The Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) has vowed to stoutly resist the proposed anti-preaching bill by Gov. Mallam Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State, describing the bill as “anti-Christ”.
PFN Chairman, Abia State chapter, Rev. (Dr) Theophilus Anyimson said the bill was not only draconian and dictatorial but also abrogated the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech and right to religion of people’s choice.
He said it was “a big error” for the governor to even contemplate such a bill when the constitution of the land guarantees everybody freedom of expression.
The PFN boss said that “Christians all over the country are united against the anti-Christ bill” , while urging members of Kaduna State House of Assembly not to consider the bill.
“We are united against such obnoxious bill. The bill should not be considered at all. We cannot tolerate it,” he said.
Rev. Anyimpson said that PFN would mobilise support for Christians in Kaduna State to ensure the bill “does not see the light of the day”.
He warned against any secret plot to Islamise Nigeria, vowing that Christians cannot allow any attempt to stop the preaching of the gospel.
Amidst growing outrage over plans to regulate religious preaching, Gov. Nasiru El-Rufa’i of Kaduna State on Wednesday met with officials of the state branch of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) to seek their support.
Kaduna State Governor, Nasir el-Rufai, had, recently sent a bill to the state House of Assembly to regulate religious preaching in the state.
The proposal is titled “A bill for a law to substitute the Kaduna State Religious Preaching Law, 1984.
The bill is targeted at banning the use of loudspeakers for religious purposes “other than inside a Mosque or Church and the surrounding areas outside the stipulated prayer times.”
The governor is also asking the lawmakers to enact the law that will stop the playing or circulating of “all cassettes, CDs, flashdrives or any other communication gadgets containing religious recordings from accredited preachers other than inside one’s house, porch, Church, Mosques and other designated place of worship.”
Also, playing of any cassette containing “religious recordings in which abusive language is used against any person or religious organisation or religious leaders (past or present)” will also be banned as well as sales of religious books, usage of abusive and derogatory terms in describing any religion.
Anyone found guilty of violating the proposed bill without a valid license “shall be liable to two years in prison or pay a fine of N200, 000,” the governor stated, adding that Sharia courts and customary courts under the bill shall have the jurisdiction to try violators if it is passed into law.
The bill had already sparked off controversy in the state and the entire country amongst major religious groups.
Specifically, both the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and several Islamic groups, including the State Council of Imams and Ulamas, had already rejected the controversial bill.
A section of the Nigerian community is arguing that the bill, if passed into law, would take away the rights to religion granted by the 1999 constitution to every Nigerian and that a house of assembly has no powers to nullify provisions of the constitution via legislation.
In spite the protests, the state government had insisted that the Religious Preaching Bill is to “protect the state from religious extremism and hate speech”.
The governor’s spokesman, Mr Samuel Aruwan, in a statement said the government is going ahead with the bill.
“This is not a new law, it has existed since 1984, with amendments in 1987 and 1996.”
According to him, the bill has not in any way affected people’s right to religious freedom.
“The bill, by virtue of Section 45(1) of the 1999 Constitution, is in order and does not offend the provisions of the constitution. The provisions of the bill are in tandem with the Constitution.
“There is nothing in the bill that suggests any effort to abolish, stop or derogate on the freedom of religion and religious beliefs.
“It merely seeks to ensure that religious preaching and activities in the state are conducted in ways that do not threaten public order, public safety, and to protect the rights and freedom of other persons.” he emphasised.
However, the state government had met with the CAN officials for about 40 minutes behind closed doors at the Government House, Kaduna a couple of days ago. Gov el-Rufai was represented at the meeting by his deputy, Mr Barnabas Bala
Briefing newsmen after the meeting, the state CAN Chairman, Bishop George Dodo, confirmed that the meeting was on the controversial bill, but said the association would not make any comment for now.
“When we are through with the study, memo will be sent to the state Assembly. On the day of public hearing, we will explain more. But now, it would be premature to say what the position of CAN is,” he said.
On concerns raised by the public that the government is trying to muzzle religious freedom, the CAN chairman said: “I don’t think any governor has the power to enact law that will supersede what is in the constitution.
“The constitution guarantees every person the right to practise his/her religion, I don’t think there is any governor that can enact a law in that regard.
“Governors ask for prayers in all places of worship, so how would they enact a law that will ban the practice of religion.”