All northern states have from time immemorial had its fair share of religious crises that have lead to loss of lives and wanton destruction of properties. From the Maitatsine riots in Kano in the 1980s, Jyllands-Posten Muhammed cartoons crisis published in Denmark in 2005 and its attendant religious crisis in Northern Nigeria, The Boko Haram flagellum in North and most recently the Army-Shi’ites squabble have left thousands dead, wounded, displaced and properties destroyed.
These crises have given birth to different papers, reports and bills sponsored to prevent and forestall future occurrence or re-occurrence. One of such is the military enacted law titled “Kaduna State religious Preaching Law of 1984” and most recently is the controversial religious executive bill sponsored by Kaduna State governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai.
The Religious bill have generated public outcry and applause. Some religious leaders applaud the initiative of the state governor, others kicked against the bill. I have decided to critically analyze the bill from three different sides of the good, bad and ugly.
The Good News: The bill aimed at checking the activities of preachers in the state and the bill is currently before the Kaduna’s House of Assembly for consideration and possible passage into law. It is at the Committee Stage awaiting public hearing and final presentation for Third Reading. The bill is a replica of the 1984 law enacted by the military but with some slight modifications.
The bill is made up of 15 sections and aimed to curb religious extremism and hate speech. The bill merely seeks to ensure that religious preaching and activities in the state are conducted in ways that do not threaten public order and public safety and to protect the rights and freedom of other persons.
The Bad News: The bill became controversial when it is provided for a regulatory body to supervise the two religious groups, which comprises of committees members from Jama’atu Nasir Islam for the Muslims and Christian Association (CAN) of Nigeria for Christians. To check the activities of the two religious committees, the bill proposed the establishment of an Inter-faith ministerial committee to regulate both committees.
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Also, the two committees will keep records of all churches and mosques in the state, data of all preachers and will issue a one-year renewable license to preachers while non-Kaduna based preachers will be issued permit to cover the period of the event that brought them to the state. Sighed, too bad.
The Ugly: As if that was not enough, the bill restricts the playing of all cassettes, CDs, flash drives or any other communication gadgets containing religious recordings from accredited preachers to one’s house, inside the church, inside the mosque and any other designated place of worship.
The religious bill further banned the playing of cassettes containing religious recordings that use abusive language against any person, religious organisation or religious leaders.
The bill makes it an offence for any person to preach without a license; play a religious cassette or use a loud speaker for religious purposes after 8pm in public places; use a loud speaker for religious purposes other than inside a mosque or church and the surrounding area outside the stipulated prayer times; abuse religious books; incite disturbances of the public peace; abuse or use any derogatory term in describing any religion; or carry weapons of any description, whether concealed or not, in places of worship or to any other place with a view to causing religious disturbance.
Anyone found guilty under the bill shall be liable on conviction to a term of imprisonment not exceeding two years or a fine of N200, 000 or both; and may, in addition, have his license revoked if he is a licensed preacher.
The Bill definitely pass the controversial public perception for infringing on religious freedom of Nigerians (preachers and religious brethren), legally violates the constitution for proposing granting of license for preachers and absurd for establishing Inter-faith ministerial committee to regulate both religious committees. El-Rufai is not new to controversial moves and has developed thick skin to what the public thinks; it is the people that should be wary of “the change” they voted for and the change they seek.
Written by: Dosunmu Moshood