Paul Obi in Abuja

Following the move by the Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El Rufai to regulate the practice of religion through a bill set to be enacted, the Catholic Church yesterday confronted the governor, stressing that, no governor elected can become an emperor.

At a briefing in Abuja, Caritas International, a department under the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) explained that El Rufai must tread with caution in his approach to strangulate the religious freedoms of Kaduna citizens.

Director of Caritas International, Rev. Fr Evaristus Bassey said though “religious miscreants have caused a lot of havoc in our Nigeria. It does appear however that the measures proposed are an overkill.

“The danger in Nigeria is the manipulation of structures and institutions by strong individuals. Thus, the fear is that even if the proposed bill contains good aims, the proposed restrictions would play into the hands of officials of state who have a hegemonic mentality and would allow them the freedom to persecute one religion in favour of another,” Bassey maintained.

He said: “The principle of separation of state and Church/Mosque which springs from the supposed secularity of the Nigerian constitution would be severely battered if this bill is pursue in the way it is.

“Governor El Rufai, who is quite dogged in the pursuit of anything,  given this tool, would pursue ardently both what is good and what may be divisive.

“We advise that Kaduna State rely on existing laws and existing state instruments of law enforcement, to maintain religious harmony in Kaduna State instead of reinventing the wheel.”

He contended that “the majority of Kaduna people appear not to want this law, and their wishes should be respected, as no governor is an emperor but an elected official who should defer to the people’s will.

“The people’s will is sovereign;  because of the potential abuses this bill could bring when it becomes law, we opine that it is not necessary, ” Bassey stated.

As a strategy to resolving this constitutional logjam on religion, the Catholic Church further tasked President Muhammadu Buhari to revisit the report of the national conference organised by the last administration.

According to Bassey “Nigerian citizens should continue to engage political and state structures to become institutions which are guided by the rule of law.

“The President Buhari led administration should revisit the provisions of the national conference and institute measures which should stand Nigeria on the pillar of justice and peace.

“Presently, our constitution is like a hermaphrodite, neither completely secular nor religious. A secular constitution guarantees the rights and dignity of all under the law.

The church also bemoaned the ill-treatment of women in many cultures and communities, describing it as “a symptom of the overall deficiency in the respect for life which engenders a mindset that sees life as dispensable.
They argued that the “underlying materialistic attitude” of society “sees the female specie not as fully human but as an object for male gratification.”

Bassey urged government and traditional institutions to be in the forefront of promoting the advancement of the girl-child and the female gender.