Rights to Freedom of Religious Belief and Expression
39 Pages Posted: 30 Jun 2017
Date Written: June 27, 2017
Since its independence in 1960, Nigeria has struggled unsuccessfully to clearly articulate the relationship between religion and the state. Whereas the Nigerian constitution has declared freedom of religion and apparently seeks to separate state affairs from the doctrinal learnings of religion, the same constitution creates and recognises executive and judicial institutions with religious biases. Thus, the existence of tripartite systems of law and administration of justice based on traditional, religious and secular jurisprudence, as well as multiple educational systems based on secular and religious principles, only serve the purpose of obfuscating the real character of the Nigerian state, whether secular or religious. The security ramifications of this conceptual uncertainty mean that religion is often instrumentalized for political and selfish ends, thereby creating strong animosity among religious groups. This is particularly so as the politicization of religion inevitably breeds premeditated inequities in terms of resource allocation and other ruminations of patronage by the competing dominant religious group(s).
The consequence of this dysfunctional configuration of state-religion relations is the persistence of religiously induced conflicts and intolerance in the country since the early 1980s.
It is against this background that this paper seeks to realise the following objectives: i. To underscore the importance of freedom of religion and expression for social well-being and democratic governance; ii. To situate the legal foundation for the role of the state in protecting the rights to freedom of religion and expression within the permissible restrictions; iii. To conclude with some viable options for Nigeria.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation