A Kaduna state high court has ruled that it is unconstitutional for the government to screen and issue licence to preachers.
In a ruling on Wednesday, Hajaratu Gwadah, the presiding judge, maintained that the government, however, has the right to regulate religious activities in the state.
In 2016, the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) had approached the court to challenge the constitutionality of an executive bill to regulate preaching in the state.
The PFN had described the bill as an infringement on the fundamental human right of its members, asking the court for a declaration that setting up a committee for the screening and licencing of preachers is a violation of its rights.
In her ruling, the judge said the bill does not seek to abolish the rights of applicants, as fundamental human rights is not absolute.
She, however, said sections 6 and 9 of the bill, which seek to screen and licence preachers, violate the constitutional rights of the applicant.
In his reaction, Sunny Akanni, counsel to the PFN, said the judgment was in order.
“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,” he said.
“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 government can regulate religion, but screening and issuing license to pastors offends the constitutional rights of pastors.”
Sanusi Usman, counsel to Nasir el-Rufai, the state governor and a respondent in the case, said the government will appeal the judgment.
On June 7, the state assembly passed the bill which was introduced in 2016.