Is Nigeria A Secular or Non-Secular State? Part 2

Secularism in Other countries

Even though not all legally secular states are truly secular in practice, few of them are secular to a greater extent. All countries of the world are multi-religious and as such secularism is seen as the only option to stamp out religious persecution and denial of the individual right to freedom of religion through the state apparatus. The list below are countries where secularism thrives.

  • France is a country populated by about 80% of her citizens being Catholics, yet she is secular. The voice of religions is largely silent in public affairs. In fact, in 2004, a law was passed banning the use of religious symbols in public places which included the wearing of crucifix or hijabs by Muslim women.
  • India is the biggest democracy in the world and home to the largest population of hindu followers the world over, yet she is secular.
  • United Kingdom is a secular state. It is a multi-religious society, even with the existence of the Church of England whose role in the country political and public life has decreased greatly. All religions have level-playing field without any singled out for state patronage.
  • U.S.A., the official symbol of the nation is “In God We Trust” but this is no reference to a particular God. The constitution is secular as well as the country31. Religious practices are banned in public places.
  • Turkey, though this is an Islamic nation in terms of the faith of the majority of her citizens, she is secular. There exists a strict separation between the state and religious institutions.

What is the Effect of Violating Section 10 of the Nigerian Constitution?

Section 1032 itself does not stipulate any consequences that should follow its violation. Past and present Nigerian leaders have breached the letter and spirit of this provision without sanctions.

Nigeria was made a member of the Organization of Islamic Countries as well as Islamic Development Bank with reckless abandon to section 10 and the sensibilities of Non-Muslim Nigerians. It was recently reported in the dailies33 of a State sponsoring the mass wedding of Muslim women who were singles as part of its Sharia programme.

However, a violation of section 10 should attract a serious sanction. The section is contained under Chapter One of the Constitution which, unlike Chapter Two, is enforceable.

How Should a Multi-Religious Society Be Governed?

The best way to stamp out religious disharmony and ensure a peaceful co-existence in a multi-religious Nigeria is to entrench true secular governance. Individuals must have freedom of religion and no one must be discriminated against on account of his religion.

Religion should be kept entirely private. No public funding should be extended to religious affairs in the nature of promoting any religion at all. By doing this, everyone would be accorded a sense of justice and there will be peace.

Giving a similar admonition, Jide Osuntokun34 recently stated:

‘…every effort must be made not to abandon the concept of a secular state because Nigeria cannot survive a religious conflict and we do not need to re-invent the wheels in this particular case of a secular state because the history of Western Civilization has proved conclusively that secularity works and is the best way in a religiously plural country.’’

Why Nigeria Should Become A True Secular State

The only antidote to recurring religious uprisings and ceaseless agitations and counter-agitations of different religious bodies in a multi-religious state like Nigeria is the adoption of true secularism. Nigerian governments at all levels must stop meddling in religious matters. No religious group should be singled out for preferential treatment or victimization.

It will be recalled that Nigeria has lost countless number of her citizens and unquantifiable amount of properties and resources over the years to religiously motivated crises and mayhem. With the emergence of Boko Haram, Nigerian government must be more proactive to strengthen the secular status of the country. In other words, unless the Nigerian government is seriously committed to uphold the principles of secularism in public affairs, all efforts to stamp out religious unrest in the country will be counter-productive.


True secularism cannot however be achieved, unless section 10 of the Constitution is amended in the manner in which section 145 of the same Constitution was amended following the controversies occasioned by the Yar’Adua episode in 2010.35


Nigeria must be clearly described as a secular state in the Constitution and secularism or secular state must equally be defined in the interpretation section of the same Constitution.


Eze (Dr.) Enyeribe Onuoha36 has, in a more elaborate manner, proposed the following amendments to section 10 of the Constitution:

“Subsection (1) – That no government in Nigeria, Federal, State or Local shall fund religion or  religious activities in any way,

(2) – No government in Nigeria shall affiliate in a religious organization, within or outside, the nation

(3) – No government shall adopt a law peculiar to any religion

(4) – No government in Nigeria shall participate officially in religious services, activities or programmes or adopt religious names, images or symbols nor participate in the selection, appointment or installation of religious authorities.

(5) – Religion shall not be taught, and proselytizing shall not be practiced, in public schools, hospitals, and institutions.

(6) – The State shall not take over property belonging to religious organizations without paying adequate compensation.

(7) – Any State that breaches section 10 of the Constitution shall be deemed to have withdrawn from the Federation and, therefore shall, after due process, be denied Federal allocation of funds until purges itself of its effrontery.’’

It is therefore hoped that the current Constitutional amendment exercise being undertaken by the National Assembly will extend to this very important section of the Constitution which goes a long way to determine our progress, prosperity, unity, peace and wellbeing as a people.


 End Notes

  1. The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).
  2. Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English (The Living Dictionary), New Edition, 2007, page 1482.
  3. Omotola Jeremiah Shola on Secularism and the Politics of Religious Balancing:
  4. Black’s Law Dictionary, With Pronunciations, Sixth Edition at page 1353
  5. Secular State: Supra
  6. Supra
  7. See: Akintola vs. Adegbenro (1963) AC 614; Bronik Motors vs. Wema Bank (1983) NLR 296; Toriola vs. Williams (1982) 7 SC. And Rabiu vs. State (1982) 2 NCLR 117.
  8. Section 38 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended)
  9. Section 42 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended)
  10. The 1999 Constitution, Made Simple For Everyone’s Use, 1st Edition (Published by Juriscope – You and the Law Series)
  11. Supra
  12.  What is the difference between a secular and non secular?
  13.  Living in Saudi Arabia:
  14.  Nigeria:
  16.  Op. Cit
  17.  Christians and the Sharia Issue:
  18.  Op. Cit
  19.  Op. Cit
  20.  Op. Cit
  21.  Op. Cit
  22.  Secularism in Turkey:
  23.   Secularism in Egypt:
  24. Secularism in Pakistan:
  25.  Sekinal Lawal on Is Nigeria a secular or multi-religious nation?
  26. Alhaji Muhammed Sa’ad Abubakar III, Sultan of Sokoto on Nigeria not a secular state:
  27.  Muideen Adesokan on Nigeria not a secular state:
  28.  Christians and the Sharia Issue:
  29. Mohammed Adamu on secularism,state and religion :
  30.  Damola Awoyokun on Secularism, Adegbite and Sharia Banking:
  31.  First amendment to the United States Constitution:
  32.  Supra
  33.  The Punch, May 16, 2012, page 4.
  34. Jide Osuntokun on
  35. The section 145 of the old 1999 Constitution was amended because its wordings were not elaborate enough just like section 10 of the current Constitution which is yet to be seen as gravely in need of amendment.
  36. Eze (Dr.) Enyeribe Onuoha on religion and state in Nigeria:
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3 Responses to “Is Nigeria A Secular or Non-Secular State? Part 2”

  1. Olayinka Agbetuyi says:

    It is unquestionable that as it stands today Nigeria is a secular STATE qua state. Whether holders of public office has kept faith with its official status is another matter entirely. The same may be said of Western models Nigerian advocates of secularism wish to emulate. Many of the leading Western models dip into Sovereign Wealth funds to finance state projects and have funds from Islamic states in banks from which apex banks compute national wealth and borrow to fund public projects. The extent of the observance of secular creed in the United States is not the same as in the United kingdom

    Second, the models that undergird dictionary and wikipedia definitions are at best drawn from religious factions of a mono-religious culture in which one faction was dominant ie Christian factionalism from the 15th to 17 centuries. They are not radically different ways of life as obtained in Yoruba religions versus Islam or Christianity.
    Third, religion from the dawn of History has been inseparable from politics even when Western advocates pay largely lip service to this ideal. Corollary: in a democracy in which the majority wants a particular brand of a religion or a particular religion to be dominant as expressed by their vote. It is tyranny to overule their wishes with an appeal to what is seen to be in their enlightened interest (and immediate interest of the west). This is what has led to the imposition of military dictatorship in countries such as Egypt the consequences of which is now part of history.
    The rise of militant Islam in southern Nigeria coincides with the activites of the Unibadan Noibi Group (to the best of my recollection) and this dovetails to the 1978 Solution earlier expressed in this article. T he National assembly must establish a deadline for all state to conform to secularism as to be defined in the extant constitution as defined in the Nigerian constitution and grant clemency to all Nigerian governments at all levels that have hitherto violated its provisions. An alternative which will take effect after due ammendment of the Constitution following a Sovereign National Conference will define the extent to which each federating unit wishes to apply secularism in view of the religious leanings of its constituents -in short a confederal application of secularism which takes on board the radically different faiths of Nigerians in relation to the Western models it seeks to emulate.
    Olayinka Agbetuyi. Comparatist, translator and cultural critic.

    • Hi Mr Agbetuyi, thanks for your incisive comment. Yes, i agree that, theoretically speaking, Nigeria can be described as a secular state because her constitution prohibits adoption of a religion as an official creed for the federation or any state but in practice have some states not adopted a state religion? In Nigeria, if the governor is a Muslim, the deputy has to be a Christian especially in states where the two faiths share dominant followers. Again, official events are either commenced with interdenominational service in the church or mosque, while they are rounded up in either of them as well. Yet, some people say Nigeria is secular. Yes, the constitution forbids the adoption of a state religion, it is my submission that the same constitution has not done enough to make the country a secular one.

      • OZION HILLARY says:


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