There were reports of detentions by some state and local governments and lack of government protection for victims of religious violence. In addition, some state and local governments imposed restrictions on religious freedom that affected members of religious groups. Some state governments said they had placed limits on religious activity to address security and public safety concerns.
In some states, sharia-based practices, such as the separation of the sexes in public schools and in health care, voting, and transportation facilities, affected non-Muslim minorities. Some Christian groups said religious affairs ministries in some states focused on Muslims exclusively, and this amounted to adoption of a state religion.
There were no verified reports of sharia courts illegally hearing criminal cases during the year. On November 20, an upper sharia court in Bauchi State sentenced a man convicted of rape and incest to death by stoning. The defendant filed an appeal of the verdict with the Bauchi State Sharia Court of Appeal. No court date had been set by the end of the year. The defendant, who had been in police custody since the case began in 2011, also filed a petition for bail with the Bauchi State High Court in November. Bail had not been set by the end of the year.
Sharia courts continued to hear civil cases as permitted by law.
State governments in Bauchi, Zamfara, Niger, Kaduna, Jigawa, Gombe, and Kano funded sharia law enforcement groups called the Hisbah, which enforced sharia law inconsistently and sporadically. The Kano State Hisbah increased its activity throughout the year, announcing the start of a campaign to “restore morality” in September. Members of the Kano State Hisbah occasionally detained women suspected of prostitution; one media outlet quoted a Hisbah official as stating 500 suspected prostitutes had been arrested between January and October. In October the Kano State Hisbah issued a statement to media outlets reminding men and women to remain separated when using public transportation and male taxi drivers not to wear short pants.
Kano State authorities levied steep fines and prison sentences for the public consumption and distribution of alcohol, in compliance with Sharia statutes. On November 27, the Kano State Hisbah publically destroyed 240,000 bottles of beer and 320,000 cigarettes it had seized in Kano city.
Authorities in some states reportedly denied building permits for construction of new places of worship for non-dominant religious communities, or for expansion and renovation of existing facilities. Christians reported local government officials in the predominantly Muslim northern states used zoning regulations and title registrations to stop or slow the establishment of new churches. On August 20, the Borno State Ministry of Lands and Survey notified land and property owners along Gubio Road, an area outside Maiduguri where many churches and Christian schools were located, that the state would imminently take possession of their land in order to build 1,000 housing units. The notification requested owners attend a meeting to discuss valuation of property and structures, but government officials did not conduct the assessments as planned. When questioned by a national Christian group, Borno State officials denied knowledge of the letter, and as of the end of the year the government had not demolished any structures. Some Christian groups said the project was an excuse to evict them.
Muslim organizations continued to criticize the Katsina State law requiring licensing of Islamic schools, preachers, and mosques, although there were no reports of prosecutions. Opponents described the law as discriminatory because it did not impose licensing requirements on Christian groups and stated it inhibited the freedom of Muslim imams to preach openly against the government. The state government maintained that a more rigid definition of Islamic education and preaching helped address security concerns.
Some non-Muslims continued to say government-funded sharia courts amounted to the adoption of Islam as a state religion, while the state governments maintained no person was compelled to use the sharia courts, citing the availability of a parallel common law courts system. One Muslim group complained that the inability to bring criminal cases before sharia courts curtailed its ability to fully exercise religious freedom.
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, Italy, and Israel to support pilgrimages. The National Hajj Commission provided logistical arrangements for approximately 65,500 annual pilgrims to Mecca. The Nigerian Christian Pilgrims Commission provided logistical arrangements for the travel of as many as 30,000 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 or to parochial school education. One Muslim group based in the south confirmed no Muslim student had been required to participate in Christian religious education unless he or she attended a private Christian school.
Although there was no legal restriction against wearing the hijab, on February 5, a public school principal in Lagos State caned an 11-year-old girl when she did not remove her hijab after Islamic studies class, the only time during which the school permitted the hijab. In Lagos State some public school uniform regulations allowed students to wear hijabs only while actively praying. On May 27, the Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria Lagos Area Unit filed a case in the Ikeja High Court, claiming the restriction was unconstitutional. The parties opted to settle out of court at the recommendation of the presiding judge in the case.
Christian groups reported individual administrators of government-run technical schools in several northern states had refused to issue or delayed the degrees and licenses of Christian students.