By Sam Eyoboka
The passage of the Religious Preaching Regulations Law by Kaduna State House of Assembly is generating angry reactions from Christian leaders.
Just the way the bill attracted criticisms from different religious bodies and individuals when it was initiated three years ago, many are kicking over the passage at the twilight of the last House of Assembly in the state.
The bill now awaits assent by Governor Nasir El-Rufai to become law.
The law seeks to regulate religious preaching in the state “with a view to promoting harmony and peaceful co-existence amongst residents”.
Specifically, the legislation states that any person who plays religious cassette and uses a loudspeaker for a religious activity outside a church or mosque commits an offence.
It also provides that the person, on conviction, would be liable to imprisonment for a term of not less than two years or a fine.
It further stipulates that in each of the 23 Local Government Areas, LGAs, of Kaduna, a committee to be known as the Local Government Inter-faith Committee has to be established.
The law also says that any person who publicly insults or seeks to incite contempt against any religion by making false statements, in such a manner as likely lead to a breach of peace shall be punished with imprisonment for a term of not less than five years or a fine of not less than N100, 000 or both.
Law worrisome — Omobude, PFN President
Regardless of the things the law seeks to achieve, many Christian leaders told Sunday Vanguard that it may create religious disharmony in Kaduna.
National President of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, PFN, Rev. Felix g, who described the law as worrisome, called on President Muhammadu Bubari to prevail on the El-Rufai administration to abolish the legislation.
He said: “We hope that President Muhammadu Buhari, who is out to stamp out corruption from Nigeria, would urge the governor to abolish the law. There is a court injunction against the action of the House of Assembly”.
The PFN President, who is also the General Overseer of Gospel Light International Ministries, said the PFN is working with Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, on the appropriate way to respond to the matter.
“We will respond appropriately after ongoing consultations among the other arms of CAN and the leaders of the Church in the country. But suffice is to say that what the Kaduna State government is seeking to do amounts to fanning the embers of a religious war,” Omobude added.
No consultation — Pam, Northern CAN Chairman
On his part, Chairman of CAN in the 19 Northern states and Abuja, Rev. Yakubu Pam, said there was no adequate consultation before El-Rufai initiated the legislation.
Pam said:”The preaching law in Kaduna is worrisome because there was no consultation before it was initiated.
“I thought the state governor would have sat down with some influential religious leaders in the North to discuss the bill.
“Even as the governor is trying to look for solution to insecurity, he should know that the security issue is beyond his state now.
“I have always said that preaching in whatever language people are using is an issue to be properly handled.
“The Kaduna State governor came up with a Muslim-Muslim ticket which is not going down well with the people of the state. Everybody is trying to manage the situation now by adapting to the reality of the situation.
“I believe that whatever Gov. El-Rufai had in mind for the Muslim-Muslim ticket has not been properly defined for the people of Kaduna State and Nigerians as a whole.
“But we must do everything possible to uphold the unity of this country because we still believe in the unity. That is why some of us are talking to our young people to refrain from unwholesome activism that may set the country on fire.”
It can’t stand — Uche, Methodist Prelate
On his part, Prelate of Methodist Church Nigeria, Most Rev. Chukwuemeka Uche, described the law as unconstitutional, adding that it would not stand.
“The new law against religious preaching in Kaduna State is against the Constitution of Nigeria. The Constitution of Nigeria provides for freedom of association, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and press freedom.
“Anybody who attempts to stop people from exercising their freedom is working against the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Such a person is working against God and man.
“The Kaduna State governor and the House of Assembly should have a rethink because nobody owns Nigeria. We must honour God and honour men while allowing men to exercise their freedom. “Our Constitution makes it clear that Nigeria is not a religious country. It is a secular state. If Nigeria were to be a religious country, any religion can be imposed on the people. What we need in this country is tolerance.
“I don’t support radicalism in preaching the word of God whether you are a Christian or a Muslim. Those who are reasonable and responsible should be allowed to do their work the way they want and there is nothing wrong with people praying at night. Stopping night vigil is an act against God. I believe Kaduna State government should have a rethink”.
Asked if they would take steps on the issue, he said: “We have options so long as there is rule of law in this country. We are not going to fight or take the law into our hands but CAN would meet and fashion out ways of resolving the impasse. “We are not going to allow our members to become violent. I don’t think the President would allow such a law in any part of this country because it would cause more problems.
“Religion is sensitive and people must be very careful about how they handle religious issues. Even if I am not a Christian, I cannot dabble into religious issues knowing that they can lead to security issues I may not be able to handle.”
Religious liberty has been removed — Ladi Thompson
Also making his position known on the matter known, Rev Ladi Thompson asserted that Kaduna is being used as a pilot case for a sinister scheme.
Thompson, an expert on anti-terrorism, said the state government has removed religious liberty.
“Governor El-Rufai is turning Kaduna where there is religious liberty into a state that is dominated by supremacist agenda. He is not the first person to propose this particular bill”, he said.
“What he has done is a global phenomenon which involves the eradication of religious liberty by regulating religious preaching.
“Without doubt, El-Rufai has intimidated the people of Kaduna State and has physically divided the state to the extent that Christians live on one side while Muslims live on another side.
“Kaduna is no longer the Kaduna we used to know in those days. It is important for Christians to understand that what is happening in Kaduna is not a war between Christians and Muslims.
“There are many Muslims who are being intimidated and killed by a little group of people, who are behind this agenda. It is a supremacist agenda with a religious cover.
“This is not a Fulanisation or Islamisation agenda but a supremacist global agenda that will use religion, herdsmen and their militia to destroy institutions. It is even going to alter the entire emirate structure in Nigeria. Christians and Muslims in the country should join hands to stop the agenda.”