A human rights activist and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana, has advocated public holiday for traditional worshippers across the country.
Falana stated that the traditionalists have constitutional provisions as other religions being practised in Nigeria.
The SAN disclosed this on Saturday during an orientation and inauguration programme of traditional worshipers under the aegis of ‘Ijo Babalawo Onifa of Egbaland’ held at the valley view Government House, Abeokuta.
Falana, who emphasised that traditional worshippers have the rights to a special day as public holiday, said, “Under the Nigerian constitution, particularly Section 38, there is freedom of religion of conscience.
“You have the right to worship God or not to worship God at all. You have the right to be a Christian, a Muslim or a Traditionalist. But whatever you do, you must respect the rights of other citizens in the country.
“By virtue of Section 10 of the constitution, the government shall not adopt any religion as official religion. So, the government is required to be neutral while recognising the rights of each individual to worship the God that they believe in.
“You are also entitled to pubic holidays just like those influenced by the Christians and Muslims.”
He, however, urged the traditionalists to instil respect by distancing themselves from criminal elements.
He said, “I have made it clear to the members of this organisation that, as a lawyer, our experience is that when armed robbery suspects are arrested, they claim that they have been fortified by some Babalawo.
“When you arrest a ritual murder suspect, he also claims he has a Babalawo behind him. Ditto for armed robbers and other criminal elements in the society.
“I am, therefore, challenging the members of this organisation to, as much as possible, distance themselves from such criminal elements. And that is the only way to be respected by the society and the government.
“In every Yoruba town, when a king is to be selected, Ifa is consulted. Therefore, you are occupying a prominent place in the society.
“I challenge the members of this organisation to try as much as possible to ensure that the name of this organisation is put in a respectable manner, so that the government and our people can respect all of you.
“It is when you have put yourself in that level that you can begin to make demands. It’s your right to make demands for public holidays.
“Today, all the public holidays, apart from a few, were either influence by Christians or Muslims. Others have the rights to make their demands.
“But before you can begin to make your demands, please organise your body very well. Make it a respectable body, so that the government can listen to you.
Falana, however, assured the traditionalists of his support, saying, “On our on part as lawyers, you can be sure that we will not allow anybody to harass you. We are not going to allow anybody to intimidate you because you are operating under the law.
“But I am going to warn you, don’t make our job difficult because if you commit offences, it’s going to be difficult for us to defend you.”
The Ogun State Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Abimbola Oyeyemi, advised the traditionalists to set up a taskforce and register with the police to identify fake ones among them.
Oyeyemi said findings have revealed that ritual killings are done by fake members of the organisation.
He said “So, set up a taskforce to fish these criminals and I promise, you have the backing of the Command.”
However, the Sakoso Onifa of Egbaland, Ifadimeji Biobaku, disclosed that the association had inaugurated a taskforce with the mandate to identify impersonators across the state.