From Fred Ezeh, Abuja
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) has registered their discontent with the level of recognition accorded Islam in the 1999 constitution.
They observed that Islam was mentioned many times in the constitution, while there was not a single mention of Christianity or any other religion in the constitution, demanding that it should be redressed.
CBCN in its presentation at the Senate Committee meeting on constitutional review demanded that such changes be effected in the proposed constitutional amendment to give equal recognition to all religion or expunge the recognition given to Islam in the constitution.
CBCN President Most Rev Augustine Akubueze, in a statement released in Abuja, stated that ‘in the first place that there was no time Nigerians convened as individual stakeholders or as represented citizens to decide on or give it to themselves as a binding law or constitution.
‘The 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is a product of and an imposition of the military. 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 a Muslim majority.
‘Complaints abound on the lack of adequate compliance with the provisions of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 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 this nation, 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. We note in this regard that while Islam is mentioned many times in the constitution, there was not a single mention of Christianity or any other religion in the constitution. This should be redressed.’
CBCN urged the Senate to take seriously its stand in response to its call for memoranda on the review of the 1999 constitution. ‘Senate should see this constitution review exercise as an opportunity to give a sincere listening ear to Nigerians to whom the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (As Amended) was imposed on.’