From Fred Ezeh, Abuja
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) has registered discontent with the level of recognition accorded Islam in the 1999 Constitution.
The bishops observed that Islam was mentioned many times in the Constitution, while no mention was made of Christianity, or any other religion.
The clerics stated this in their presentation to the Senate Committee on Constitution Review where they demanded for changes in the proposed constitution amendment to either give equal recognition to all religions, or expunge the recognition given to Islam.
President of CBCN, Most Rev. Augustine Akubueze, who disclosed the position of the bishops in a statement in Abuja, yesterday, said of the 1999 Constitution: “In the first place there was no time Nigerians convened as individual stakeholders or as represented citizens to decide on or give to themselves as a binding law or constitution. The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is a product of an imposition of the military.”
Akubueze said by granting recognition to only Islam in a secular state, the 1999 Constitution, had put adherents of other religions in a disadvantaged position.
“The particular aspect we want to address for this constitution review has to do with the place Islam as a religion has assumed in our Constitution vis-a-vis our national life, to the extent that the 1999 Constitution put Christians and adherents of other religions at a disadvantage in any place with Muslim majority. Complaints abound on the lack of adequate compliance with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution of the against the establishment of any state religion, respect for the freedom of religion, including the right to freely change one’s religion, and equality of all religions before the law. In particular, there have been complaints about the special bias, recognition and prominence accorded to Islam in the Constitution of Nigeria.
This should be redressed. To ensure peace and unity of the nation, there must be an end to the practically established status that Islam enjoys in our Constitution. Senate should see this constitution review exercise as an opportunity to give sincere listening ear to Nigerians to whom the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) was imposed on.”