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Governor Nasir El-Rufai’s has put in motion moves to cage clerics from preaching in public. 

Investigation revealed that the governor has sent a controversial bill to the State House of Assembly and sought to get it passed into law without allowing a public hearing first, as due process is required.

A reliable source within Christian leaders in the Northern state, said that Christians in the state legislature found out about the governor’s subterraneous approach and cried out to Christian leaders who quickly took steps to interrupt the process. “The governor should have given room for a hearing on the bill but that was not done.

They were ready, actually going to start debating and then pass it into law and we didn’t give room for that. Normally there should be public hearing first, but they didn’t follow due process. 

“Initially, they wanted to do it quietly; it was actually leaked by some of the members of the House who are Christians, who called the attention of the Christian body. So, that is how they started speaking out,” the source said.

A copy of the executive bill, also described as an amendment to the state’s edict on public preaching of 1984 and tilted ‘A Bill For A Law To Substitute The Kaduna State Religious Preaching Law, 1984,’ requires a cleric on preaching assignment in Kaduna State to obtain a permit from the state government, which has a life span of and renewable after one year.

The bill also forbids playing of evangelical tapes and CDs in public places; it also allows use of loud speakers only in churches and Mosques but not beyond 8pm. That means, you can be arrested for listening to preaching or religious music inside your car or in any open place but not in your house or religious building.

Since all preachings must be done within a building, it means public evangelism will be criminalized. Those who preach early morning, known by some as morning cry, and preaching inside bus, if arrested, will be fined N200,000. This could also means, people will not be allowed to go out for evangelism on streets or move with ve-hicles with public address systems to advertise their programes.

It also stipulates that a preacher would automatically lose his preaching right if government or its agencies considered his preaching offensive. Aside that; the preacher becomes liable to trial by an Alkali Islamic or Customary court and if found guilty, will be sentenced to two years imprisonment with an option of N200, 000 fine or both.

An inter-faith ministerial committee, to be chaired by the governor’s appointee, will also regulate the activities of the two major religions, namely, Islam and Christianity, through the Committee of Jama’atu Nasril-Islam (NJI) with equal representation of Izala and Darika religious groups in the case of the Muslims; and a committee set up by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in the case of Christians.

When contacted for comments, the Vice Chairman of PFN in Kaduna State, Rev Emma Egoh, accused El-Rufai of plotting to cage ministers of God and stifling evangelism in the state. He lamented that the bill also infringes on the Nigerian Constitution which provides for freedom of religion and worship.

His words: “If everybody coming from outside Kaduna State to preach has to take permission to do so, then it means that a lot of ministries cannot operate. This is because there are churches in Kaduna State that have coordinators that are outside Kaduna State and such churches and ministries have programmes that go on continuously.

So, where will you have time to always be going for one permission or the other? So, at the end of the day, it is like the church is going to be actually caged.” Rev. Egoh also noted that the bill gave too much power to CAN. “The bill has given CAN authority; and CAN always deal with ‘main stream’ churches. If CAN do not feel comfortable with them, CAN will just edge them out.

You find out that those that have genuine call of God will not have the privilege of coming out to do ministry,” he stressed. Rev. Egoh expressed concern that the bill, if passed into law, is capable of brewing religious war in the state. His words: “This bill is something that can brew religious war in Kaduna State, because a lot of churches are going to be affected and at the end of the day, you will just discover that people won’t have the freedom to worship God the way they should. 

Freedom of worship will not be there, there will be dissatisfaction.

Definitely some people are going to feel edged out. Imagine in a country that is secular and then you are now trying to deprive them from worshipping God their own way then it is going to cause tension. Once there is tension, and already Kaduna State is very fragile, any little thing will cause an explosion. Some of us have to really calm nerves for us to have experienced this kind of peace.

So anything coming out now is just like throwing some petrol into fire.” It was reliably learnt that the JNI is also not comfortable with the governor’s bill as it is also an infringement on their right to worship and cripples Islamic evangelism. Meanwhile, Special Adviser to former governor of the state, Muktar Yero, Sheikh Haliru Maraya, have described the proposed law that seeks to restrict preaching to only licensed preachers by the present governor as a waste of time and resources. 

The Kaduna-based Islamic cleric said: “Islam has given every Muslim the right to preach the religion and section 38(1) of the 1999 Constitution also gives every Nigerian the right to propagate his religion.

“The proposed law will be inconsistent with both the Islamic religion and the Constitution of Nigeria. Section 1(3) of the constitution says that any law that is inconsistent with the Constitution is null and void. The bill will be quashed if it is passed into law and challenged in court.”

Also a legal expert and General Overseer of Ababased Christian Fellowship Association, Barrister John Ogbansiegbe, advised that the bill should not be passed into law, because “it goes without saying that the bill is a contravention of the supreme law of Nigeria – the Constitution.”

He said: “The bill, introduced by El- Rufai should not be passed; it is a glaring violation of fundamental human rights, as enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution. It is inimical to the visions of the founding fathers of this nation, which is peace and unity.”

But the Director General, Interfaith Matters in the state, Engr Namadi Musa, has dismissed such fears insisting: “The bill was conceived following complaints from people that certain preachers have been maligning their leaders or religious sects or even religion.

Similarly, people have been complaining about the high level of noise that some preachers are subjecting them to. The bill is aimed to take care of the interest of all and sundry.” He insisted that the bill would not breach anyone’s freedom of religion. “Rather, it will enhance people to practise their religions without molestation. The law will enhance intra and inter religious harmony in Kaduna State,” he said. When CAN’s General Secretary, Rev. Musa Asake, was contacted for comment, he promised to speak later because at press time, he was burying his late brother.

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