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HomeEducationDiscrimination Controversy Roils Christian  Students at Nigeria’s Northern Universities

Discrimination Controversy Roils Christian  Students at Nigeria’s Northern Universities

Christian Students Cite Systematic Discrimination by Muslim Administrators

By Alex Agbo and Mike Odeh James

(Kaduna) -The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria guarantees every Nigerian freedom of assembly and worship, yet the reverse is true on university campuses in Katsina and Kaduna, local students tell TruthNigeria.

Christian students in Katsina and Kaduna, — both far northern states but with strong Christian minorities —  say university authorities have prevented them from conducting Christian fellowship on university campuses and that they do not have the right to build chapels or churches within the University

Despite the reported cases of high levels of discrimination against Christian students in universities in the North, the federal and state governments have not intervened to stop these anomalies, students tell TruthNigeria.

On March 19, 2024, it was widely published that the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Katsina State branch, with the support of an American conservative Christian legal advocacy group, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF International), had sued two higher institutions in Katsina State for banning Christian groups from holding fellowship meetings on campus. Muslim group, on the other hand, have used campus facilities for decades.

The ADF International posted on March 20 that 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 campus.

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

ADF International also stated that one of the universities, which was not mentioned, enforced the ban by locking all worship and fellowship centers on university grounds, preventing Christian students and groups from accessing the facilities, and banning them from meeting for worship and fellowship elsewhere on campus.

Christians in Varsities in Katsina corroborate ADF International.

Christians at Umar Musa Yar Adua University Katsina and Federal University Dutsima who spoke to TruthNigeria exclusively verified the claims of the ADF International.

“On January 17, 2017, the institution’s acting Dean of Students’ Affairs, Dr. Sulaiman Kankara, banned all religious clubs and associations that were operating on its campus in an internal memorandum,” according to Umar Daniel Bature, a leader of the Christian community at Umar Musa Yar Adua University.

 “The Muslim Students Society of Nigeria is the only religious association allowed to operate in the university. All tribal and local government associations are prohibited by the university,”  the memo reads, according to Bature.

“Since then, we have not been allowed to build chapels or fellowship in classes without one form of intimidation or the other,” Bature added.

Speaking to TruthNigeria, a three hundred-level student of law, Zuwaira Ali Badaru, explains how female students are forced to dress using hijab and other Islamic dresses.

“The first thing the university authorities would let you understand is that you are in a Muslim environment, so you must confirm or behave like them,” Badaru said.

“That means you must wear an Islamic head scarf and their gown called a hijab. Failure to do that means your lecturer would ask you to leave the class.

 Again, if you are a law student, there are some courses (Arabic and Islamic Studies) that you must take, or else you would have to quit studying law as a course,” Badaru told TruthNigeria.

Christian Chapels Demolished by Muslim Officials

In the same vein, Fatima Usman Usara, a four hundred-level student of computer science at Federal University Dutsima, told TruthNigeria that the initial chapel meant for Christian students to worship was pulled down by the authorities even before it was completed in 2015.

“Since then, all attempts to get us a chapel have proved negative. If you gather in an empty hall to pray, you risk being suspended,” Usara said.

“In this campus alone, we have three Mosques but not a single chapel,” she added

“I know that many students and staff have been so intimidated that they have withdrawn from the university, Usara said.

Kaduna State Government Agency Pulled Down Buildings Intended to Serve Christians

The Kaduna State government meanwhile has built six mosques on university campus for Muslims worth over N60 million, while the Christian community at Kaduna State University, Kaduna, does not have a single chapel.

“In 2014, land was allocated by the authorities for a chapel to be built,” according to senior lecturer in the Lawyer Department, Godwin Katuka,

“The Christian Community started to construct a big chapel on the land, only for us to discover three weeks into its completion that the building was pulled down and what looked like another mosque was being constructed there.

“The Christian Community complained, and we were given another land to build two chapels, one for the Catholics and the other for the Protestants,”Katuka said.

“However, as we started building on the land in 2022, the Kaduna State Urban Property Development Agency (KASUPDA), a regulatory agency of the government, appeared at the construction site and demolished the two chapels,” he added.

“When the staff wanted to protest the demolition, the soldiers attached to the agency beat up one of the university lecturers and snatched the phones of other lecturers so that they would not record the demolition of the chapels,” Katuka said.

TruthNigeria tried to contact the Public Relations Department of KASU to ascertain why chapels are not allowed in the varsity, but the authorities declined to talk.

Student Complaints Rebutted by Official of the Christian Association of Nigeria in Katsina State.

Much ado about nothing, according to Musa Daniel Danladi,  the Secretary of  the Christian Association of Nigeria ( CAN) Katsina Chapter in an exclusive interview with Truthnigeria.

Danladi denied that CAN sued the University.

“While it is true that there is a  matter such as this in court, it is not true that CAN took the two institutions to court.

One Bar. Ibrahim Isah, a lawyer, took them to court and claimed it is the State Christian Association of Nigeria,” Danladi said.

He also explained that discrimination against Christians in universities in Katsina is not that prevalent

“Even if  that [discrimination against Christians]  was true then in 2017, it is not true now [2024].

Because as an Indigenous Christian from Katsina State, I have been invited to preach in the state University three times,” Danladi said.

“Christian students have a recognized Fellowship called Christian Students Society (CSS) in all the universities in Katsina State

 “As for Federal  University Dutsima, Christians fellowship in the largest Auditorium of the University, the Large Lecture Hall 2 and other designated venues on Tuesdays, Thursdays and multiple batches on Sundays.

“And In Umaru Musa Yaradua University Katsina, the students whose number is not so much hold their fellowship on Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays at the Auditorium located at the Students center.

Mike Odeh James and Alex Agbo are veteran journalists reporting for TruthNigeria

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