Worried by the dust raised by the proposed Religious Preaching Bill currently before the Kaduna State House of Assembly, the Kaduna State Government on Wednesday met with the leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria in the state, Punch reports.
At the meeting held at the old chamber of the Sir Kashim Ibrahim House, the Deputy Governor, Barnabas Bala, who represented Governor Nasir el-Rufai met with CAN, which was led by its state Chairman, Dr. George Dodo.
Bala noted at the opening of the meeting before it went into a closed-door session that the bill was necessary to curb religious extremism and hate speech.
He told the CAN delegation that the government had a duty to ensure that religious violence no longer threatened the peace of the state, adding that the government was committed to ensuring that religion was practised in a safe and secure climate.
The deputy governor added, “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 entail.
“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 and the Kafanchan incidence of 1987.
“Kaduna State has a history of religious or 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 CAN chairman said the Christians in the state were not anti-government but sought to protect their religion.
Dodo, while speaking with journalists shortly after the meeting, noted that by virtue of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, no government had the power to ban any religion, be it Christianity or Islam.
He said, “We are not fighting the government. Some of the gray areas in the bill will be studied. It’s a bill that is still being studied.”
Also, addressing newsmen, state Chairman of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, Prof. Femi Ehimidu, said the entire Christians in the state prayed for peace to reign and not being anti-government.
He argued that the law must be intently and drastically reformed to reflect the teaching of Christ.
Meanwhile, the Enugu State chapter of the PFN on Wednesday condemned moves by the Kaduna State Government to “license religious preachers” in the state through the proposed bill.
Chairman of the chapter, Rev. Godwin Madu, who kicked against the proposed law, warned that it could throw the entire country into chaos.
According to him, the ‘negative’ impact of the bill would be felt in other states if it was eventually passed into law.