By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
THE Supreme Court, on Friday, sacked Reverend Paul Emeka as the General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God Church.
The apex court, in a unanimous judgement by five-man panel of Justices, okayed a senior pastor in the church, Rev. Chidi Okoroafor to continue leading the church in acting capacity. Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun who delivered the lead verdict, affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeal in Enugu which earlier upheld the suspension and dismissal of Rev. Emeka by Board of Trustees of the church.
Rev. Emeka’s suspension led to division within the church structure, with a section of the members pledging loyalty to him.
Dissatisfied with decision of the appellate court, Emeka, took the matter before the apex court where he lost his case yesterday.
The apex court panel dismissed his appeal as unmeritorious Justice Kekere-Ekun held that there was no proper proof of service of the suit on the respondents.
On the alleged violation of fair hearing raised by the appellant against the meeting of the church where he was suspended, the court held that there was remedy under chapter 4 of the 1999 constitution.
Justice Kekere-Ekun stated that the provisions of section 36 (1) of the 1999 constitution where the appellant hinged his appeal does not cover proceedings emanating from domestic meetings, standing Adhoc tribunals except proceedings of court of law.
In addition, the court held that the right to be a member of a church is not a right recognised under chapter four of the 1999 constitution.
Justice Kekere-Ekun accordingly dismissed the appeal for lacking in merit.
The church has been embroiled in leadership crisis for more than two years, culminating into the emergence of two factional leaders and multiple court actions.
The crisis started after the General Council of the church, on March 6, 2014, suspended Rev. Emeka for violating several sections of the Constitution and Bye Laws of the Church, especially Article 12, which deals with taking or using any other person to drag the church to court for any reason.
The decision to suspend Emeka was taken at the meeting of the General Committee held on Thursday March 6, 2014, in the Conference Hall of the National Secretariat, Enugu, after the committee had deliberated on the implications of his action on the image of the church worldwide.
In a letter dated March 6, 2014 titled “Re: Rev. Prof. Paul Emeka, former General Superintendent, Assemblies of God, Nigeria” and signed by Rev. Dr. John Ikoni, Rev. Dr. Chidi Okoroafor and Rev. Dr. Vincent Alaje; the General Secretary, Acting General Superintendent and General Treasurer respectively, they maintained that their decision to suspend the former General Superintendent was hinged on the constitution which he violated by dragging the church to court without first bringing his grievances to both the General Committee and the Executive committee members.
The church also accused the former General Superintendent of being autocratic, and involved in financial mismanagement; abuse of power and “above all took the church to court which tantamount to tarnishing the image of the church and bringing it to public ridicule.” While calling on members of the church to stop relating with Rev. Paul Emeka as General Superintendent of the church, the committee maintained that he had “ ceased to function in any of the duties assigned to the Office of the General Superintendent in the Constitution and Bye- Laws of the General Council of Assemblies of God, Nigeria, with effect from Thursday March 6, 2014.”