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By Nwaorgu Faustinus
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Mrs. Eunice Elisha on Saturday 9th July, 2016, was brutally killed while doing Christian evangelism. Mrs Eunice Elisha was murdered in Kubwa area of Abuja, FCT, in the early hours of the day. Her neck was slashed and she was also stabbed in the stomach.

About a month ago in Kano, Mrs Bridget Agbaheme, a 74 year old Christian was murdered at Wambai market due to an altercation with a Muslim man who came to the front of her shop to perform ablution. Her offence was that she objected to the Islamic washing rite in front of her shop. - Premium Times

The source added another instance of a similar case in the country: Just last week a clergyman of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) Reverend Zakariya was killed by attackers suspected to be Fulani Herdsmen in Obi LGA of Nasarawa state. They attacked him on his farm, cut off his arms and legs, and then they chopped his head with a machete.

It will not be exaggeration to say that things like these have been happening long before now. It has become obvious that it nearly become a custom though not recognised or accepted to be hearing things like this. How many stories of wars have we heard in this year alone emanating from religion in this nation? Do we sit back to as ourselves the reason why all this is happening? What have our government done to salvage this situation we are facing today in this country? Do they not have powers to look into the affairs of this country? Was religion meant to be a bone of contention between Nigerians?

I do not want to deliberate on the extent this crisis has gone into but I believe history can tell better. Just days back that the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) wrote alerting the government of the country not to be oblivious about this developments any longer. Rather than dwelling on the extent this has gotten to or what government have done, the paper will deliberate on the constitutionality of this act or otherwise. It is imperative to point out that the way we behave today will surely determine our tomorrow, the things we do today in the name of religion today may turn out for or against us tomorrow.

According to Oxford Advanced learner’s dictionary, religion is the belief in the existence of a god or gods and the activities that are connected with the worship of them. From here it is purely associated with act of worship and believes in the existence of god or gods. And having seen that, it is important to ask how many types of religion is known to the Nigerian constitution. But To what extent is religion covered under the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria? Can citizens of the country benefit from these provisions of the constitution? Does the constitution see a particular religion as being superior to the other based on the popularity or dominion?

Section 38 of the 1999 Nigerian constitution as amended has provided for the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. The section states as follows: “every person shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom (either alone in the community with others and in the public or private) to manifest and propagate his religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance”

From what see above, can we say that the killing of these individuals was just and constitutional? Was that not a twin breach of the fundamental right of right to life and right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion? Does it mean that the federal government cannot do something to salvage the current situation of this country? Or does the fact a particular religious group is more in number make it superior to another or justifies the unlawful killing of fellow Nigerians?

Section 10 of the constitution states: “the government of the federation or of a state shall not adopt any religion as a state religion”. It therefore become so obvious that the constitution does not discriminate against any religion in the state and it does also place superiority over another. Any Nigeria can move to anywhere and continue with his normal worship routine without any hindrance from any person. But why was Eunice killed as a goat for preaching about her faith? Was she not a Nigerian? Did she have the constitutional protection from being killed? Even if her preaching became unbearable noise, were there no other means to stop her from doing what she did that inconvenience people around? Why was an action in nuisance not maintained against her than killing her? Is it not justifiable any longer to have a Christian place of worship in a state that the majority are Muslims?

“It was about 6: 30 to 7am. I was in bed, but I had woken up, from sleep. My children approached me and said that some footballers were discussing about a woman who was killed while she was preaching,” Mr Elisha told PREMIUM TIMES in their family house on Monday. He said he began to call his wife’s phone, but discovered it had been switched off. “We strolled down to the place, about two or three hundred meters away from our house and we saw people gathered. We passed through the place where she had been murdered, but we did not know.” Imagine the tragedy that befell this family.

Why is this happening in Nigeria? When will this mess stop? Why do we continue to do things that rape our dear constitution? This is quite unbecoming from people who know their left from right.

In Akwa Ibom state that is mostly populated by Christians, how many Muslims is reported death as a result of religious crises? How many traders that are Muslims are dehumanised in other southern states? In Ikot Ekpene local government area of Akwa Ibom state, a whole street called “Sani Ogun” is exclusively given to the Muslims to inhabit permanently.

Their mosque is built, every morning they pray; they get married and raise their children there peacefully without any challenge and problem from their neighbours who are not witnesses, why then should Christians not have peace and security in the northern part of the country? Does it mean that the constitution tends to side-line or place priority in one religion over the other? Why can’t we respect other people’s beliefs as we want them to respect ours?

Couple of days ago, it was reported widely in Nigerians press that group of Muslim youths, yesterday attacked St. Philip's Catholic Parish, Baki Iku, very close to Zuma Rock in Niger State. According to eyewitnesses, some Catholics had gone to the church to pray and were attacked by the Muslims who claimed that Friday is their day of prayer and that the Church only has right to worship on Sundays.

According to vanguard, the youths were said to have destroyed the church’s property, including doors and the windows. Some soldiers managed to get there later, but not before harm had been done to the building. Worshippers ran away in different directions to avoid being killed. Rev. Fr. Luka Sylvester Gopep, the Vicar-General of the Diocese, confirmed the incident.

So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary's hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime--the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. - Martin Luther King Jr.

Why is it happening all the time in a particular geographical territory? What is in a religion? Why do we continue to doing things that we would not welcome from others? What have our government done to salvage the present issue that has a general applicability in the country? Does it mean that the government do not have what to do to deter and abate this tragic trend in the country? Do we not have statutory and conditional responsibility placed on the government in times like this?

Section 12 (2) (b) of the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended has places a duty on the government to take good care of the citizens. It sates as follows: “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government “. This current trends in this country needs to be handled with kid gloves. The federal government should organise how to protect the interest of the Nigerians so as to let us have a united and peaceful nation.

To fellow Nigerians, may us all respect others decision as we want them to respect ours, may we put an end to these developments by respecting our constitution, adhering to it and not doing things that goes contrary to the provisions of it in order to maintain peace and order in the society.

May I succinctly and aptly conclude this exposition with words of Ayoola J.S.C in the case of Medical and Dental Practitioner’s Tribunal v Emewula when he said “the right to freedom of thought, conscience or religion implies a right not to be prevented, without lawful justifications, from choosing the course of one’s life, fashioned on what one believes in, and a right not to be coerced into acting contrary to one’s religious belief. The limits of these freedoms, as in all cases, are where they impinge on the rights of others or where they put the welfare of society or public health in jeopardy” .

Edikan Ekanem is a student of University of Uyo, a writer, a columnist, a critic, a political analyst but remains politically neutral. He can be reached at: [email protected] .