Abimbola Akosile

The Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR) frowned on the Federal Government’s continued action in subsidising foreign exchange (forex) needs of pilgrims in spite of the earlier promises of the present administration to discontinue with it.

The committee’s stance was contained in a release issued and signed by Dr. Bode Fasade for President, CDHR, Mr. Malachy Ugwummadu, titled ‘Forex Subsidy for Pilgrimage; An Illegal and Insensitive Venture of a “Change” Government’.

According to the group, “In the first instance, it is important to reiterate the fact that Nigeria is a heterogeneous society with a multi-religious population in which the State is expressly debarred by Section 10 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as Amended to adopt, sponsor or facilitate certain religious activities in preference to the others. To that extent, Nigeria remains a secular country and cannot continue to deploy the collective resources of this country in sponsoring and supporting the religious activities of the Christians and Muslims.

“Secondly, the federal government is gradually displaying its clueless plans in tackling the woeful economic challenges facing the country by appealing to the sentiments of the suffering masses through religious activities. It is no longer in doubt as recently admitted by the Minister of Finance that the Nigerian economy has entered into recession compounding the plight of the Nigerian masses.

“Clearly the decision of the federal government to subsidise Forex at N197 per $1 dollar for pilgrims on personal voyage while manufacturers, students and the international business community cannot access the dollar currency below N350 per $1 bears no further repetition as the height of insensitivity and misplacement of priority.

“If forex cannot be subsidised for manufacturers/producers of goods and services or even students whose contributions will impact positively on the ailing economy of the country now and in the near future, where lies the justification in wasting our scare foreign exchange on private personal issues like religious pilgrimage?

“In effect, the CDHR condemns the forex subsidy extended to Christian pilgrims as they would to their Muslim counterparts to the exclusion of other faiths and religious bodies. This is because it is unconstitutional, illegal and represents a depressing misplacement of priority in the socio economic circumstances that Nigeria is in presently”, the release added.