Christians and Muslims at Odds Over Nigerian Constitution

Calls made to limit Shari'ah law in Northern states
A leading association of Nigerian Christians is calling for the country's constitution to be strengthened to reinforce religious liberty in Nigeria.

Saidu Dogo, the secretary general of the northern Nigeria chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), made the call at a June 30 meeting in Kaduna organized by a presidential committee reviewing the constitution.

CAN is an umbrella body for Nigeria's Roman Catholic and Protestant churches.

Thirteen states in the country have adopted and are implementing Shari'ah, the Islamic legal code, leading to religious clashes, reportedly killing hundreds of people.

Nigeria has more than 100 million people—making it Africa's most populous country—with big Christian and Muslim communities. No estimates reliably depict which religion dominates nationally. Muslims own a big majority in the north while Christians dominate the east. The southwest is mixed.

CAN says that it is particularly concerned that Muslim governors in northern Nigeria are getting around a section of the constitution that prohibits federal and state governments from adopting a state religion. CAN wants the constitution strengthened to prevent federal or state governments from enacting religious laws at odds with the country's secular status.

CAN also wants limitations on the powers of Shari'ah courts of appeal by restricting their scope so that they would deal only with Shari'ah civil cases. Shari'ah courts of appeal have been in existence in northern Nigeria since independence. However, the jurisdiction of these courts has been limited to personal and family matters, while the criminal aspects were vested on the non-religious courts under the control of the federal government.

Nigeria's current constitution, dating ...

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July/August
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