Kaduna religious bill suffers setback, as Court rejects state’s power to license religious preachers

WorldStage Newsonline– A Kaduna State High Court on Wednesday delivered a judgement on the suit brought before it by the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria challenging the constitutionality of a bill regulating  preaching in the state and declared that the state had no power to issue licences to religious preachers.

While the court presided over by Justice Hajaratu Gwadah noted that the state could regulate religious activities in  the state, he ruled that the screening and issuing of licences to religious preachers, were unconstitutional.

The PFN had in 2016 challenged  the constitutionality of the of the bill, describing it as an infringement on fundamental human right. 

The Christian body, had among other  prayers, asked  the  court for a declaration that setting up a committee for the  screening and licensing preachers,  as provided in the bill,  is a violation of their rights. 

But the judge said, the bill did not seek to abolish the rights of applicants as fundamental human rights is not absolute. 

The judge, however, noted that sections 6 and 9 of the bill which sought to  screen and license  preachers, “violates the constitutional rights of the applicant.”  

In his reaction  to the judgment, counsel to the PFN, Sunny Akanni said he was satisfied. 

“Our argument is that you cannot license pastors because they are already license. In Christianity, not only ordained pastors preach. Every Christian is commanded to go ye into the world and preach the gospel” he said. 

“Section 38, subsection 1 of the Nigeria constitution allows everybody to propagate his religion in teaching, in observance and in action.

“So when you now say pastors should be license you have infringed on their right. That is why the court agreed with us that section 6 of the bill is against the constitutional right of PFN.

“Even though the court said  that government can regulate religion, but screening and issuing license to pastors offends  the constitutional rights of pastors.”

Counsel to the state governor who is one of the respondents in the case, Sanusi Usman, however expressed dissatisfaction with the judgment. 

Usman, who is the  Director of Civil Litigation in the state ministry of justice, said he will appeal the judgment.

The Kaduna State House of Assembly recently passed the controversial executive bill despite a court order asking it not to take action on the bill pending the determination of the substantive suit. 

The passage of the bill was greeted with mix reactions among Muslims and Christians with some kicking against it while others expressed support. 

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