Law, religion and human rights in Nigeria

This article was published in AHRLJ Volume 8 No 2 2008. This paper explores the relationship between law, religion and human rights in Nigeria. The level and intensity of religious strife in Nigeria justify this inquiry, whose aim should be the design of a framework that enables individuals to enjoy the freedom of religion and ensures that religious conflicts are managed in Nigeria’s multi-ethnic and multi-religious context. Almost a decade to the introduction of Islamic criminal law in the 12 northern states of Nigeria, there is no longer any doubt that religion is fundamental to the survival of Nigeria. The basic thesis of this paper is that the key to understanding the relationship between law, religion and human rights in Nigeria lies in the unacknowledged dominance of Islam and Christianity, which I characterise as de facto state religions, and the resulting neglect of other religions. It is this reality, its denial and misunderstanding of attendant constitutional obligations that define the relationship between the Nigerian state and religion.

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