A Kaduna-based Islamic scholar and former Special Adviser to late governor Patrick Yakowa on Islamic Matters, Sheikh Haliru Abdullahi Maraya, has advised governor Nasiru Ahmed El-Rufai not to assent to the religious bill recently passed by the State House of Assembly.
He noted that the bill in itself is a gross violation of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended.
The state government had in 2016 argued that the religious bill was meant to regulate religious preaching in order to promote religious harmony and peaceful coexistence to topple religious freedom.
It provides for the establishment of an interfaith Regulatory Council at the state level and committee at the local government levels responsible for screening and issuing licence to preachers.
But, Sheikh Haliru Abdullahi Maraya observed that passing the religious bill by the State House of Assembly is not the yearning of the people of the state.
He stated, “What currently disturbs the good people of Kaduna State is insecurity particularly along Kaduna-Abuja highway, Birnin Gwari-Kaduna road and other parts of the state.
“The State House of Assembly should have promulgated a law with a view of dealing with potential kidnappers, bandits and other criminal tendencies that has become the order of the day in the state just like what the Katsina State House of Assembly did on kidnappers and other criminals.
“The primary responsibility of any government is to protect lives and property and also deliver social responsibilities to its people as contained in section 14 (2b) of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended.”
Sheikh Haliru Abdullahi Marsha stated that the religious bill contravenes section 1(3) of 1999 constitution as amended, saying that any law that contravenes the provision with the constitution should be considered void.
He added that section 38 (1) gives Nigerians the right to practice the religion of the choice, to change one religion to the other and to propagate their religion either in public or private.
He explained, “Any licence to be given before propagating one religion contravenes the 1999 constitution as amended. Any law that contravenes section 38(1) is inconsistent and should be considered void.”
Sheikh Haliru Abdullahi Marsha asked, “Who are the issuance of the licence, it is said that it is a body of representatives of JNI and CAN. As a Muslim, the constitution does not said l should practice Islam under a body called JNI, section 40 of the 1999 constitution as amended has given all Nigerians the right to freedom of association. This clearly showcase that l can be a member of an association and l can also decline not to be a member.
“Then to say JNI is to issue me with a licence before l can exercise my constitutional right is a contravention of the 1999 constitution as amended.”
He explained that going by JNI and CAN, it means the government has given the two religious organizations preeminent positions over other groups, stressing that it is a clear discrimination against other groups, a transgression of section 42 of the 1999 constitution as amended.
He observed, “One expect the State House of Assembly to outline things preachers are expected to do or are not expected to do. It should be made in such a way that any preacher who goes contrary to it should be sanctioned.
“For the State House of Assembly to pass a bill to make Christians and Muslims not to exercise their fundamental human rights until they are licenced is a violation of their fundamental human rights as enshrined in the 1999 constitution as amended.”