A Kaduna State High Court, presided over by Justice Hajaratu Gwadah, yesterday, declared that the state government has no right to screen and issue licences to religious preachers in the state.
The court, however, asserted that the government had the right to regulate religious activities in the state.
The judgment was delived in the suit filed by Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, PFN, challenging the constitutionality of the bill on the regulation of religious preaching in the state.
The bill, which was introduced by Governor Nasir el-Rufai in the early part of his first tenure, attracted controversy with both Muslims and Christians opposed to it.
Despite being challenged by the PFN, the state House of Assembly went ahead and passed the bill, few hours to the expiration of its tenure. The PFN had argued that subjecting preachers to screening by government agency was an infringement on fundamental human right and asked the court to declare that setting up a committee for the screening and licensing of preachers, as provided in the bill, was a violation of their rights.
In her judgment, the judge noted that the bill didn’t seek to abolish the rights of applicants as fundamental human rights was not absolute but noted that Sections 6 and 9 of the bill, which seek to screen and license preachers, violate the constitutional rights of the applicant. Counsel to the PFN, Sunny Akanni, expressed satisfaction with the judgment, saying “in Christianity, not only ordained pastors preach, every Christian is commanded to go ye into the world and preach the gospel. “Section 38, (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 licensed 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.” Counsel to the state governor, who is one of the respondents in the case, Sanusi Usman, however, expressed dissatisfaction with the judgement. Usman, who is the Director of Civil Litigation in the state Ministry of Justice, said he would appeal the judgment.