The Kaduna State Government today explained that the Religious Preaching Bill aims to protect the state from religious extremism and hate speech. Architect Barnabas Yusuf Bala, the Deputy Governor of the state, told a delegation of the Kaduna State CAN that the government has a duty to ensure that religious violence no longer threatens the state. He said that the Kaduna State Government is always committed to ensuring that religion can be practiced in a safe and secure climate.
“We swore to uphold the Constitution which recognizes the freedom of religion and thought as fundamental rights. The same Constitution obliges us to ensure the safe exercise of these rights by legislating in the interest of public safety, public order, public morality or public health, and for the purpose of protecting the rights and freedom of other persons.
“This is not a new law. It has existed since 1984, with amendments in 1987 and 1996. The military governments which created the law were responding to outbreaks of religious violence such as Maitatsine in 1983; the riots after the Kafanchan incidence of 1987.
“This is the first time that the legislation is passing through a democratic process, with all the transparency that the public hearing and other legislative processes of the House of Assembly entails. Proposing this amendment is a deliberate decision by the government to subject the law to a democratic process, rather than just enforce the provisions of the edict as passed since 1984.
“Kaduna State has a history of Religious/Sectarian Crisis and what this Bill seeks to do is not anything new but to learn from painful experience, and discourage the use of religion for violence and division. The Bill, by virtue of Section 45(1) of the 1999 Constitution, is in order and does not offend the provisions of the constitution. The provisions of the Bill are in tandem with the Constitution.
“There is nothing in the Bill that suggests any effort to abolish, stop or derogate on the freedom of religion and religious beliefs. It merely seeks to ensure that religious preaching and activities in the State are conducted in ways that do not threaten public order, public safety, and to protect the rights and freedom of other persons.”
The 12-person CAN delegation was led by the state chairman, Bishop George Dodo. He expressed appreciation for the meeting and assured the government that CAN is preparing its position for submission to the House of Assembly and the state executive.
Special Assistant to the Governor (Media and Publicity)
16 March 2016