#Legal Sense

Law against discrimination (iv)

By Funmilayo Olagunju

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The Federal Republic of Nigeria is a secular State that guarantees “religious freedom”. The terms “religious freedom” and “religious liberty”, were defined in Religious Tolerance published by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance, thus:

“The traditional meaning of religious freedom/liberty is for a person or group to have the freedom to hold different religious beliefs, to express those beliefs, to assemble with others at religious services, to proselytize freely, etc. — without little or no oppression or interference, and few restrictions”

Section 38(1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria provides for freedom of religion, change of religion and propagation of religion:

“Every person shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom (either alone or in community with others, and in public or private) to manifest and propagate his religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance.”

In the case of AGBAKOBA v. A-G, FEDERATION & ANOR (2021) LPELR-55906(CA), the Court interpretes the freedom of religion:

“This right implies that every individual citizen has full freedom of religion. No one can be subjected to any social, economic or political discrimination simply on grounds of religion. No one should be discriminated against in public employment on grounds of religion. These provisions underscore the secular state of the Nigerian Nation”

The Apex Court in LAGOS STATE GOVT & ORS v. ABDULKAREEM & ORS (2022) LPELR-58517(SC) held thus:

“There will be a violation of Sections 38 and 42 to enforce a particular dress code on a group of students, workers, corps members in NYSC, etc; save they surrender or waive these rights. In fact, to force and compel a person to dress in a manner or method contrary to the “religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance” of a person is contrary to his fundamental rights”

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By the provision of Section 45 of the constitution, Fundamental rights may be restricted in the interests of defence, public safety, public order, public morality, public health and the protection of the rights or freedoms of others.

“But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”

Joshua 24:15

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