Two Nigerian Varsities Dragged to Court over Anti-Christian Practices

A legal action has been instituted against two Nigerian universities for banning Christian fellowship activities on campus since 2017.

According to a statement issued by the Alliance Defending Freedom, International, ADF, an American Christian Advocacy group, the suit was filed against the two universities for violating the right to religious freedom by “indefinitely prohibiting” Christian groups from holding fellowship meetings and worship on campuses. 

According to ADF International, in 2017 and 2022, the two public universities, one state-owned and one federal government-owned, placed bans on the use of university facilities for Christian religious activities, including worship and fellowship, and have since refused to lift the bans. 

Nigeria’s Minister of Education, Prof Maman Tahir

The Christian legal advocacy group stated that one of the universities, which was not mentioned, enforced the ban by locking all worship and fellowship centres on the university campus, preventing Christian students and groups from accessing the facilities, and banning them from meeting for worship and fellowship elsewhere on campus. 

The statement said, “Meanwhile, Muslim student groups at both universities have been permitted to hold worship and fellowship meetings in university-constructed worship and meeting spaces. 

“Both universities have relatively high percentages of Christian students and faculty despite Katsina being a Muslim-majority state.”   

A Christian student in one of the universities who spoke under anonymity was quoted as saying, “We only want to be able to freely gather and worship as Christians on equal terms with other religious faiths. It is wrong that our universities are preventing us from exercising our most basic, fundamental rights.”

The ADF International’s lead counsel on the case, Sean Nelson stated that “No person should be discriminated against for their faith, and the actions of these state and federal universities are unjust.

“The world continues to watch as Nigerian authorities regularly violate the religious freedom rights of their citizens. This kind of discrimination against Christian students cannot be allowed to spread. 

“These two universities should immediately revoke these discriminatory policies and allow Christians on their campuses to gather and worship freely.” 

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu

Katsina State CAN chapter, which filed the lawsuits on behalf of the students, said “The discrimination shown by these universities restricting Christian worship has been condemned by the local Christian community in Katsina as well as throughout Nigeria.

“It is worrisome to see such discrimination against Christians getting stronger. No government-run educational institution should be discriminating based on religion. 

“We ask the rest of the world to condemn this discrimination as well and to join us in praying that the right to worship freely, on campus and elsewhere, will be fully restored.”   

The American Christian Advocacy group ADF International explained that the lawsuit on behalf of the students was instituted under the provisions of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria that protect Nigerian citizens’ right to freedom of religion or belief, noting that “ADF International is supporting the case.” 

On Nigeria’s religious freedom track record, ADF International stated “Together with other religious minorities in Nigeria, the persecution of Christians in Nigeria is especially severe.

“Worldwide, over 5,500 Christians were killed for their faith in 2022. Of those, 90% were Nigerian. At least 200 Christians were murdered by militants in Plateau State, Nigeria, this past Christmas.        

“The criminalisation of blasphemy in Nigeria carries with its dangerous implications for the country as a whole. 

“In a country of more than 200 million, split nearly evenly between Christians and Muslims, blasphemy laws are a significant driver of societal tensions. 

“These laws punish the innocent for expressing their beliefs, silence people from sharing their faith, and perpetuate societal violence. 

“Blasphemy laws throughout Nigeria encourage brutal mob violence and inflict severe harm on minority Muslims, Christian converts, and others.    

“ADF International is supporting the legal defence of Nigerian musician Yahaya Sharif-Aminu, a Sufi Muslim who was sentenced to death by hanging in 2020 for sharing song lyrics that were deemed “blasphemous” on WhatsApp. 

“With the support of ADF International, Yahaya is appealing his case to the Supreme Court of Nigeria in the hopes of overturning the death penalty blasphemy laws in Nigeria. Yahaya, imprisoned for nearly four years, is awaiting his appeal.   

“ADF International also is supporting the defence of Rhoda Jatau, a Christian and mother of five from Nigeria. Jatau, who was recently granted bail, had been imprisoned since May 2022 for allegedly sharing a video on WhatsApp condemning the lynching of Deborah Emmanuel Yakubu, a Nigerian university student who was murdered and set on fire by a mob of her classmates in May 2022 for sharing her Christian faith. Rhoda is currently awaiting the continuation of her trial.”

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