan Sote to thank him for the publication and the need to respond to his questions for the benefit of those who are ignorant about NIREC in our dear nation, Nigeria.
“Among the various questions posed by Lekan is why the near-absence of the voice of NIREC, if not total invisibility, in these days of religious intolerance among Nigerians and the consequent divisiveness in society and politics of Nigeria.
“NIREC is not a pressure group and does not force the government to implement its constitutional policies. It is not true that NIREC is silent regarding the challenges in the nation. On a daily basis, NIREC monitors and evaluates the events and respond when there is need.”
Government according to Omonokhua is advised accordingly without cohesion.
Highlighting some of NIREC recent activities, he stated: “For instance, on the 11th of June 2021, the Council met with Mr. President and discussed the issues of insecurity in the nation and ways forward. Similarly, on the 26th August, 2021 the Council had its 2021 third quarter meeting in which a communique’ was released in three national dailies namely; the Sun, Daily Trust and Guardian Newspapers on the first of September, 2021.
“On the same 26th August, 2021, the Council paid a courtesy call to the Defense Headquarters of Nigeria to discuss security issues with the Service Chiefs. NIREC is visible in the social, print and electronic media. NIREC has functional website and YouTube
“NIREC visits and intervene in areas where there is conflict. For instance, On September 6, 2021, the Co-Chairmen of NIREC, His Eminence, the Sultan of Sokoto and President-General of the Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, CFR, mni, and His Eminence, the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Rev. Dr. Samson Olasupo Adeniyi Ayokunle, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Gida Mustapha, the Executive Secretary of NIREC, Rev. Fr. Cornelius Afebu Omonokhua, and Rev. Dr. Ini Ukpuho visited Jos for a consultative peace meeting.”
The members of NIREC from Plateau State were in attendance, he said while adding that there were four governors in attendance.
He gave their names: “Dr. Fayemi Kayode, Governor of Ekiti State and Chairman Nigerian Governors Forum; Rt. Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, Governor of Sokoto State and Deputy Chairman, Nigerian Governors Forum.
“Alh. Abubakar Sani Bello, Governor of Niger State; Hon. Simon Bako Lalong, Governor of Plateau State and Chairman Northern Governors Forum.”
Also, he clarified that it was not true that the Christian and Muslim Founders of NIREC intentionally excluded or snubbed the adherents of indigenous religions.
“I am not aware if there is a national umbrella for the indigenous religions like the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA). NIREC has been relating with traditional rulers who are the custodians of the traditional religions at different levels.”
“…Every Nigerian need change of attitude, values and mental orientation to transform the nation. It could not be true that the problems of the nation are religion and ethnicity. The citizens need serious transformation and re-orientation to make the nation work,” he further stated.