The Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) has rejected a bill seeking to establish a national council for Christian education in Nigeria.
The bill, which seeks to develop, regulate and approve syllabuses and content for all levels of Christian education, was sponsored by six lawmakers – Rimamde Kwewum, Beni Lar, Yusuf Tajudeen, John Dyegh, Solomon Bob and Benjamin Mzondu.
Among others, the bill will certify Christian religion education instructors at basic and secondary levels, approve the content in all schools as well as accredit programmes of theological institutions.
In a statement signed by Lucious Ugorji, CBCN president, and Donatus Ogun, secretary, the bishops said the bill violates sections 10 and 42(3) of the Nigerian constitution.
The CBCN said the bill made no exemption for seminaries and other religious institutes owned by the various Christian denominations in the country.
“In as much as the governments at the federal or state level, has not and cannot adopt any religion as its official religion, it must respect the juridical principles that govern the relationship between the state and the church,” the statement reads.
“The idea of pursuing a bill to regulate religious studies in secular schools came up during the education summit organised in 2019 by the Association of Christian Schools in Nigeria (ACSN), a body of mostly pentecostal private school owners and some protestant denominations.
“The bill, as originally intended, was neither intended to regulate theological concerns nor to have anything to do with theological institutions. Having discussed the idea, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) decided to pursue it by asking the lawmakers named above to sponsor the bill.
“But at some point, certain elements were added to the bill, which certainly are not in the interest of the church.
“The chief motivation was that the Muslims had an education board being funded by the federal government. It was reckoned that if the Muslims had such a board, Christians, too, should have theirs.”
The bishops described the bill as “unnecessary and impracticable”.
The bishops urged CAN to undertake “a proper needs assessment to determine the demands of Christians in Nigeria that would require the support of the government”.
“Asking the government to establish a council for Christian education simply because Muslims have one is counterproductive,” CBCN said.
They also tasked CAN to explore the possibility of going for a bill that addresses the collective concerns of Christians such as violence against Christians in the North and refusal to admit Christian children into tertiary institutions.