Communiqué from the Plateau Roundtable Forum on the topic, Freedom of Worship in Nigeria: Myth or Reality,

                                                     CAREFRONTING NIGERIA

Communiqué from the Plateau Roundtable Forum on the topic, Freedom of Worship in Nigeria: Myth or Reality, which took place at Nana Country Home Hotel, Jos; on October 10, 2013.


Carefronting Nigeria, a nongovernmental organisation with ‘Redefining our Future’ as its motto, working with support from Freedom House, organised the Plateau Forum at the Plateau State capital, Jos, on Thursday, October 10, 2013; with the theme, Freedom of Worship in Nigeria: Myth or Reality, and Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, a public policy analyst, university lecturer, and member of the Presidential Committee on Amnesty for Boko Haram, gave the lead presentation.

Baba Ahmed who is also a seasoned administrator, a newspaper columnist and former federal permanent secretary in various ministries delivered his paper to rights activists, government officials, security chiefs, members of civil society groups, representatives of religious groups, religious leaders and national newspapers and electronic media correspondents who attended the forum.

The views which Baba Ahmed expressed in his paper, his responses to questions from other members of the roundtable, and the views expressed by the members are what make up this communiqué.



The Plateau Roundtable Forum observed that:

  • The Nigerian Constitution guarantees freedom of worship as a basic right of every citizen, and no institutionalised barrier exists against this freedom
  • Nigerians have long lived with the two largest religions, Christianity and Islam, with tensions which are not altogether unexpected and which have not resulted from failure of government to protect freedom of worship.
  • Failure of state to mediate relations between groups identified by faith, as in other demographics, lead to conflict.
  • Inevitable sources of friction exist but are to be expected in a multi-cultural, multi-religious nation.
  • Disputes over application of the freedom of worship are social and political, not legal.
  • None of the major conflicts in recent past have been over denial of rights of anyone or group of people to worship and people have generally always worshipped as they choose.
  • Conflicts which have assumed religious dimensions have often been about struggle for power or resources which empower individuals or groups.
  • Faith-based politics has become a major issue and politicians with shallow ideology are increasingly using religion to garner the goodwill of the electorate at the expense of public peace and security
  • When elite in both Christianity and Islam portray developments such as expanding the scope of Sharia in terms of achievement or setback for their respective faith, communal conflict can occur and has occurred, such as did happen in Kaduna in the year 2000 when a plan to expand Sharia application led to riots
  • The insurgency of Boko Haram and Ansaru is an example of the convergence of faith and the struggle for political power, which offends the Islamic tenet which insists that nobody should be compelled to be a Muslim.



The Plateau Roundtable, affirming that certain practices exist across Nigeria which do not help freedom of worship, recommended changes,P highlighted below:

  • No country as diverse as Nigeria exists where religious practices do not generate tensions and stresses, Nigeria must learn to view differences with less hostility
  • Policies and practices which discriminate between citizens in terms of access to resources on the basis of their faith should be discouraged
  • The state should work consciously to discourage segregation of people of different faiths and encourage mixed living patterns
  • Policies which stop citizens from building places of worship or having access to such places in areas where they are a minority should be reviewed
  • States must do away with policies which offend religious modes of dressing in schools or rights of pupils or students to pray when they should.
  • Public schools should have provision for subjects of the major two faiths, Christianity and Islam, to be taught so that every student could study his or her own faith
  • The sensitivity of leaders in reducing poverty and spreading wealth in Nigeria must be radically improved.
  • A radical overhaul of the ruling class is necessary to make core religious values such as selfless services and compassion become guiding values of all leaders.
  • Indigene/settler principle which denies certain people of their rights because they ‘hail from another place’ must give way to a more progressive practice.
  • To push for the necessary change, Nigerians must insist that they are indigenes wherever they live
  • Similarly, insistence on ‘indigeneship certificate’ before a citizen can benefit from certain social services must be reviewed.
  • Young people should be guided away from violence by being educated to appreciate that God does not condone hate or violence.
  • The state should not attempt to legislate against early marriage, but should show more understanding and be persuasive in the campaign against early marriage
  • To help in the effort to make parents see the negative sides of early marriage, the state should realize that enlightenment and sensitization work where legislation fails
  • The state should make education so accessible that parents could almost as easily send their daughters to school as they could marry them off
  • Young people should embrace active politics so that they could work actively at building the future that they desire
  • To save religion from further politicisation, government must stop sponsoring Christians and Muslims for pilgrimage
  • The political class owes it to the country to develop sound political ideologies and stop leaning on religious sentiments to win followership


……………………………                                                                                                                                     Maji Peterx                                                                                                                                        Convener