By Chukwuma Umeorah
The Honourable Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, Justice Helen Ogunwumiju has appealed to judges to adopt the principles of equity, fairness and tolerance in the dispensation of justice.
Ogunwumiju made this appeal at a two-day Continuous Legal Education on “Law and Religion: the Role of the State” which was organized by the Nigeria Bar Assocation (NBA) Ikeja in partnership with West African Center Regional Center For Law and Religious Studies (WARCLARS) held in Lagos. Present at the event were scholars, lawyers, clerics, judges, civil society groups and students.
Ogunwumiju, who is also the chair of WARCLARS noted that most laws are based on religion which is expected to preach peace, fairness, equity, love and tolerance, hence Judges must learn to abide by these principles in administering justice.
While also underscoring the imperative role the bar has to play, she pointed out the synergy between the theory and practice of law in relation to religion. She said, “We need to educate and understand the diversity in religion and ensure tolerance in practices.”
The President of African Consortium for Law and Religious Studies, (ACLARS), Professor Kofi Quashigah in his address highlighted the importance of understanding religion to make people better citizens and achieve a saner society. He said, “Every citizen talks about love. If we live out our religious believes, the world will be a better place.
He however advised that the modern Africa states, particularly the republican states would better be served if religion and their respective norms were kept out of the regime of the law and governance.
“This proposition follows from the conviction that the infusion of religions and their tenets into the ordinary laws and their further influence in governance would increasingly generate conflicts with the body politics.
“It would create opportunity for politically ambitious individuals and groups to endeavor to utilize the powerful institutions of the religious to achieve and perpetuate their interest in increasingly multi-religious societies of Africa”
“We should take conscious steps to delink the religion from the state and governance but without throwing out the ideas and practice of religion from our lives. The law should endeavor to serve the interest of all and not just a section”, he added.
On his own part, The Associate Director, International Center for Law and Religion Studies, Professor Moore, David said that respecting freedom of religion or belief is not just an obligation on the state, but a protection to the state. A lack of freedom of religion or belief may decrease loyalty between citizens, especially religious citizens and the state.
According to him, research suggests that religious violence increases with the strictness of government regulations on religion, adding that greater freedom of religion or belief correlate with greater peace in society.
Speaking earlier, the Founding Coordinator of WARCLARS, Ibidapo-obe Akin said, “We at WARCLARS believe that the setting up of similar sub-regional centres could be a means of ensuring that law and religion studies is not only widely disseminated, but also take cognizance of sub-regional concerns and imperatives even whilst working within the embracive ambit of the African Consortium For Law and Religio Studies (ALARS).”