The Catholic Church, has sent a strong worded warning to Kaduna State governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai over the move to enact a religious bill to prohibit preaching of religious sermons in the state.
Addressing a press conference in Abuja, the Director of Caritas International, a department under the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), Rev. Fr. Evaristus Bassey said the peoples’ will is sovereign and must be respected, noting that the bill had enormous potential abuses, therefore, it should not become law, because it would be misused against one religion by ambitious state officials.
“The danger in Nigeria is the manipulation of structures and institutions by strong individuals. Thus, the fear is that even if the proposed bill contains good aims, the proposed restrictions would play into the hands of officials of state who have a hegemonic mentality and would allow them the freedom to persecute one religion in favour of another.
“The principle of separation of state and Church/Mosque which springs from the supposed secularity of the Nigerian constitution would be severely battered if this bill is pursued in the way it is. Gov. el Rufai, who is quite dogged in the pursuit of anything, given this tool, would pursue ardently both what is good and what may be divisive. We therefore advise that Kaduna State rely on existing laws and existing state instruments of law enforcement, to maintain religious harmony in the state instead of reinventing the wheel.
“The majority of Kaduna people appear not to want this law, and their wishes should be respected, as no governor is an emperor but an elected official who should defer to the people’s will. The people’s will is sovereign; because of the potential abuses this bill could bring when it becomes law, we opine that it is not necessary.
” On the last National Conference, the Catholic Church called on President Muhammadu Buhari to revisit the report and institute measures which should stand Nigeria on the pillar of justice and peace, arguing that “Niger-ian citizens should continue to engage political and state structures to become institutions which are guided by the rule of law.
“Presently, our constitution is like a hermaphrodite, neither completely secular nor religious. A secular constitution guarantees the rights and dignity of all under the law,” the Church said.
In a similar development, the Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, Most Rev. Alfred Adewale Martins also frowned at the legislation, arguing that the Nigerian Constitution makes pro-vision for freedom of worship.
Speaking during a Chrism Mass at the Holy Cross Cathedral, Lagos, Martins stressed that any law that will restrict freedom of worship, should certainly not see the light of the day.
“I hope the governor will seriously listen to what the people are saying because democracy is about the people and the good of the people. There may be good intentions behind the law but it is important that in making laws for the people, the laws can only be effective and just if the people have an input.”
“The government should take the welfare of the people more seriously; there is a lot of suffering, poverty, pro-blems among the people. Government should put in place policies that will indeed help ordinary citizens feel a sense of belonging in the nation,” the archbishop said.