Recently, social media (especially in the North) is faced with turbulences that are rooted in the religious actions and reactions, as flamed by one Facebook user named Mubarak Bala. Going through his posts, he appeared to be an atheist and not only that, a fanatical one. So many things are said for and against his stand, posts and beliefs. More often than not, his posts unnecessarily target, as blasphemy to, Islamic religion as whole. This piece tends to examine Mr. Mubarak Bala’s actions from constitutional and other legal approaches.
Constitutionally, Mr. Bala has every right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; including freedom to change same from one concept, belief or religion to another, either alone or in community with others privately or in public, but of course, within the bounds and limits of the Law.
Mr. Bala as a bona fide citizen of Nigeria should ordinarily not be disturbed, let alone, arrested upon a petition, had he danced commensurately with the tune of the same grund norm of the Land that guaranteed his right in the first place. However, this piece will buttress that Mr. Bala’s arrest by Nigerian Police Force is the most appropriate, proactive and legal step taken.
WHAT IS RELIGION?
To begin with, one needs to be apprised and refresh oneself with the scholarly definition of the concept of religion, in order to appreciate more the right in question. E. B. Taylor in his book titled “An Anthropological Approach” defines religion as;
“Religion refers to the attribute of human being to go beyond himself into relationship with the divine or the Supreme Being.“
Furthermore, E. Durkheim in his “The Elementary Forms of Religious Life” sees religion as;
“Unified system of belief and practices (rite) relative to sacred things, that is o say, things set apart and surrounded by prohibitions –believes and practices that unite its adherent in a single moral economy…”
FREEDOM OF RELIGION IN NIGERIAN CONSTITUTION
Section 38 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) encapsulates and guarantees the inherent human right to practice beliefs they adhere to, either individually or in community with others bound in the same beliefs as defined above. The drafters were very spontaneous in couching the word ‘every person’, particularly in the quoted section. For clarity, let me reproduce the provision of section 38 of the said Constitution, thus:
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 other, and in public or in private) to manifest and propagate his religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance.
Section 7 of the United Nation Declaration on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Based on Religion takes more elaborations on the right to believe and practice any religion of one’s choice.
WHERE MUBARAK BALA GOT IT WRONG
All of the rights under chapter IV of the Constitution are not absolute. All Laws that are justifiable in a democratic society frown upon and vehemently criminalize the act of Mubarak Bala and his likes. He and all his protagonists got to the success in misunderstanding our law hub. Let me start with the Constitution.
One cannot really appreciate, apply or practice the provisions of section 37, 38, 39, 40 and 41 of the same Nigerian Constitution without appropriate guide by the almighty section 45 therein. The exercise of those rights are a sine qua non to peace, living and harmony with the latter provision. This is because nothing in those sections shall invalidate any law that is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society and thus;
In the interest of defense, public safety , public order, public morality or public health; or
For the purpose of protecting the rights and freedom of other persons.
Interestingly, the above limitations (exceptions) offer a tutelageous parameter to the following Nigerian laws;
Under Kaduna state Penal Code 2017 (of course, where Mr. Mubarak Bala was arrested) provides in its section 178 that;
Whoever by any means publically insults or seeks to insult contempt of any religion, by making false statement in such a manner as to likely to lead to a breach of peace, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term of not less than five years or with fine of not less than One thousand naira or both.
Similarly, section 204 of the Criminal Code applicable to the Southern states of Nigeria provides thus;
Any person who does an act which any class of persons consider as a public insults on their religion, with the intention that they should consider the act such an insult, and any person who does an unlawful act with knowledge that any class of persons will consider it such an insult, is guilty of misdemeanor, and is liable to imprisonment for two years.
Moreso, section 24 of the Cybercrimes (Prohibition, Prevention, Etc) Act 2015 is also relevant to this situation as all such insults, annoyance, inconveniences, injury and criminal intimidations were committed by Mubarak Bala through his Facebook cyber account which is subscribed to internet use. The section reads in parts
“Any person who knowingly or intentionally send a message or other matter by means of computer system or network that-
……. ; or
That he knows to be false, for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconveniences, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred, ill will or needless anxiety to another or causes such message to be sent;
Commits an offence under this Act and shall be liable on conviction to a fine of not more than #7,000,000.00 or imprisonment for a term of not more than 3 years or to both.
See also sections 210 of Jigawa State Penal Code, 406 of Zamfara State Shariah Penal Code, etc.
MUBARAK BALA’S POSTS
So many commentators have not been quoting the wording of references as to Mr. Bala’s mayhemic attitude. Now let us observe some of them together.
On the 26th April, 2020 at exactly 12:55 PM, Mr. Bala posted:
“There are no flying horses, there is no Allah, and Islam is exactly as Boko Haram practices it. Whoever believes religion has been duped”
On another post on the same day as 26th April, 2020 at about 12:18am in Hausa version he wrote;
“Babu bambanci tsakanin Annabi TB Joshua(S.A.W.) na Lagas daMuhmmadu (A.S.) na Saudiyya, gara ma namu na najeriya baya ta’addanci”
The interpretation of which is;
“There is distinctions between prophet TB Joshua (S.A.W.) of Lagos and Muhammad (A.S.) Saudi Arabia, best is our Nigerian, for he is not a terrorist”
In another Hausa version he wrote;
“Addinin Islama ma fa kafirci ne ga asalinmu, bautar tsumburbura mai Sawaba. Alliya ta shiryi kanawa
“The religion of Islam is paganism in its origin, (it is all about) worshipping Tsumburbura ( pagan goddess) the merciful. May the goddess guide the Kano people”
The last but not the least, on the 23rd April, 2020 at 11:55pm Mr. Bala wrote;
“Musulmi zasu fara azumi, ga ubangijin daya qi yaye musu talauci duk da salloli 17 da suke yi kulla yaumin. Ina ma ace akwai Allah”
“Muslim are about starting fasting, But there is their God who failed to rid them out of poverty in spites of 17 daily prayers. Had ever existed Allah?”
Thus, in Nigeria, our laws are equitably non derogated and jurisprudentially natural. It limits any person who practices one religion, to the extent of other person’s right of their own chosen religion and to this end, Mr. Bala did not only commit blasphemous act against the religion of Islam as a whole, but unsafely danced faster than the very tune of Nigerian legal melody.
To every faithful Muslim, to every conscious human being, to every reasonable mind and to every justice seeker, there is no breach of public peace above Mr. Mubarak Bala’s causing annoyance, inconveniences, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred, ill will or needless anxiety against the religion of Islam, rhe Allah (God as recognized in the constitution), the noble messenger of Allah, the Muslim community, the Constitutions, the subsidiary Laws of the Land (Nigeria) and the entire people of conscience. Therefore as Mubarak Bala’s mixing steps in dancing faster than the tune of his constitutional melody, which can only be curbed by ensuring the course of justice against him and that, I mean that alone, may reduce the atmosphere of darkness caused by him and extend public safety to others.