The Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) has expressed strong opposition to a proposed bill aiming to create a National Council of Christian Education. The bishops argue that the bill violates sections 10 and 42(3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, and goes against the secular nature of the country.
Rather than supporting a bill that undermines Nigeria’s secular character, the CBCN suggests that the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), which initially advocated for the bill in the National Assembly, should focus on legislations that address the unprovoked attacks on Christians in the northern regions and other pressing issues.
Archbishop Lucius Ugorji, President of the CBCN, and Bishop Donatus Ogun, Secretary of the CBCN, revealed that several provisions within the bill contradict the fundamental principles of the country.
The bill, sponsored by Rimamde Kwewum, Beni Lar, Yusuf Ayo Tajudeen, John Dyegh, Solomon Bob, and Benjamin Mzondu, aims to develop, regulate, and approve syllabuses and educational content for Christian education at all levels. It also intends to certify instructors of Christian religious education and accredit programs of Christian theological institutions.
However, the bishops criticized the bill for not exempting seminaries and other religious institutes owned by various Christian denominations across the country. They argue that the bill clashes with the secular nature of the Nigerian state, as specified in Section 10 of the 1999 Constitution.
The bishops emphasized that while the government cannot adopt any religion as its official religion, it must uphold the principles governing the relationship between the state and the Church.
They clarified that the idea of regulating religious studies in secular schools originated during the 2019 education summit organized by the Association of Christian Schools in Nigeria, which mainly consists of pentecostal private school owners and some Protestant denominations.
The bishops further noted that the bill was not intended to regulate theological concerns or involve theological institutions, as originally conceived. They revealed that CAN decided to pursue the bill by seeking sponsorship from lawmakers, but certain elements were added to the bill along the way that were not in the Church’s best interest.
According to the CBCN, the bill is unnecessary, impracticable, and compromises the Church’s doctrinal differences. They believe that it would surrender their juridical autonomy in education matters to the government.