Friday, June 14, 2019

Facts about Kaduna religious preaching regulation bill

Facts about Kaduna religious preaching regulation bill
June 09
17:19 2019
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BY MUYIWA ADEKEYE

Kaduna state’s bill to regulate religious preaching outlaws the use of religion for incitement and encourages respect for the rights of others and compliance with the law in the practise of faith. It is yet to be signed by the governor, but it is expected to help return religion to the private sphere, encourage respect for the religious rights of other people and reduce the potential for conflict. The amended law is viewed by experts as another strong effort to remove impediments to religious freedom, as it will allow people to safely focus on the spirituality and rigours of their faith, while removing the poison of incitement, desecration of places of worship and the use of derogatory language.

The Kaduna State House of Assembly commendably passed the executive bill to regulate religious preaching in the State. Since 1980, Kaduna State has had too many incidents of ethno-religious violence, often with tragic consequences. Many mixed neighbourhoods in Kaduna, the State capital, have since the 1980s become exclusive enclaves of adherents of specific religions.

In 1987, religious riots broke out from the College of Education, Kafanchan, and spread to other parts of the State, including Kaduna and Zaria. In 2000, Kaduna metropolis exploded over the Sharia matter, taking many lives and property. Zamfara which birthed the Sharia movement was untouched.

While Kaduna is not the only state that has suffered religious violence, it has paid the heaviest price, apart from the states at the epicentre of Boko Haram terrorism. Leaders of faith must possess the necessary prerequisites, certifications and approvals for responsibly discharging their vital spiritual roles. It is in the social interest for the practice of faith to be conducted in a tolerant manner that respects public safety and the rights of others.

In 2015, Malam Nasir El-Rufai began efforts to remove the dangers that may arise from irresponsible religious preaching. He proposed amendments to the Regulation of Religious Preaching Law of 1984 which was enacted by then military governor, Air Commodore Usman Muazu, and amended by two other military governors. Governor El-Rufai decided to subject the law to democratic scrutiny and debate through the Kaduna State House of Assembly.

Kaduna State is implementing a residency card registration programme to know who lives in the state. In the interest of public safety and order, it is prudent to know the places of worship in the state and ascertain who the preachers are by licensing them. The law also penalises the use of derogatory terms against any religion, the disturbance of religious worship and ceremonies and the destruction or desecration of places of worship.

Features of the Religious Preaching (Regulation) Law, 2019:

1. Preachers must be licensed.

2. Establishes the State Interfaith Religious Council as a 14-member charged with issuance of licences to religious preachers based on recommendations from the Local Government Interfaith Committee. This Council will have two members each representing the Christian and Muslim faiths, along with public servants and representatives of the police, the DSS, the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps and the State Vigilance Service.

3. The Interfaith Committee in every local government will be an 18-member body with powers to consider, screen and recommend to the State Interfaith Regulatory Council all applications for the grant of license to religious preachers. Membership will include five representatives each of the Christian and Muslim faiths, officials of the security agencies and two representatives of the traditional institution in that local government area. The Local Government Interfaith Committee may issue preaching permits for invited or sponsored preachers for the duration of the programme or event. It will also monitor compliance with the terms of the preaching licenses or permits that have been issued.

4. Defines a designated place of worship as:

a. “A building constructed with permission sought for an obtained from the Kaduna State Urban Development and Planning Agency (KASUPDA) for the purpose of religious worship; or
b. “A building or place for which temporary permission has been sought for and obtained from the Nigerian Police for the purpose of carrying out a religious programme or event.”

5. Punishes the following offences:

a. Religious recordings on electronic devices can only be played in a private homes or vehicles; inside the entrance porch of homes or in a church, mosque or designated place of worship;
b. Religious recordings using abusive language against any person or religious organisation or religious leaders is prohibited;
c. Any person who publicly insults or seeks to incite contempt of any religion by making false statement in such a manner as to be likely to lead to a breach f the peace shall be punished with imprisonment for a term not less than five years or with a fine or both;
d. Unlawful destruction, damage or desecration of any place of worship or any place held sacred by any person or class of persons will attract a sentence of not more than five years’ imprisonment or fine of not less than N100,000.
e. Disturbance of the performance of religious worship or religious ceremony attracts a sentence of two years’ imprisonment or N100,000 fine, or both.
f. Insulting the religion of another person, committing indignity on a corpse or disturbing a funeral ceremony will fetch the culprit two years’ imprisonment, a fine of N100,000, or both.

The following offences will upon conviction attract a sentence of two years’ imprisonment or a N200,000 fine, or both:

1. Preaching without licence;
2. Playing religious cassette or using loudspeakers for religious purposes between the hours of 11pm to 4am in a public place;
3. Using a loudspeaker for religious purposes other than inside a Mosque or Church and the surrounding area outside recognised prayer times;
4. Using a loudspeaker in vehicles plying the streets with religious recordings;
5. Abusing special religious books or religious leaders of any faith;
6. Inciting disturbances of the public peace through religious preaching;
7. Abusing or using any derogatory term in describing any religion;
8. Carrying weapons of any description whether concealed or not in places in places of worship or religious preaching;
9. Disturbing any lawful religious assembly;
10. Aiding and abetting the commission of any of the offences above.

What Led To Enactment of the 1984 Regulation of Religious Preaching Law

In the 1980s, one Mohammed Marwa, more famously known as Maitatsine, brought chaos to Kano after years of preaching a strange form of Islam. It required the might of the Nigerian Army to crush the sect and bring the siege of Kano to an end.

Following Maitasine’s defeat in Kano, sporadic clashes with members of his sect occurred across the north over a few years.

As military governor of Kaduna State, Air Vice Marshall Usman Muazu took steps in 1984 to insulate his state from the consequences of irresponsible religious preaching. On 14 August 1984, he passed an Edict No. 7 to regulate religious preaching.

As the explanatory note to the 1984 edict stated, “the purpose of the Edict is to permit only learned and responsible religious preachers to preach in the state”.

Section 10 of the 1984 edict specified imprisonment for a maximum years or a fine or both for persons convicted for the following offences:

1. Preaching without licence;
2. Playing religious cassette in a public place;
3. Using a loudspeaker for religious purposes other than inside a Mosque or Church and the surrounding area outside;
4. Abusing special religious books meant for special religious groups;
5. Using the term “infidels”, “non-Islamic”, or “pagans” in describing other religious groups;
6. Carrying weapons of any description whether concealed or not in places in places of worship or religious preaching.

Two of Air Vice Marshall Muazu’s successors as military governors of Kaduna State amended the edict to stiffen or relax penalties for violation. With Edict No. 2 of 1987, Lt. Col. Abubakar Dangiwa Umar increased the penalty upon conviction to five years without the option of fine.

Edict No. 2 of 1987 also amended the offences in the 1984 law by including:

1. Inciting disturbance of the public peace through preaching
2. Abusing or using any derogatory term to describe any religion

The Regulation of Religious Preaching Edict remained on the statute books of the state as extant law. In 2015, Malam Nasir El-Rufai decided that such an important law, made during military rule, be reviewed and subjected to democratic scrutiny and debate.

Proposed amendments were sent to the Kaduna State House of Assembly which has now passed the Religious Preaching (Regulation) Law, 2019 and repealed the Kaduna State Regulation of Religious Preaching Law, 1991.

In 2016, the Kaduna State Government had to step in to end the violent acrimony that had engulfed the Assemblies of God Church in Saminaka. The government also helped to peacefully resolve the problem over who should be the Imam of the Sultan Bello Mosque.

Kaduna State’s new law to regulate religious preaching outlaws the use of religion for incitement and encourages respect for the rights of others and compliance with the law in the practise of faith.

The new law is yet to be signed by the governor, but it is expected to help return religion to the private sphere, encourage respect for the religious rights of other people and reduce the potential for conflict.The amended law is viewed by experts as another strong effort to remove impediments to religious freedom, as it will allow people to safely focus on the spirituality and rigours of their faith, while removing the poison of incitement, desecration of places of worship and the use of derogatory language.

The Kaduna State House of Assembly commendablypassed the executive bill to regulate religious preaching in the state. Since 1980, Kaduna State has had too many incidents of ethno-religious violence, often with tragic consequences. Many mixed neighbourhoods in Kaduna, the state capital, have since the 1980s become exclusive enclaves of adherents of specific religions.

In 1987, religious riots broke out from the College of Education, Kafanchan, and spread to other parts of the state, including Kaduna and Zaria. In 2000, Kaduna metropolis exploded over the Sharia matter, taking many lives and property. Zamfara which birthed the Sharia movement was untouched.

While Kaduna is not the only state that has suffered religious violence, it has paid the heaviest price, apart from the states at the epicentre of Boko Haram terrorism. Leaders of faith must possess the necessary prerequisites, certifications and approvals for responsibly discharging their vital spiritual roles. It is in the social interest for the practice of faith to be conducted in a tolerant manner that respects public safety and the rights of others.

In 2015, Malam Nasir El-Rufai began efforts to remove the dangers that may arise from irresponsible religious preaching. He proposed amendments to the Regulation of Religious Preaching Law of 1984 which was enacted by then military governor, Air Commodore Usman Muazu, and amended by two other military governors. Governor El-Rufai decided to subject the law to democratic scrutiny and debate through the Kaduna State House of Assembly.

Kaduna State is implementing a residency card registration programme to know who lives in the state. In the interest of public safety and order, it is prudent to know the places of worship in the state and ascertain who the preachers are by licensing them. The law also penalises the use of derogatory terms against any religion, the disturbance of religious worship and ceremonies and the destruction or desecration of places of worship.

In 2016, the Kaduna State Government had to step in to end the violent acrimony that had engulfed the Assemblies of God Church in Saminaka. The government also helped to peacefully resolve the problem over who should be the Imam of the Sultan Bello Mosque.

Adekeye served as special adviser to el-Rufai on media and communication between 2015 and 2019.

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June 10, 2019USDGBPEUR
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