The Kaduna Religious Preaching Regulation Bill
The Kaduna State Governor, Mallam El Rufai, has presented an executive bill to his house of Assembly called “A Bill for a Law to Substitute the Kaduna State Religious Preaching Law, 1984,” which aims at curbing public preaching in the state.
This bill, among other things, will criminalize any preacher who does not obtain a license to preach as well as any religious groups or persons who do not obtain any clearance from the Muslim or Christian religious Associations in the state.
The bill says a committee has to approve any preacher, which by extension means any sermon, to be preached in the state.
The bill states, in part, ‘a Chairman, a Police Officer, not below the rank of an Assistant Superintendent, two Muslims, one each representing the Izala and Darika religious groups, two representatives of the Christian Association of Nigeria and a representative of the traditional institution” will form the regulatory body. There will be same committees in all Local government council who shall make recommendations to the Ministerial Committee, which, in turn, shall recommend “good” applications for the establishment or sustenance of a church or mosque, to the governor for approval’.
The problems with the bill.
Reasons for this bill
Let us first of all go back a little into history.
Kaduna state has prided itself as the administrative capital of northern Nigeria and the pseudo administrative capital of Nigeria. It was the seat of Lord Lugard during the British Colonial rule in the northern region.
Kaduna, though a town that had attracted people from different ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds in the past, has grown also to be the haven for Islamic scholarship. This was due to the citing of the largest university in northern Nigeria, Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria. Kaduna soon grew to embrace western education as well as Arabic scholarship, which became synonymous with Islam.
The establishment of the emirate in Zaria by the conquering Islamist, Usman Dan Fodio and his spreading of Islam saw to the extinction of any traditional religion and therefore the near extinction of the indigenous Hausa tribe. Today, the indigenous Maguzawa tribe has been forced to embrace Islam or migrate. The few that refused have been completely alienated. Those who were Islamized have lost their identity and today, they would rather be called Hausa – Fulani, to find some identity in their conquerors, Islam and the Sokoto Caliphate.
Kaduna state since Nigeria’s independence in 1960 has been a hotbed of religious tension which showed in the Araba saga at the outbreak of the civil war in 1960, when the North rioted against the military coup that was spearheaded by the young military officer, Major Nzeogwu Kaduna.
By the early 1980s, the religious tension and rhetoric had heated up and a young pastor then who was the chairman of the Christian association of Nigeria, Benjamin Kwashi, now the Archbishop of Jos, was targeted for elimination. Many Christians, pastors and preachers were killed in the subsequent anti-Christian riots and attacks that followed till date.
In fact, the current bill El Rufai is introducing was first enacted by the then military dictatorship in 1984; it was amended in 1987 and 1996 by another military government all in an effort to curb the religious upheavals that had rocked the state.
Kaduna is volatile. Muslims will take to the street to riot against any thing, real or imagined, that is anti Islam; the comments about beauty pageant and the prophet Mohammed, the Danish cartoon, the killing of Osama bin Laden, and any conflict between the southern Kaduna tribes within the state on the imposition of sharia in the state over non Muslims, even though the country claims to run secular governments at the national, state and local councils.
El Rufai now wants to amend this bill so as to pull in the power to curb public preaching, perhaps in a bid to curb any more out break of religious violence. But what this bill will ensure is the outbreak of yet another phase of violence.
If the bill that was enacted since 1984 did not curb the violence, what El Rufai should be looking at is empowering the security agencies within his state to root out radical Islamists and to have the political will to prosecute them. There has not been recorded that a church or a group of Christians ever rioted or launched and attack against Muslims in Kaduna. Even the Zangon Kataf crisis cannot be claimed to be an unprovoked attack on Muslims.
El Rufai needs to do some more work in finding solutions that legislation can never solve, not with the current anarchy in many parts of his state today.