The leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria in Kaduna State on Wednesday met with the State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai, over the proposed Religious Preaching Regulatory Bill that is presently before the State House of Assembly for passage.
The clergymen, led by their Chairman, Bishop George Dodo, met with the Governor, who was represented by his deputy, Bala Bantex, on Wednesday in Kaduna State, northwest Nigeria.
The Deputy Governor explained that the Religious Preaching Bill was only aimed to curb religious extremism and hate speeches that could trigger religious violence in the state.
He informed the Christian delegation that government has a duty to ensure that religious violence no longer threatens the relative peace being enjoyed by citizens of the state.
Mr Bantex added that the Kaduna State Government is committed to ensure that religious activities are practiced in a safe and secure climate.
He said that was the first time that the law is passing through a democratic process, stressing that the proposed amendment was a deliberate decision by the government to subject the law to public scrutiny, rather than to just enforce the provisions of the edict as passed since 1984.
The Deputy Governor also explained that there was nothing in the Bill that suggests any effort to abolish, stop or derogate the freedom of religion in the state.
Rather, he clarified that the Bill merely seeks to ensure that religious preaching and activities in Kaduna State were conducted in ways that do not threaten public order, public safety, and to protect the rights and freedom of other persons.
In his remark, Bishop Dodo commended Governor El-Rufai for conveying the meeting, saying that CAN would submit its position to the House of Assembly and the State Executive Council during the public hearing on the Bill.
A member of the delegation and Chairman of Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), Reverend Femi Ehimidu, raised an alarm that some people who parade themselves as government officials were already seeing out religious practice licence forms to some clergymen at the cost of N4,000.
He also identified some grey areas in the Bill, which he said infringed on the right of the people such as obtaining licence from government before preaching.
The meeting followed speculations from some sections of the public that the bill, if passed into law, would gauge the freedom of worship and association as enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution.