John Shiklam in Kaduna
The Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) and Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) yesterday rejected the passage of a controversial bill on the regulation of religious preaching in Kaduna State, thereby threatening to challenge the bill in court.
The two bodies, also, said the Kaduna State House of Assembly disobeyed a court order restraining it from taking any action on the bill pending the determination of a suit before a court of competent jurisdiction presided over by Justice Hajara Gwada.
In separate statement yesterday, Counsel to the PFN, Mr. Sunny Akanni and the Chairman of CAN, Rev. Joseph Hayab condemned the assembly for passing the bill that is still a subject of litigation.
The bill, which had been before the house since 2016 after Muslims and Christians in the state, kicked against it was passed by the lawmakers on Friday before the house was dissolved.
But in his statement yesterday, Akanni threatened “to sue the house for disregarding the court order. In March 2017, the PFN filed a suit against the bill on the grounds that it is offensive to fundamentally human rights.”
Akanni said, “We are surprised that despite the court order restraining the house from continuing with the hearing or anything on the controversial bill pending the determination of the matter, the lawmakers went ahead to passed it.
“We are going to serve forms 47 and 48 on the house for disobedient of Court order and if they do not respond. We will charge the Clerk and Speaker of the assembly for contempt of court.”
Also reacting to the bill, Hayab, expressed its reservation about the bill, noting that it would study it and take a stand.
Hayab said the association “is still studying the revised bill and will take a definite stand soon. If CAN is not satisfied, we are going to test that bill in the court of law because we are in a democracy, people should not just bring laws from the back door.
“You do not make laws with the intent of causing havoc. But you make laws with the intent of helping people to unite. You do not make laws and claim that the purpose of the law is for peace.
“But the law itself is used to cause crisis. We are stakeholders in nation building. But when people choose to treat us as if we did understand what is happening, then we have to show them that we also have a right.
“In the interim, I want to appeal to the governor not to be in a hurry to sign the bill. Signing the bill may not help him. It may not help the situation,” the chairman said.
On its part, however, the Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI), Kaduna State, applauded the bill, saying that the Muslim body “has no problem with it as it was given the opportunity to make inputs.”
The Secretary of the group in the state, Mr. Yusuf Adamu said anybody, who will preach according to the books, should not be afraid of the bill.
Adamu said, “We were given chance to make inputs to the bill. The CAN and JNI were asked to make inputs. The CAN refused to do anything, we, at the JNI, made our inputs and it was considered.
“As far as I am concerned, you should have no reason to fear if you know you are going to preach according to the books. I think we should throw away sentiments and be objective. We were asked to make our comments. If you refused to make your comments, you have no reason to complain.
“We called our Ulamas and discussed and made our own inputs. It was considered. So it is a good development. As far as JNI is concerned, we made our inputs and it was accepted, so be it.”
The executive bill was brought before the house in 2016 aimed at regulating religious preaching so as to promote peaceful coexistence. It was vehemently opposed to by Muslims and Christians, who insisted that it undermined their religious freedom.
Consequently, the bill was returned to the house of assembly for public hearing and for stakeholders to make inputs. The revised version of the bill provides for the establishment of an Interfaith Regulatory Council at the state level and committees at local government levels responsible for screening and issuing license to preachers.
The councils will have two representatives each of Christian and Islamic bodies among other members. The bill has mandated the council to hear and determine appeals to be brought before it arising from the decision of the local government interfaith committees.
Also, the council has power to issue regulations considered necessary to guide the local government interfaith committees in the performance of their functions as provided under the bill, if signed into law.
The bill, when signed into law, stipulates that in each of the 23 local government areas of the state, a committee to be known as the Local Government Interfaith Committee has to be established.
The supplementary provision provides that all cassettes, CDs, flash drives or any other communication gadgets containing religious recordings from accredited preachers may be played inside a private dwelling unit or vehicle, entrance porch, church, mosque and any other designated place of worship.
It also provides that any person, who plays religious cassette or uses a loud speaker for religious purposes between the hours of 11:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m. in a public place and uses a loudspeaker for religious purposes other than inside church or mosque commits an offence and shall on conviction be liable to imprisonment