1999 Constitution Place One Religion Above Others, Says Bauchi CAN

… Calls For Establishment Of Ecclesiastical Laws, Courts For Christians

From: Segun Babatunde in Bauchi

Bauchi State Chapter of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has lamented that despite the clear provision of the constitution, particularly section 10, to the effect that the Government of the Federation and the State shall not adopt any religion as a State Religion; however, in practice, this provision has been swept under the carpet.

CAN in a Memorandum it submitted to the House of Reps Committee on the review of the 1999 Constitution sitting in Bauchi stated that, “for example, in Bauchi State, provisions has been made for the implementation of Sharia Law since 2000/2001” .

It added that, “In fact, Sharia Commission has been created and Area Courts were abolished and replaced with Sharia Courts. The provision of Sharia Courts and Sharia Commission without a corresponding Ecclesiastical Courts and Commission to attend to the yearning of Christian citizens has served as a great marginalization, discrimination and/or source of conflict in terms of accessibility to employment because all the employees of the said Sharia Commission and Courts are only Muslims”.

CAN through its legal representative, Barr Bichi Obadiah stated that, “Therefore, recognition of one religion and its legal system over the other has contravened the clear provision of the Constitution Recommendation” .

The CAN however make recommendations for the complete abolition of Islamic religion and its legal system from the Constitution as either a Federal or State law in compliance with Section 10 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (Amended)”.

It also recommended that The amendment should also declare null and void any law either Federal or State which intend or has adopted a particular religion and its legal system or facilitate or create any religion educational body without a correspondence to carter for the interest of Christian religion. In the alternative, the creation of Ecclesiastical Court or Tribunal along with its Commission and other Christian Educational bodies to meet the interest of all Christian will enhance equality and inclusiveness in the Constitution”.

According to Bichi Obadiah, “The Christian Association of Nigeria observed that it is pertinent to implement the above stated recommendations due to the reasons that Christianity is one of the major religions in Nigeria and has its members across the federation; therefore, allowing the recognition of Islamic religion and its legal system in the Constitution and its subsequent adoption by States is a clear discrimination against Christians and a gross violation of Section 10 of the Constitution”.

“The continuous recognition and adoption of the Islamic religion and its legal system by both Federal and States government without a correspondent Ecclesiastical Courts, Commission and Christian Educational Bodies is an injustice and a violation of the Constitutional rights of Christians access to employment opportunities”, CAN further stressed.

According to CAN, “The Ecclesiastical court will ensure that dispute among Clerics and even Christians pertaining to spiritual matters that involve sacraments, successors to personal properties, Christian Marriage, discipline, administration of church, ecclesiastical corporate bodies, tithes, benefits , question touching on oaths and vows are determine in accordance with the Biblical and Christian injunctions”.

In Conclusion of the submission, it was stated that, “It is for the reasons enunciated above that the CAN is seeking the amendment of the 1999 Constitution to include the abolition of Islamic and/or Sharia Legal System or in alternative, the establishment of Ecclesiastical Courts and Commission in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to carter for the interest of Christians’ faithful”.

The submission further contained that, “fore going positions have been set out by CAN in other to persuade this Honourable Committee to adopt our position as submitted above. Doing this will be in the overall national interest and peaceful co-existence among Nigerian Citizens and particularly given sense of belonging to the Christians’ faithful”.

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