By Ben Agande, Kaduna.
A Kaduna State High Court, presided over by Justice Hajaratu Gwadah on Wednesday declared that the Kaduna state government has no right to screen and issue licences to religious preachers in the state.
The state High court however asserted that the government has the right to regulate religious activities in the state.
The judgement was delivered in suit filed by the 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, is a violation of their rights.
In her judgement, the judge noted that the bill does not seek to abolish the rights of applicants as fundamental human rights is not absolute but noted that sections 6 and 9 of the bill which seeks to screen and license preachers, violates the constitutional rights of the applicant.
Counsel to the PFN, Sunny Akanni expressed satisfaction with the judgement saying that ” 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 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” he said.
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.