All praise is due to Allah, the Lord and Cherisher of the Universe. May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon our beloved prophet, Muhammad (PBUH), his household, companions and all followers of right guidance till the Day of Judgment. "The revelation of this Book (Qur'an) is from Allah, the Exalted in Power, Full of Knowledge. The Forgiver of sin, Acceptor of repentance, the Severe in punishment, the Bestower of (favors). "There is no god but He: to Him is the Final Goal". Q40:2-3.

In Islam, there is no inherited or original sin. Each person is responsible for his/her sins from the time he/she attained puberty. However, any person that encourages others to do evil will incur a sin.

"Whoever recommends and helps a good cause will have the reward thereof: and whoever recommends and helps an evil cause shares in its burden: and Allah has power over all things". Q4:85.

No human being is perfect and every person can make mistakes or commit sins. Allah, the Exalted, says:

"Those who avoid great sins and shameful deeds, Only (falling into) small faults-verily thy Lord is ample in forgiveness. He knows you well when He brings you out of the earth and when you are fetuses in your mother's wombs. Therefore, ascribe not purity to yourselves.  He (Allah) knows best who it is that guards against evil". Q53:32.

"If you avoid the most heinous of the things which you are forbidden to do We shall expiate from you your (small) sins and admit you to a Gate of great honor (Paradise)". Q4:31.

The greatest sin in Islam is polytheism (shirk)-associating partners with Allah in worship or attributing Allah's attributes, like Giver and Taker of life, Bestower of blessings and mercy, Forgiver of sins, etc., to other beings. Allah will not forgive anyone who dies as a disbeliever in Him or a polytheist.

"Allah forgives not that partners should be set up with Him; but He forgives anything else to whom He pleases; to set up partners with Allah is to devise a sin most heinous indeed". Q4:48.

Allah is All-Forgiving, the Most merciful. He forgives the sins of whoever repents to Him. Our beloved prophet, Muhammad (PBUH) said: "Allah is more pleased with the repentance of His slave than anyone of you is pleased with finding his camel which he had lost in the desert". (Bukhari 8.321).

Allah, the Exalted, appeals to mankind to repent:

"Say: "O my Servants who have transgressed against their souls! Despair not of the Mercy of Allah: for Allah forgives all sins: for He is Oft-Forgiving Most Merciful. Turn to your Lord (in repentance) and bow to His Will before the Penalty comes on you: after that you shall not be helped. And follow the Best of (the courses) revealed to you from your Lord before the Penalty comes on you of a sudden while you perceive not!" Q39:53-55.

"O you who believe! Turn to Allah with sincere repentance in the hope that your Lord will remove from you your ills and admit you to Gardens beneath which Rivers flow..." Q66:8

"And those who having done something to be ashamed of or wronged their own souls earnestly bring Allah to mind and ask for forgiveness for their sins and who can forgive sins except Allah? And are never OBSTINATE IN PERSISTING KNOWINGLY in (the wrong) they have done. For such the reward is forgiveness from their Lord and gardens with rivers flowing underneath, an eternal dwelling; how excellent a recompense for those who work (and strive)!" Q3:135-6

Some of the conditions for the acceptance of repentance include sincerity and avoidance of persistent repetition of the sin. "Allah accepts the repentance of those who do evil in ignorance and repent soon afterwards; to them will Allah turn in mercy; for Allah is full of knowledge and wisdom. Of no effect is the repentance of those who continue to do evil until death faces one of them and he says "Now have I repented indeed"; nor of those who die rejecting faith: for them have We prepared a punishment most grievous". Q4:17-18.

In Islam, one does not need to make public confession of sin or repent in the presence of any Imam. Repentance is a direct affair between Allah and human beings. However, if one is seeking repentance on ill-gotten wealth, he/she is expected to return whatever remains of the wealth back to its source.

Buraydah narrated that Ma'iz ibn Malik came to Allah's Apostle (peace be upon him) and said to him: Messenger of Allah, purify me. Thereupon he (the prophet) said: Woe to you, go back, ask forgiveness of Allah and turn to Him in repentance (Muslim 4205).

A person seeking repentance should also perform Solat-ul Taubah (Prayer of repentance). It consists of two rakas after which one should praise Allah, seeks Allah's blessings on Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), seek Allah forgiveness by reciting astaghafurullah, Qur'anic verses Q3:133-6 and Q39:53-60, and other recommended supplications from the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

May Allah forgive our shortcomings, accept our repentance and have mercy on Nigeria and us.