The Bauchi State Chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has advocated for the establishment of an Ecclesiastical court for Christians in the state, similar to the Sharia court for Muslims, to ensure that disputes between Clerics and even Christians are settled amicably.
CAN complained in a memorandum submitted to the House of Representatives Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution in Bauchi on Thursday that despite the clear provision of the constitution, particularly section 10, to the effect that the Government of the Federation and the State shall not adopt any religion as a State religion, the law has been swept under the carpet.
According to CAN’s legal counsel, Barr Bichi Obadiah, “the acceptance of one religion and its legal system over another has violated the unambiguous requirement of constitutional recommendation.”
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“For example, in Bauchi State, preparations have been made since 2000/2001 for the application of Sharia Law.
In fact, a Sharia Commission has been established, and Area courts have been substituted with Sharia courts.
“The provision of Sharia courts and Sharia Commissions in the absence of corresponding Ecclesiastical courts and Commissions to attend to the yearnings of Christian citizens has served as a significant marginalization, discrimination, and/or source of conflict in terms of accessibility to employment because all employees of the said Sharia Commission and Courts are all Muslims.”
CAN also suggested that the amendment declare null and void any federal or state law that intends to or has accepted a certain religion and its legal system, or facilitates or creates any religious educational entity without a relation to carter for the interest of Christian religion.
“As an alternative, the establishment of an Ecclesiastical Court or Tribunal, as well as its Commission and other Christian educational agencies to serve the interests of all Christians, will improve the Constitution’s equality and inclusivity.
“The Christian Association of Nigeria has observed that it is important to execute the above-mentioned recommendations because Christianity is one of the major religions in Nigeria and has members all throughout the country.”
As a result, enabling the acknowledgment of Islamic religion and legal system in the Constitution and its adoption by states constitutes blatant discrimination against Christians and a flagrant violation of Section 10 of the Constitution.
“The continuous recognition and adoption of the Islamic religion and its legal system by both Federal and States government without a correspondent Ecclesiastical Courts, Commission and Christian Educational Bodies is an injustice and a violation of the Constitutional rights of Christians access to employment opportunities”, CAN further stressed.
According to CAN, “The Ecclesiastical court will ensure that dispute among Clerics and even Christians pertaining to spiritual matters that involve sacraments, successors to personal properties, Christian Marriage, discipline, administration of church, ecclesiastical corporate bodies, tithes, benefits , question touching on oaths and vows are determine in accordance with the Biblical and Christian injunctions.
“CAN has presented the preceding position in order to encourage this Honourable Committee to approve our viewpoint as provided above.
This will be in the broader national interest and peaceful coexistence among Nigerian citizens, especially considering the Christian faithful’s sense of belonging.”