There were no reports of abuses of religious freedom by the federal government. However, there were reports of abuses by some state and local governments, including reports of detentions. In addition, some state and local governments imposed restrictions on religious freedom that affected members of religious groups. Some state governments asserted that they placed limits on religious activity to address security and public safety concerns.
Sharia-based practices, such as the separation of the sexes in public schools, health care, voting, and transportation services, affected non-Muslim minorities in the north. State governments in Bauchi, Zamfara, Niger, Kaduna, and Kano funded Sharia law enforcement groups called the Hisbah, which enforced Sharia law inconsistently and sporadically. There were no verified reports that Sharia courts illegally heard criminal cases during the year, although they have done so in the past. Sharia courts continued to hear civil cases as permitted by law.
On August 8, Kano State Hisbah personnel arrested 20 people who chose not to fast during Ramadan. Authorities reportedly denied the detainees food to “teach them how to fast” and released them after three days. Kano State authorities maintained steep fines and prison sentences for the public consumption and distribution of alcohol, in compliance with Sharia statutes. Some non-indigene and non-Muslim residents of Kano accused the Hisbah of impounding alcoholic beverages transported on federal roads through Kano, and harassing and injuring travelers passing through the state because they used or possessed alcohol.
Authorities in some states reportedly denied building permits for construction of new places of worship of the non-dominant religious community, or for expansion and renovation of existing ones. Christians from both the north and the south alleged that in the predominantly Muslim northern states, local government officials used zoning regulations and title registrations to stop or slow the establishment of new churches. Early in the year, a church in a northern state purchased land from a private seller to expand its rectory, but local government officials refused to transfer the title into the church’s name. Some Muslims in the south alleged that local government officials demolished or prevented the construction of mosques in retaliation for denials in the north. On August 12, Muslims in predominantly Christian Anambra State protested the state government’s decision to demolish a mosque, allegedly for a road construction project. By year’s end, government officials had not compensated the community or provided a new mosque.
On August 13, police in Plateau State banned Muslims from using certain open-air prayer grounds during the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Fitr, citing concern for the safety of the worshippers, given the deaths of ten Muslims at a prayer ground in 2011. This year the Plateau State government recommended an alternate prayer ground, and no large-scale violence occurred.
Muslim organizations continued to criticize a Katsina State law requiring licensing of Islamic schools, preachers, and mosques, although there were no reports of prosecutions under the law during the year. Opponents described the law as discriminatory, because it did not impose licensing requirements on Christian groups, and asserted that it inhibited the freedom of Muslim imams to preach openly against the government. The government maintained that a more rigid definition of Islamic education and preaching helped address security concerns.
On November 19, a federal high court based in Minna, the capital of Niger State, ordered the state government to pay approximately $503,000 in compensation for a February 2011 incident in which the authorities had evicted from the state a small Islamic group critical of the local government. The state government appealed, claiming that only state level high courts have jurisdiction over such cases. The case remained unresolved at year’s end.
Some non-Muslims alleged that use of government-funded Sharia courts amounted to the adoption of Islam as a state religion.
The federal government approved the use of air carriers for religious pilgrimages to Mecca for Muslims and to Jerusalem or Rome for Christians, and subsidized both types of pilgrimages. It established airfares and negotiated bilateral air service agreements with Saudi Arabia and Israel to support pilgrimages. The National Hajj Commission provided logistical arrangements for approximately 85,000 annual pilgrims to Mecca. The Nigerian Christian Pilgrims Commission provided logistical arrangements for as many as 30,000 annual pilgrims to Jerusalem and Rome.
Shortages of teachers capable of teaching Christianity or Islam reportedly existed in some public schools. Increasingly, students received no religious instruction in the classroom, turning instead to informal religious instruction outside of public schools. One Muslim group based in the south confirmed that no Muslim student was required to participate in Christian religious education unless he or she attended a private parochial school.