By Emmanuel Onwubiko

A civil rights group – HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS' ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) has warned the Nigerian government to withdraw the blanket ban on civil servants from holding or accepting traditional chieftaincy titles as that may have curtailed their constitutionally guaranteed rights to freedom of association and breaches Nigeria's desire to advance our cultural practices.

Citing section 21 (a) (b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria of 1999 (as amended), the Rights group said the reported circular from Nigeria's Head of civil service has breached the salient provision that urges government to make policies to “protect, preserve, and promote the Nigerian cultures which enhance human dignity and are consistent with the fundamental objectives as provided in this chapter”.

HURIWA said the directive banning acceptance of traditional chieftaincy titles by civil servants in Nigeria violates the law against discrimination since the same Nigerian government even runs and sponsors religious activities such as embarking on pilgrimages to foreign jurisdictions that are alien to our revered indigenous culture and tradition.

“Why is the Head of service himself attaching a religious title of 'Alhaji' to his name and several other top Bureaucrats in government holding religious titles of knighthood but at the same time issuing out grossly discriminatory directive against activities that promote our indigenous Nigerian cultures such as chieftaincy titles conferments?” HURIWA, asked.

HURIWA in a statement to the media jointly endorsed by the National Coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and National media Affairs Director Miss. Zainab Yusuf said that the directive by the Head of service against conferment of traditional chieftaincy titles on civil servants in Nigeria, offends section 42(1) which provides for Right to freedom from discrimination.

HURIWA reminded the Federal government that section 42(1) clearly provides that; “A citizen of Nigeria of a particular community, ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion or political opinion shall not, by reason only that he is such a person be subjected either expressly by, or in the practical application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any executive or administrative action of the government, to disabilities or restrictions to which citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religions or political opinions are not made subject to”.

The Rights group faulted the second aspect of the Head of Service directive that permission of government be sort before acceptance of hereditary traditional titles by civil servants, since according to the group, that amounts to unmitigated executive interference and unnecessary busy-body in the exercise of the constitutionally protected fundamental religious and cultural rights of Nigerians.

HURIWA therefore urged the Nigerian government to withdraw this draconian and bad administrative directive which undermines the integrity of our indigenous cultures.

“If government is so minded to ban the holding of any religious or cultural titles, which by all intents and purposes, is unconstitutional, it must also ban all Nigerians from embarking on religious pilgrimages to foreign countries and carrying the bogus foreign titles that go with such expensive ventures such as Jerusalem pilgrim (JP) or Alhaji as the case may be.”