Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

The Interaction of Law and Religion in Central Nigerian Societies

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

The Interaction of Law and Religion in Central Nigerian Societies

Article excerpt

Introduction

Law and religion constitute an integral part of human society that assists to maintain peace, stability and progress among people in human society. It raises human consciousness and subconscious fear with regard to punishment in the community and the hereafter (1). Legal and religious orientations are inseparable as they both deal with the maintenance of order despite struggle for power and disputes, how rights are enforced and wrongdoing are redressed. In Africa, the pervasive influence of religion is an important factor regulating the behaviours and conduct of people in society. Legislation is administered in interpersonal disputes, civil and religious offences against the customary traditions of the community (2).

Law and religion is a central feature of a pluralistic society to maintain equity, social justice, fairness and equality among people of diverse ethnic, social and religious groups (3). Legislative and religious orientation allows for differing notions about the laws of the land and the supposed sanctions given to offenders irrespective of customary practice and belief systems. The legal structure of most African society encourages freedom of association and right to belong to a particular religion (4). This study in this article therefore focuses our understanding of the religious views on legal and illegal matters with distinct nature and normative values and principles among ethnic dwellers and religious group in central Nigeria.

Faith communities and legal systems promote the idea of resolving disputes and conflict through mechanisms provided by customary practices or religious injunctions. This is achieved through the settlement of disputes by deliberation and discussions rather than by force. The correction of wrongdoing is sanctioned with payment of fines, public flogging, and singing of disgraceful songs to the culprit except for serious offences like murder, incest, adultery and homicide which is sanctioned ritual reparation (5).

The peoples of central Nigeria covered in the scope of this study comprises of the Tiv, Igala, Idoma, and the Ebira groups living in the Niger-Benue confluence in Nigeria. The inhabitants of the region are divided between Christians and Muslims. As at date, there is paucity of relevant historical information concerning the interaction of law and religion among these peoples. Perhaps, this is due to the fact that the people of Niger-Benue confluence have received less attention among Nigerian historians. This therefore makes it imperative to investigate the cultural practices of the people with regard to punishment, maintaining social order and control, Nature of civil and criminal offences and the influence of religion and law in the communities. For convenience, the paper is divided into eight sections. The first provides an introduction and general background on the interaction between law and religion and scope covering the study. The second deals with the overview of law and religion in Africa. The third examines religions and belief systems in Central Nigeria. The fourth discusses the traditional political system in central Nigeria. The fifth highlights the moral principles and social control of deviants.

The sixth deals withthe interrelationship of Law and beliefs system in central Nigeria. The seventh examines law and faith communities in Central Nigeria. The eight analyses the influence of foreign religion on cultural belief systems and summarizes the discussion on the interrelationship between law and religion in Central Nigeria.

Overview of Law and Religion in Africa

Law and religion are inseparable. Both are essential to regulate people's behaviour and conduct in the society. It is structured for the purpose of maintaining peaceful coexistence and healthy social relations within the community (6). It is predicated on the principles and practice of good governance in the polity. It covers all aspects of sanctions, procedures and judicial pronouncement on actions that are frowned upon in the belief system of the people as well as other behaviours that are unacceptable and not supported by the tradition of the community. …

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