Controversy trails CAN’s Christian education bill

THE National Assembly is currently pushing for the passage of a bill to create a regulatory body that will inspect and approve the content of Christian religious education in all schools across the country.

But the bill has been embroiled in controversy.

The proposed legislation is titled ‘Bill to Establish the National Council for Christian Education to Regulate and Set Standards and for Related Matters, 2023’.

It was initiated by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and is sponsored at the National Assembly by Binos Dauda Yaroe, a senator representing Adamawa South Senatorial District.

At the level of the House of Representatives, the bill is sponsored by Shawulu Kwenmwun, a lawmaker representing Donga, Takum, Ussa and Yantu federal constituencies in Taraba state.

According to the sponsors, the bill will regulate and set standards for developing a Christian education curriculum and monitor what learners are taught in school.

The bill passed second reading in the Senate in May.

What the bill proposes

The bill seeks to establish a regulatory council called National Council for Christian Education to monitor Christian religious education nationwide.

The proposed Council will monitor and collate data on Christian education.

Also, the bill seeks to develop and approve syllabuses for Christian education at all levels of learning and certify the study of Christian religion.

It equally seeks to train and certify teachers of Christian religious education in primary and secondary schools.

The bill stipulates that the regulatory body should conduct research, and also publish statistics and information on Christian education.

It further proposes that the body will review and approve the content of all Christian education in schools across the country and accredit the programmes of Christian theological institutions of learning.

The bill grants the Council the right to obtain relevant information and reports on Christian education in schools.

The Council can also demand data on the instructors and inspect the content of their lesson notes.

Speculations about the bill 

The bill was first reported as a move to regulate and set standards for the practice of Christianity and also create a curriculum for the practice of Christianity in Nigeria.

However, there were speculations that adherents of other religious faiths sponsored the bill to reduce the practice of Christianity in Nigeria.

But CAN had debunked the speculation, saying those spreading the claims have malicious intent.

According to the Christian association,  the bill does not regulate Christianity or censor Christian preaching and preachers in the country.

“The report that the bill seeks to regulate Christianity or censor Christian preaching and preachers was mischievous and maliciously spewed to cause disaffection between CAN, the sponsors of the bill and the Christian community in Nigeria and ultimately scuttle our noble agenda to have a voice on matters that concern our faith and calling,” the CAN Media Team said in a press statement on May 9.

CAN rather explained that the bill sought to oversee Christian curriculum development and monitor children and formalise it as a course in tertiary institutions.

The organisation said many unqualified theological institutions are operating in the country.

“This bill will harmonise their operations and set a minimum standard that must be met before awarding certificates to their graduands.”

Catholic bishops reject the bill

However, the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) has kicked against the bill. 

According to the association, the bill is impractical as its proposal violates Sections 10 and 42(3) of the Nigerian Constitution. 

In a statement by its President, Archbishop Lucius Ugorji, and Secretary, Bishop Donatus Ogun, the CBCN said the bill made no exemption for seminaries and other religious institutes owned by other Christian denominations. 

    The association noted that by doing this, the bill infringed on the rights of different Christian denominations to provide instructions according to their respective doctrines.

    The association cited Section 42(3) of the 1999 Constitution, which states that “no religious community or denomination shall be prevented from providing religious instruction for pupils of that community or denomination in any place of education maintained wholly by that community or denomination”.

    The CBCN noted that when the idea to initiate the bill came up in 2019, it was not originally intended to regulate theological institutions. 

    “But at some point, certain elements were added to the bill, which certainly is not in the interest of the church,” the CBCN said.

    Beloved John is an investigative reporter with International Centre for Investigative Reporting.

    You can reach her via: [email protected]

    Join the ICIR WhatsApp channel for in-depth reports on the economy, politics and governance, and investigative reports.

    Support the ICIR

    We invite you to support us to continue the work we do.

    Your support will strengthen journalism in Nigeria and help sustain our democracy.

    If you or someone you know has a lead, tip or personal experience about this report, our WhatsApp line is open and confidential for a conversation


    Please enter your comment!
    Please enter your name here

    Support the ICIR

    We need your support to produce excellent journalism at all times.

    - Advertisement