A Kaduna State-based Islamic scholar, Sheikh Haliru Abdullahi Maraya, has advised the state government not to appeal the judgment of the State High Court that prohibited issuance of licence to religious preachers in the state.
He said appealing the judgment would amount to embarking on an exercise in futility.
Speaking to newsmen on the recent judgment of the State High Court on an aspect of the religious bill, Sheikh Maraya, who is also a former Special Adviser to late Governors Patrick Yakowa and Mukhtar Yero on Islamic Matters said, “Definitely, in the event the government appeals against the judgment, the Court of Appeal will affirm the judgment of the State High Court as preaching is a right given to Nigerians by section 38(1) of the 1999 constitution as amended.”
He cited a case between IGP and some 12 political parties in 2005 where a Federal High Court in Abuja declared that Nigerians didn’t need a police permit to embark on a peaceful assembly and procession as doing such is a right given to them by section 40 of the 1999 constitution as amended, stressing that the IGP appealed the judgment but subsequently, the Court of Appeal, in December 2007, affirmed the judgment of the Federal High Court and declared among other things that Nigerians didn’t need a police permit before they would embark on a peaceful assembly.
Sheikh Maraya noted that the recent State High Court judgment has clearly shown that democracy is at work, stressing, “It clearly implies that the voices of the people have prevailed. The State High Court has acted promptly and wisely with utmost justice.”
He recalled, “l could remember vividly in 2016 during the breaking of a fast in the month of Ramadan, l was asked to speak on behalf of those invited by Governor El-Rufai and I asserted that issuing licence to preachers before they would be permitted to propagate their religion and belief was inconsistent with section 38(1) of the 1999 constitution as amended. The recent judgment on the issuance of licence has vindicated me.”
“Additionally, prior to the passing of the judgment, l granted interviews where l asserted my position that the fundamental human rights of Nigerians to practice the religion of their choice and also to propagate it would be trampled upon with the passage of the Religious Bill by the former State House of Assembly if assented to by governor El-Rufai to become a law.”
Speaking on issuing licence to religious preachers in the state, Sheikh Maraya said, “The aforementioned Section, in other words section 38 (1) gives Nigerians the right to preach without any licence, therefore, the Court of Appeal will affirm the judgment of the High Court because it is based on the aforementioned section of the constitution. Undoubtedly, the constitution shall prevail whenever any other law becomes inconsistent with it. This is the position of section 1(3) of the 1999 constitution as amended.”
He advised the state government to use its resources which were to be used in appealing against the judgment to execute projects that would go a long way in bringing succour to the good people of the state.
The renowned Islamic scholar added that Islam permitted and enjoined Muslims to preach the words of Allah without duly being licenced.
“A Muslim does not need a licence to invite people to do what is good and also to keep away from doing what is bad, the Muslims don’t need a licence to do it,” he said.
He called on the state government to give attention to its primary responsibility in the provision of security and social welfare for the citizens.
Sheikh Maraya said, “The government should not be dabbling into the affairs of religion. It should not adopt any religion(s) as a state religion(s) as doing such is contrary to section 10 of the 1999 constitution as amended. That the government of the federation or state shall not adopt any religion as a state religion.
“For a government to embark on screening and licencing religious preachers, one can say that such a government has adopted a state religion which is contrary to the constitution of the land.”
Sheikh Maraya reminded Governor El-Rufai that recently he swore by the Holy Quran in the month of Ramadan while assuming his second term in office to uphold the letters and spirit of the constitution of the land.
The Sheikh advised him not to do anything that will set ablaze any section of the constitution.
He observed that the religious bill talks about establishing a State Interfaith Regulatory Council and also interfaith committees at the local government level, saying, “It has members as Christians and Muslims but traditionalists have not been taken into consideration, this is tantamount to discrimination against the traditionalists, adding that doing such is contrary to section 42(1a&b) of the 1999 constitution as amended.
He noted that by intending to give membership to only Christians and Muslims, the state government has adopted Christianity and Islam as two state religions, pointing out that doing so is contrary to section 10 of the 1999 constitution as amended.
He called on Muslims and Christians all over the world to always live harmoniously with one another and live their lives in accordance with the teachings of the religions of their choice for peace, unity and development to be achieved.