By Wole MosadoniMinna — There is uproar in Niger State following an Executive Bill sent to the state House of Assembly for the regulation of religious preachings and establishment of places of worship.
At the public hearing held at the state House of Assembly in Minna, the state capital, yesterday, all the 16 religious leaders who spoke on the matter vehemently opposed the establishment of the law.
According to them, the law would be contrary to the 1999 Constitution which gives people the right to expression, freedom to association and religion as it is in Christianity and Islam.
Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, in the state, Rev. Musa Dada, said many of his members were not adequately informed about the bill as well as the public hearing.
CAN further said the passage of the bill would lead to crisis instead of bringing religious harmony among the people.
*Gov Aliyu Babangida of Niger StateAlso, Rev. Echioda Mathias, who also spoke in the same vein, said the proposed Bill was not a child of necessity, adding that it was a ploy to contravene constitutional provisions through curtailment of the freedom of worship by Christians in the state.
He said: ”The provision of the proposed bill is a direct provocation of not just the Nigerian Constitution but also our Christian faith. It is our dogged stand, prayers and wishes that this bill or any other bill like this should never be proposed in this state or country again, much less its passage.”
He noted: ”We strongly submit without any doubt of contradiction that the title of the bill is a misnomer. The title is an irony of its purpose. The CAN will never stand aloof to watch our inspirational mode of worship and divine style and places of worship or centres being regulated by persons with little or no knowledge, inspiration from God Almighty.”
Leader of the Ahalil Sunnah Jama’at, Mohammed Usman also objected to the passage of the bill in its ramification on the ground that it contravened the Sharia law and the 1999 Constitution as amended.
According to him, “the bill is in violation of the Holy Koran. The bill is also in contradiction to the provisions of 1999 Constitution. It goes against the fundamental human rights. Our religious freedom should not be abridged due to insurgency and terrorism. We object entirely to the bill and pray that Allah guides the nation as we pray for peace and stability in the country.”
Also, Dalhat Abubakar Hakimi, who represented Isalah Jos in the state, said there was no need for the bill because both Christains and Muslims have been relating well in the state.
He said rather than introducing a bill, government should inaugurate a forum for religious leaders to meet regularly and take a decisions that would enhance peaceful coexistence in the state
Speaker of the Niger State House of Assembly, Mr Adamu Usman, urged the two religious bodies to see the bill not as an attempt to gag their religion but to regulate the excesses of some religious leaders.
”This bill is not a private bill but an executive bill. It has nothing against Christianity or Islam, it is a liberal bill. We do not have a predetermined mind. If we do, we would not have been having this sitting,” he said.