Status of Christians in Nigeria and whether the government has taken action against proselytizing [NGA32959.E]

Nigeria is a secular state but there are equal proportions of Muslims predominantly in the north, and Christians in the south and east (Post Express Wired 17 May 1999). According to Country Reports 1998, "the Constitution prohibits any interference with the practice of religion, and the Government generally respects freedom of religion. Most citizens practice Islam. Christians (including Jehovah's Witnesses) and the Baha'is practice freely. Foreign missionaries work freely, but their organizations must be registered as Nigerian associations" (1999, 311). The U.S. Department of State Annual Report on International Religious Freedom for 1999 states that "Although the Government has never outlawed proselytizing, it continued to discourage and criticize it publicly, in the belief that it stimulates religious tensions" (9 Sept. 1999). The report further claims that

There were occasional reports of harassment of Christian missions by local government officials in predominantly Islamic regions. In April and again in August 1998, the local Council Lafia, in Nasarawa State, reportedly ordered the closure of a Protestant Christian mission church in connection with a dispute about the mission's title to the land. In March 1998, State Security Service officers reportedly detained and interrogated the mission's pastor. The mission seeks to convert members of the generally Islamic Kambari ethnic group (ibid.).

Apparently, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) freely expresses its opinion calling for the release of the detainees (8 July 1998), religious tolerance (Post Express Wired 26 June 1999), a Christian president, and for "Christians to participate actively in the ongoing democratisation process with a view to clinching the presidency and give a prosperous leadership" (ibid.; 16 Sept. 1998). According to the Post Express Wired, there is a proliferation of churches in Nigeria and the CAN had reportedly voiced its intention to "check" or "curb" the activities of these "mushroom" or "warehouse" churches (29 Sept. 1999).

For additional information on religion in Nigeria, please consult NGA32382.E of 10 August 1999 and NGA31457.E of 1 April 1999 and the attached U.S. Department of State Annual Report on International Religious Freedom.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please see below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1998. United States Department of State. United States Government Printing Office.

Post Express Wired [Ikeja]. 29 September 1999. James Egbuchulam. "A People Against Themselves." [Accessed: 28 Oct. 1999]

_____. 16 September 1998. Bassey Inyang. "Cleric Wants Christian President." [Accessed: 28 Oct. 1999]

_____. 8 July 1998. "CAN Restates Calls for Release of Detainees."[Accessed: 28 Oct. 1999]

_____. 26 June 1999. Adeniyi Ojebisi. "Council Chairman Sues for Religious Tolerance." [Accessed: 28 Oct. 1999]

_____. 17 May 1999. Bola Lawal. "Obasanjo and Our Imperfect Federalism (3)." [Accessed: 28 Oct. 1999]

_____. 9 May 1999. "Sharia Will Plunge the Nation into Chaos." [Accessed: 28 Oct. 1999]

U.S. Department of State Annual Report on International Religious Freedom. 9 September1999"Nigeria."http://www.state.gove/ [Accessed: 28 Oct. 1999]


U.S. Department of State Annual Report on International Religious Freedom. 9 September 1999. "Nigeria."http://www.state.gove/ [Accessed: 28 Oct. 1999]

Additional Sources Consulted

Africa Research Bulletin: Political, Social and Cultural Series [Oxford]. January-December 1998. Nos. 1-12.

Amnesty International. 1999. Amnesty International Report 1999. New York: Amnesty International USA.

Keesing's Record of World Events. January-December 1998. Nos. 1-12.

New African [London]. January-December 1998. Monthly.

West African [London]. January-December 1998. Nos. 4179-4199.