Lagos Denies Plans To Place Religious Leaders On Salary

Lasg

…Says Report Untrue, Misleading

The Lagos State Government on Tuesday debunked viral report on
the social media suggesting that it was planning to commence paying salary to
religious leaders in the State, saying the claim was totally untrue and
misleading.

Commissioner for Home Affairs, Mr.
Abdulateef Abdulhakeem who made the clarification while speaking on a
television programme monitored in Lagos, said there was no iota of truth in the
said report, and urged members of the public to disregard it in its
entirety.

He said: “The clear position is that
the Lagos State Government is not intending to employ Imams and Pastors. There
is no such plan and there is no willingness on our part to delve into a private
realm.

“What exists in Lagos State is that
there is a symbiotic relationship between the Lagos State Government and
faith-based organizations and it is a mutually beneficial relationship which
has contributed to the growth and development of the State,” Abdulhakeem said.

In the said report, Abdulhakeem was
quoted as saying that the State Government would soon place religious leaders
on the State salary structure to encourage them to use their Pulpit and the
Minbar to re-orientate citizenry to shun corruption and immorality.

Clarifying his statement, the
Commissioner said: “I must have been misunderstood or misquoted. We were at a
forum where we were trying to encourage religious leaders to be advocates
against corruption because religious leaders have millions of adherents and
they enjoy the allegiance of millions of followers and we expect them to use
the Pulpit and the Minbar to advocate for good governance and selflessness so
that they can influence their members positively.

“In Lagos State, one of the
remarkable successes of the present administration is that we have cutting-edge
approaches to relating with religious leaders and that is why Lagos remains the
most peaceful and most religious crisis-free State in the federation inspite of
our cosmopolitan nature.”

Already, the Commissioner said a
structured approach had been put in place to relate with religious leaders in
the State through the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) which consists of
people nominated by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and the Muslim
Community across the 57 Local Councils in the State.

According to him, “We have them at
the State level; they meet regularly in the Home Affairs and instead of leaving
them as dysfunctional silos, we ensure that there is an integrated approach.

“They meet regularly to interact on
religious issues and the Governor, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode has even further
decentralized that whereby over 700 of them were appointed based on their
nominations and they are volunteers who are not paid anything. They come
together to nip religious crisis at the bud,” he said.

He added that the general approach
of the State Government to religion was that of rule of law, good governance,
constitutional democracy and more than anything, the observance and
preservation of the fundamental human rights of Lagosians to freely practice
their religion.

“Section 38 of the Constitution is
very clear and explicit that every person is entitled to freedom of thought,
conscience and religion including the freedom to change your religion and the
freedom to either alone or in community with others practice, manifest and
propagate your religion. Clearly, that is unequivocally telling you that
religion is a private affair as far as the Lagos State Government is
concerned,” Abdulhakeem said.

Responding to a question on why the
State Government was yet to implement a Court of Appeal judgment on the use of
Hijab by school girls, Abdulhakeem said being a government which firmly
believes in rule of law, the State Government was awaiting the pronouncement of
the Supreme Court on the matter which, he said, was already before the apex
court.

On taxes, the Commissioner said
though religious institutions were exempted according to the State laws, but
any religious body which engages in commercial activities was liable to pay
tax.

“Religious institutions are not
taxable under the Lagos laws but where religious institutions engage in
business transactions like schools and so on, then such are liable to pay taxes
but as far as the institution is concerned, it is exempted from paying tax.

“Also, those who convert their
buildings into Mosque to avoid paying taxes, we have made it abundantly clear
that you are not allowed to convert residential premises into religious
centres. So, people should just respect God the way the Lagos State Government
has respected God and do not come under that arena to avoid payment of taxes,”
he said.

Besides, the Commissioner said the
State Government had already embarked on massive enlightenment and
re-orientation against noise pollution by religious leaders, but any resident
who is affected by such should however report either through the Lagos State
Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA) or the Ministry of Home Affairs for
action.

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