Ban On Preaching In Kaduna, A Call To Revolt?
Over the years, Kaduna State has come under focus, sometimes, due to several religious riots, resulting in the loss of lives and properties. In the milieu, a supremacy battle has persisted between Christians and Muslims in the state. This has permeated every sphere, including politics, where religion has become a deciding factor in electing political leaders.
It is in the light of this volatility, that a recent bill by Kaduna State Governor, Nasir el-Rufai, to the state House of Assembly to regulate religious preaching becomes topical. The bill titled: “A bill for a law to substitute the Kaduna State religious preaching law, 1984” is aimed at banning the usage of loudspeakers for religious purposes “other than inside a Mosque or Church and the surrounding areas outside the stipulated prayer times.”
The bill further seeks to stop the playing or circulating of books, “all cassettes, CDs, flash drives or any other communication gadgets containing religious recordings from accredited preachers other than inside one's house, porch, Church, Mosques and other designated places of worship.”
Pastors and Christians would need to obtain a limited licence from government before they can preach openly. The permit, which government reserves the right to approve, is renewable every year. Under the law, violators “shall be liable to two years in prison or a fine of N200, 000.” Curiously, the bill prescribed that Sharia and Customary courts shall have the jurisdiction to try violators.
THEWILL is deeply worried that if passed into law, it could be abused by religious fanatics. With loudspeakers forbidden outside stipulated prayer times, Muslims who have stipulated five-times-a day prayer schedule would enjoy the luxury allowed by the blaring early morning call to prayer. Christians on the other hand, have no stipulated prayer time and thus, hold scattered evangelisms and crusades outside their regular Sunday church service.
Coming from a governor, who is versed in the Koran, having attained the prefix of Mallam, and one who has been accused of an anti-Christian stance, arising from his reported past comments and postings on his twitter handle and Facebook page, it is feared that this bill could be misconstrued to affirm these allegations.
THEWILL totally condemns the bill for its seeming unclear motive, more so, as it violates the freedom of expression guaranteed by Section 19 (1) of the 1999 Constitution. It states that “Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinion and to receive and impart ideas and information.”
Also, Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, among other charters, states that, “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression.” These include the rights of everybody, including Christians and atheists, “to hold opinion without interference, and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers.”
THEWILL urges the Kaduna State House of Assembly to reject the bill in its entirety. Nigeria is a secular state, and under no guise should any government interfere in religious matters. If the bill is passed into law, other states could imbibe it and the consequences will be grave for the nation.
THEWILL also fears that the trial of Christians under the Sharia and Customary court could lead to a violent revolt. We therefore call on El-Rufai to let the status quo prevail. He should concentrate on governance and improving the local economy which can only be achieved under a peaceful atmosphere.