To some people, bathing with blood is nothing but a simple religious rite and doing it at the market square may perhaps make the doer happy and fulfilled as long as it was commanded by a spiritual leader. A probable question then becomes: if it is enjoyable to the bather, why should anyone bother? As long as such blood is not the blood of man gotten in an unlawful way and not the blood prohibited under the law, the bather is fully in order.

There are about 4, 280 religions in the world with Christianity and Islam being just two of the entire number. The circumstances of our birth often shape our association with these religions or the faith we practise but tolerance keeps the world together.

It should also be noted that, in line with the world’s social order and spiritual inclinations, If you ever believe and worship any spirit, and/or do anything more often in a particular way that may be considered a rite, you are a ritualist.

By law, in some instances, human blood gotten from a bank or through the owner of the blood with full consent may not be illegal; as being in possession of human and/or animal blood is not illegal but the means by which the blood is gotten may be illegal.

I had followed lately the inhuman and degrading treatment meted on Osun State Majority Leader of the House of Assembly for exercising his fundamental rights to religion and belief by bathing with blood, and I am forced to question the correctness of the attacks on his person.

Several of the actors and acclaimed saints who shot videos and commanded the law maker to do their bidding were later reported to be grade one blackmailers who are now prone to enjoy the rhythm of prosecution and troubles. I don’t feel for them. The law must take its course as they may have violated the law by doing the following:

  1. They subjected the lawmaker to inhuman and degrading treatment in overt breach of his fundamental right.
  2. They committed criminal indecent assault on the lawmaker by caning him and inflicting other injurious marks on him.
  3. They breached and deprived the lawmaker of his fundamental right to religion and belief which is constitutionally guaranteed.
  4. They forcefully imprisoned the lawmaker for the entire time they kept him in their custody in flagrant breach of the law.
  5. Reportedly, they took advantage of the situation by blackmailing the lawmaker to extract financial gain, an act which is criminal.
  6. Against his constitutional rights, the lawmaker was discriminated upon based on his religious belief by being shamed, ridiculed and mobbed.
  7. The mini-mob succeeded in inflicting emotional and psychological pain on the lawmaker.

If you see someone take his bath at the village square, what offence has he committed under the law? None of course; as long as he never came to take the bath in your living room, at your doorstep or to do same at/on one of your personal properties without your permission which may then amount to unlawful trespass and other extensive misdemeanors.

Arguably, a market square is a public place which has no owner, or better described; belongs to everybody for all lawful purposes.

Section 38(1) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria entitles the lawmaker to his fundamental rights to religion and belief, which includes traditional religion which has been duly recognised and underscored by several precedents.

For avoidance of doubt, section 38(1) of the constitution of Nigeria provides as follows:

  • Every person shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom (either alone or in community with others, and in public or in private) to manifest and propagate his religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance.

Our law on religion and belief is straightforward, hence, everyone has the liberty to manifest and propagate his religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance.

By the several reports of the Osun incidence, the following were alleged:

  1. The lawmaker came to the market square.
  2. He was naked.
  3. He was bathing with blood for ritual purposes.

Assuming but not conceding that the lawmaker was bathing with blood or actually meant to bath with blood for any spiritual purpose whatsoever, it is permitted and legal, as long as it is not human blood gotten by an unlawful means.

Performing your spiritual rights in line with your belief is a fundamental right and it is a universally recognized human right which is inalienable and/or non-derogable; as long as you are human.

On the meaning of Fundamental Human Rights, the Apex court had held in the case of RANSOME-KUTI & ORS V. AG FEDERATION & ORS (1985) LPELR-2940(SC) J.S.C ( Pp. 33-34, paras. B-C ) where Per Eso JSC held as follows:

“…what is the nature of a fundamental right? It is a right which stands above the ordinary laws of the land and which in fact is antecedent to the political society itself. It is a primary condition to a civilized existence and what has been done by our constitution since independence, starting with the Independence Constitution that is: the Nigeria (Constitution) Order in Council 1960 up to the present Constitution that is the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1979 (the latter does not in fact apply to this case: it is the 1963 Constitution that applies) is to have these rights enshrined in the Constitution so that the rights could be “immutable” to the extent of the “non-immutability” of the Constitution itself. It is not in all countries that the Fundamental Rights guaranteed to the citizen are written into the Constitution. For instance, in England, where there is no written constitution, it stands to reason that a written code of fundamental rights could not be expected. But notwithstanding, there are fundamental rights. The guarantee against inhuman treatment, as specified in Section 19 of the 1963 Constitution would for instance, appear to be the same as some of the fundamental rights guaranteed in England contained in the Magna Carter 1215 – Articles 19 and 40 which provide – “no freeman may be taken or imprisoned, or disused of his freehold or liabilities in free customs or be outlawed or exiled or in any way molested nor judged or condemned except by lawful judgment or in accordance with the law of the land and the crown or its ministers may not imprison or coerce the subject in an arbitrary manner” (Underlining mine) In the United States, the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides – “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishment inflicted.” Per ESO JSC.

Also in AGBAI & ORS V. OKOGBUE (1991) LPELR-225(SC) ( P. 26, paras. D-F), the apex court held on the need for caution of the community not to trample upon the fundamental rights of citizens by popular enthusiasm: per Nwokedi JSC held as follows:

“…Much as one would welcome development projects in the community there must be caution to ensure that the fundamental rights of a citizen are not trampled upon by popular enthusiasm. These rights have been enshrined in legislation, that is, the Constitution, which enjoys superiority over local custom. Freedom of association and of religion are enshrined in Sections 24(1) and 36(1) of the 1963 Constitution as amended respectively.” Per NWOKEDI, J.S.C

Section 42 of the Constitution of the federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) as amended is clear to the effect that no one can be discriminated against by virtue of his place of birth, deformity, religion, sex etc. for avoidance of doubt, the section is reproduced below:

(1) A citizen of Nigeria of a particular community, ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion or political opinion shall not, by reason only that he is such a person-

(a) be subjected either expressly by, or in the practical application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any executive or administrative action of the government, to disabilities or restrictions to which citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religions or political opinions are not made subject; or

(b) be accorded either expressly by, or in the practical application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any such executive or administrative action, any privilege or advantage that is not accorded to citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religions or political opinions.

On whether any person can be discriminated against or humiliated because of his  religion or belief, the Supreme court had held in the case of LAFIA LOCAL GOVT V. EXECUTIVE GOVT NASARAWA STATE & ORS (2012) LPELR-20602(SC) ( Pp. 49-50, paras. D-C ) as follows:

“Section 42 (1) of the Constitution guarantees right to freedom from discrimination. The relevant section reads – Section 42 (1) – “A citizen of Nigeria of a particular community, ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion or political opinion shall not, by reason only that he is such a person a) Be subjected either expressly by or in the practical application of any law in force in Nigeria or any executive or administrative action of government to disabilities or restrictions to which citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religions or political opinions are not made subject or b) Be accorded either expressly by, or in the practical application of any law in force in Nigeria or any such executive or administrative action any privilege or advantage that is not accorded to citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religion or political opinions. 2. No citizen of Nigeria shall be subjected to any disability or deprivation merely by reason of the circumstances of his birth.” Per ADEKEYE ,J.S.C

In the light of the foregoing, it is clear that the fundamental right of the Osun lawmaker to his religion and belief and the right not to be discriminated against based on such religion and belief has been trampled upon.

It is also safe to conclude that the Osun lawmaker did no wrong if his alleged bathing in the market square is in line with his religious belief.

I have always advocated that People should always be careful and/or totally abstain from participating in any mob action, it could backfire and the consequences maybe irredeemable. I recommend that all those illegal actors be prosecuted forthwith and thoroughly. Aside prosecution of the offenders,the lawmaker will also be within his right if he sues all parties concerned for flagrant breach of his fundamental rights, claiming for good damages and/or compensation.

Richarmond O. Natha-Alade is a legal Practitioner and Principal Partner at

Sun Natha-Alade & Partners (SNATHAP)

lordricharmond@gmail.com

www.snathap.com

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