Religion and Law

Laws are said to be a set of laid down rules and regulations that guide a particular society. Therefore, each society is subject to its own set of rules that helps to navigate their course of living. Religion, however, is said to be a particular arrangement of beliefs and conduct including code of morals and reasoning that guides a given set of people.

Therefore, Laws have been found to have their origin in religion as it is said to be the basis in which some societies came into existence. Although seen as a faith-based process, it is capable of impacting governance and the behavioural attitudes of every individual.

Nigeria is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious state; religion is vital to the existence of the country and furthermore impacts the creation of laws. Nigeria is seen as a de-facto state having three dominant religions: Islam, Christianity, and Traditional Practice. By virtue of Section 38(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, It guarantees freedom of thought, conscience, and religion as everyone is allowed to practice whatever religion they deem fit, provided they don’t impede on the peace and harmony of the general public. Section 4 (7) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 gives the state authority to make laws for the peace and good administration of their territories. The constitution allows for the advancement of freedom of speech amongst religions so they can air their perspectives about the society, this will, in turn, impact the public decisions including the creation of laws in the state. The constitution in this manner recognizes the impact of religion in the society for the maintenance of balance between law and religion.

However, according to S10 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, there shall be no state religion because the Nigerian Constitution seeks to maintain the idea of secularism. This position of law guarantees that the state and religion are not intertwined and as such, religious beliefs ought not to impact any governmental decision. This idea is one that ought to be generally grasped in society and the world at large. However, as seen in the prominent case of ESABUNOR & ANOR V. FAWEYA & ORS (2019) LPELR-46961(SC). It was held by the court that when a child is unequipped for making decisions for himself, the law is compelled by a sense of honour to shield such a person from abuse of his rights as he may grow up and disregard those religious beliefs. The Judgment upheld by the court, in this case, purports that laws ought not to be made based on religious beliefs. In Nigerian society, the supposed marriage of religion and the state is apparently considered to be alien. For example, religious festivities such as Easter, Christmas, New Year, Eid festivals, Sallah, and so forth, would not be adhered to by the state. Additionally, acts of stealing and theft have long been criminalized in the penal legislation of various States juxtaposes the interplay between law and religion.

This can lead to conflict between the three dominant religious sects as the issue of equality will arise as what religion should dominate as the state religion. I believe that this factor of inequality is the genesis of some problems in the present-day Nigerian society.

I recommend that in order to guarantee that Nigeria maintains her tranquillity and security, the idea of secularism as maintained in the constitution ought to be kept up where religion doesn’t meddle with the laws and vice versa.


1. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as ammended

2. Momoh Lawani Yesufu, The impact of religion on a secular state: the Nigerian experience, Ecc. vol 42 n1 Pretoria 2016.

3. Ademowo, Adeyemi. (2014). Secularism, Secularisation and the Secular Nigeria Project. 10.13140/RG.2.1.2335.0248

Joy Ilobun

Joy is a 300L law student of Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti, Nigeria. She is an enthusiastic law student who is interested in protected innovation law (Intellectual Property), Corporate practice and Dispute resolution. She has also developed an interest in writing and as such participated in competitions such as the Noble Chinwendu Annual Essay Competition, 2020.