Religious Freedom in Nigeria
While the Nigerian government has done little in the legal realm to infringe upon the right of religious freedom protected under the Constitution, its inability and unwillingness to effectively address the country’s sectarian violence have allowed religious hostilities and social discrimination against religious minorities to go unchecked. Some policies allegedly intended to diminish social tension, such as requiring permits for outdoor public religious functions, banning religious services held away from places of worship, and prohibiting public proselytism in the North, infringe on religious freedom. However, the government’s inaction in the face of religious violence has done more harm. Authorities appear unwilling to address issues bearing on religious diversity and coexistence for fear of provoking further sectarian conflict. For example, the Supreme Court has not ruled on the constitutionality of applying Sharia punishments in the North, where the Christian minority has fiercely opposed them. The government has failed to take legal action against perpetrators of the vast majority of the approximately 12,000 deaths linked to ethno-religious violence since the transition to democracy in 1999. This lack of government intervention led the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom to declare Nigeria one of the world’s worst violators of religious freedom in April 2010. Education is also an area of discrimination against religious minorities. The Constitution states that each student is to be instructed in his or her own religion, but the Ministry of Education only requires public schools to offer either Islamic or Christian religious instruction. Christian students in the North and Muslim students in the South both face shortages of teachers from their respective traditions.