The Kaduna State Government has defended its controversial Religious Preaching Bill currently before the state House of Assembly.
The bill’s provisions, seen as seeking to curb religious freedoms, have caused widespread outrage.
The government said Wednesday the legislation was aimed at curbing religious extremism and hate speech.
The state government had in February sent the executive bill “For A Law To Substitute The Kaduna State Religious Preaching Law, 1984”.
The legislation requires a preacher in Kaduna State to obtain preaching permit. It bans residents from playing evangelical tapes and CDs in public places and allows loud speakers to be used only inside churches and mosques but not beyond 8.00pm.
According to the bill, violators are liable to a fine of N200, 000.
The bill has generated intense debate among residents and clerics of Christianity and Islam, the two major religions in the state.
The deputy governor of the state, Barnabas Bantex, told a delegation of the Kaduna State chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) led by its chairman, Bishop George Dogo, that the government had a duty to ensure that religious violence no longer threatened the state.
He said the Kaduna State Government was always committed to ensuring that religion can be practiced in a safe and secure climate.
“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,” he said.
“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.”
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