Kaduna State Government Upholds Religious Freedoms and All Constitutional Rights – Samuel Aruwan
The Kaduna State Government wishes to reiterate its respect for the right of every resident to practice the religion of their choice. As it has often stated, the government has a duty to uphold fundamental rights and the security of everyone. This involves ensuring that nobody or group exercises their rights in ways that restrict the rights of others or subjects them to danger, distress or the diminution of their humanity.
Every resident of Kaduna State is free to practice the religion of their choice. This is a fundamental, constitutional right. The freedoms that are so guaranteed by the constitution, including that of worship, thought, association and movement are enshrined in Sections 38 and 40, and their exercise is limited only by considerations that they do not infringe on the rights of others or constitute a danger to public order and public safety.
It is not the place of government to assess or certify any creed. That is strictly the purview of the individual. But it is a fundamental obligation of the government to preserve security and uphold the rights of all citizens, both to practice faith and not to be imperiled or distressed by others’ exercise of faith.
The Kaduna State Government did not, and cannot, ban any religion. At every moment, the government is guided by its duty to prevent threats to the peace and security of the state. In the discharge of this obligation, it has acted to declare unlawful a specific group that continues to threaten public order in the state. The IMN was never a registered organization and it refused to conduct itself with adherence to the laws of this state.
Other groups in the Shia tradition are active in Nigeria. Like adherents of all other faiths, they are free to practice their creed, and like everyone else must take care not to injure the rights of others.
Kaduna State Gazette No. 21 of 7th October 2016 has declared the IMN an unlawful society. The reasons are clearly set out and the laws on which it is anchored are spelled out, mainly Section 97A of the Penal Code Law of Kaduna State and Sections 5(2) and 45(1) of the 1999 Constitution.
The Gazette noted that:
1. The Judicial Commission of Inquiry into the clashes between the group with the appellation ‘’Islamic Movement in Nigeria’’ (IMN) and the Nigerian Army in Zaria between Saturday 12th and Monday 14th December 2015, found as facts inter alia that:
i. The Islamic Movement in Nigeria is an unregistered society and recommended that immediate steps be taken by the Kaduna State Government to
ii. The members of the movement have over the years engaged in acts of aggression and violence against individuals and communities resulting in
clashes with security agencies which culminated in the recent deaths of at least 347 persons.
iii. The Movement has constituted itself into a parallel government with a uniformed paramilitary wing in complete disregard to the Constitution
and Laws of Nigeria.
2. The Movement has overtly continued with unlawful processions, obstruction of public highways, unauthorized occupation of public facilities including schools without regard to the rights of other citizens and the public peace and order of the State.
3. These acts, if allowed to go unchecked will constitute the danger to the peace, tranquility, harmonious coexistence and good governance of Kaduna State.
Gentlemen of the Press, these are the facts.
There is a common law in Nigeria, and it serves to protect everyone. The law courts are the appropriate platform for any citizen to challenge any legislation or order they consider improper. No citizen or group of persons can decide to disobey a valid law, without expecting that law enforcement will do its work. The day individuals choose which law to obey and proceed to violate the laws with which they disagree and get away without any sanction, then the rule of the jungle will have triumphed.
But the Kaduna State Government insists that only law enforcement agencies have the authority to act to prevent and deter violations of the law or to arrest violators. We have warned that mob action will not be permitted under any guise. The duty of every citizen is to report every illegal action or suspicious activity to the security agencies.
Kaduna State has suffered and endured too many calamities, triggered by persons and groups that insist on foisting their faith or political preferences on others. It is a hallmark of civilization that every assertion of rights by a citizen is done with full acknowledgment of, and respect for the rights of other citizens. That is the norm in a free society that is anchored on the equality of persons. We have a duty to build a state that upholds lawful conduct.
Thanks for your kind attention.