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Isese Festival: HURIWA Condemns Harassment Of Devotees, Applauds Oyo, Lagos For Declaring Holiday

Prominent pro-Democracy and civil rights advocacy group- Human Rights Writers Association Of Nigeria (HURIWA), has described as unconstitutional and illegal, the harassment by police and the eventual arrest of a popular Ilorin Isese devotee and activist, Adegbola Abdulazeez, a.k.a. Talọlọrun (Who is God), who incidentally has been remanded in jail for defamation, in Kwara State.

HURIWA recalled that the Activist, Mr Talolorun, was reportedly arrested for insulting the Emir of Ilorin, among other offences, even as a post on his Facebook page on Thursday, confirmed that the the popular Isese activist was arrested on August 16, in Ibadan and taken to a police station in Ilorin.

“Taniolorun was arrested in Ibadan this evening (August 16) and taken to a police station in Ilorin”, the post simply read.

This was made known through a statement by the National Coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko.

HURIWA recalled that another post on August 17, disclosed that the activist had been charged to court and called on support from other Isese practioners.

The post read, “All Isese practitioners, meet Taniolohun in court in Ilorin. Very urgent.”

A Youtube video released on Thursday, also showed Taniolorun discussing the outcome of a prior meeting between Isese practitioners, their lawyer and the police on the ban placed on Isese festivals in Ilorin.

“To those who said we would not celebrate the Isese festival in Ilorin…have you all been served breakfast now? We (Isese devotees) went with our lawyer to the police station in Ilorin and everyone involved in this case was served, including the Emir of Ilorin.

“Isese devotees are peace-loving people, we are not troublemakers, we simply wanted to celebrate our festivals but were stopped and asked to seek permission. When others want to celebrate, do they need permission to do so.”

HURIWA, in its reaction to the clampdown on the devotees of this genre of African traditional religion, condemned it as discriminatory and a gross violation of Section 42(1) of the Nigerian constitution, which outlaws discrimination on the basis of religion, just as the Rights group stated that unproven defamation being a civil matter is not within the jurisdiction of the police to embark on arbitrariness and gross violation of the fundamental human rights of this activities whose only offence us to speak out in defence of the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of religion and worship to be extended to the ISESE devotees in all parts of the Federation.

Besides, the group is asking for the immediate release of the activist Adegbola Abdulazeez from detention since section 36(5) of the constitution guarantees fair hearing for all accused persons just as the constitution recognised accused persons as innocent in the eye of the law until a contrary determination is reached by a competent Court of law.

The Rights group said arresting and detaining a Nigerian for insulting another person makes the police look like tools for perpetuating the deep rooted violation of the human and fundamental rights of the citizens.

HURIWA has similarly commended the Lagos and Oyo State Governments for the declaration of public holidays to enable Isese worshippers to celebrate their well-deserved festival just as the Rights group faulted the decision of the police in Kwara State to ask that these African traditional religion worshippers obtain a police permit to hold their religious programmes which the Rights group described as illegal unconstitutional, crude, and a cruel denial of the constitution which guarantees freedom of religion for all persons just as the Rights group wondered why the police is breaching section 42(1) of the constitution by discriminating against Isese devotees in Kwara State.

Specifically, the Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde, has declared Monday, August 21, 2023, as a public holiday to celebrate Isese Day. Isese Day is the day set aside for the celebration of traditional religious Festival.

Secretary to the Oyo State Government, Professor Olanike Adeyemo, on Friday, made the announcement in a circular titled, “Declaration of holiday to mark traditional religious festivity in Oyo State.”

The circular reads, “The Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde, has graciously approved August 20, 2023 of every year as “Isese day” in Oyo State, to commemorate the celebration of Traditional religious Festival, Towards this end, Monday, August 21, 2023, has been declared as the maiden Public Holiday to commemorate this year’s festivity in the state.

The rights group recalled that the Oyo State House of Assembly had on August 9, passed a motion to grant a special holiday to adherents of traditional religion in the state. In response to the motion, the governor approved August 20 of every year as Isese Day in Oyo state.

HURIWA applauded both the Oyo and Lagos State governments for respecting the constitutional rights of Isese worshippers, which is the legal and right thing to do since both the Muslims and Christians enjoy official holidays to observe their religious Festivals, just as the Rights group said it will be writing to President Bola Tinubu to reserve a day in the official calendar of Nigeria as public holiday for all followers of the African traditional religion to observe their sacred festivals in their respective places of worship.

HURIWA, however, cautioned all worshippers of both orthodox and unorthodox religions to respect the Principle of Rule of law and the fundamental freedoms of other citizens who do not share their religious ideology or belong to their belief system.

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