The former Speaker of Kaduna House of Assembly has pushed the panic button by secretly passing to law the Religious Preaching bill in contempt of a order restraining the House from going ahead with the bill.
Religious bodies and civil society organsiations in the state are now grouping to protest the state lawmakers’ move believed to be undermining the constitution of Nigeria.
Considering the volatility of Kaduna, many have raised fears over an impending religious crisis in the north-western state.
The National Daily gathered that the Christian Association of Nigeria, the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, and others are already mobilizing opposition to the bill.
The Coalition of Christians with Conscience (CCC), Kaduna, first raised the alarm on Monday, accusing Gov Nasir el-Rufai of planning to ban Easter, Christmas, New Year, and other Christian rites— if he assents to it.
“The provision is divisive as our Muslim brothers are allowed to say their prayers at 5am after the ban for Christians,” said Daniel Istifanus, the leader of the CC, in a press statement on Monday.
The bill was first introduced in 2016, and the PFN went to Kaduna High Court to challenge it, thereafter securing a restricting order from Justice H.T.D. Owadah in April 2017 against the state government and legislature.
“And the second respondent [the state’s House of Assembly] is thereby restrained from proceeding in any way either by way of public hearing or doing anything whatsoever in the subject matter of this case until the final determination of this case,” the justice ruled in a court document the National Daily obtained.
But former Speaker Aminu Abdullahi Shagali, trying to impress the governor (and secure his nod for re-election), hastened the bill passage before the eighth state assembly expiration.
Judges on the case were said to have frowned at the contempt.
The bill, amongst other provisions, seeks to license preachers, both Christian and Islamic, and also limit religious activities to places of worship.
But critics say such bill is not possible except sections 38 and 39 of the 1999 constitution, which provide for freedom of association, expression, and worship, are first amended.
According to the constitutional lawyers the National Daily spoke with, no state Assembly has power or authority, indeed not even the federal parliament, to enact any law that will run afoul of the provisions—except the constitution is first amended.
While the bill was hurriedly passed, the clerk of the House has yet to prepare it for the governor’s assent.