The Ijo Orunmila Apapo Odu Traditional House of Worship in the Ikorodu area of Lagos State has decried the alleged harassment and victimisation of Ifa worshippers by the police, saying such harassment is a violation of their fundamental rights as enshrined in the constitution.
Founder of Ijo Orunmila Apapo Odu, Chief Ifaleke Awurela, said several cases had been reported to temples, whereby policemen harass extort and coerce traditional worshippers to submission based on their religious association and affiliations.
He said this at a press briefing in Lagos to address stereotype of traditional worshippers in Nigeria ahead of their 2019 anniversary.
He alleged that the police perceived traditional worshippers as easy targets for extortion, adding that they were law-abiding Nigerians that deserved respect accorded Christians and Muslims.
Awurela said, “The Nigerian Police force sees traditional worshippers as easy targets for racketeering, using the fear mechanism employed to harness continuous harassment, victimisation, and infringement of members’ fundamental rights as enshrined in the Nigerian constitution.
“We wish to express disdain and dissatisfaction over the continuous harassment by officers of the Nigerian police force, targeted on traditional worshippers. Several cases had been reported to various temples, where officers of the police force harass, extort, victimize and coerce traditional worshippers to submission based on their religious association and affiliations.
“We reiterate that traditional worshipping is aboriginal and that the Nigerian constitution recognises it. The records have to be set straight and stereotypical impressions reversed as officers of the NPF cannot continue to denigrate our religion and way of life in the public domain by harassing members of the Ifa tradition.
“We are law-abiding; therefore, we have to be respected like both Christians and Muslims because our religious ethos does not violate any of the tenets of the Nigerian constitution.”
Also, the National Youth Caucus Leader of Ijo Orunmila Apapo Odu, Olakunle Olawale, said Ifa worshipers did not engage in money rituals, adding that Ifa was against such demonic stance.
“First, we wish to point out that Ifa is a spiritual way of life and not a get-rich-quick scheme. Hence, the rhetoric that Ifa worshippers are ritualists and as such the ritual killing tag has been labelled on the traditional religion,” he added.
A woman leader in the worship centre, Mrs Awurele Abiodun, said contrary to the belief that the female gender had an inferior role in traditional religion; the Ifa spiritual system was gender-balanced.
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