You have no power to screen pastors, court tells Kaduna government

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A High Court in Kaduna has ruled that it is unconstitutional for the government to screen and issue licence to preachers.

The Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) had in 2016 approached the court to challenge the constitutionality of an executive bill to regulate preaching in the state, describing it as an infringement on the fundamental human right of its members.

But earlier in June, the Kaduna State House of Assembly passed the bill into law.

In her ruling on Wednesday, Justice Hajaratu Gwadah, held that, while the government has the right to regulate religious activities in the state, it has no power to licence preachers.

She, however, said sections 6 and 9 of the bill, which seek to screen and licence preachers, violate the constitutional rights of the applicant.

Speaking on the judgement, Sunny Akanni, counsel to the PFN, said “Our argument is that you cannot licence pastors because they are already licenced. In Christianity, not only ordained pastors preach. Every Christian is commanded to go ye into the world and preach the gospel.”

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

“So, when you now say pastors should be licenced, 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 the government can regulate religion, but screening and issuing license to pastors offends the constitutional rights of pastors.”

However, Sanusi Usman, counsel to Nasir el-Rufai, the state governor and a respondent in the case, said the government will appeal the judgment.

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