A Kaduna State High Court has declared as illegal the Religious Regulatory Bill passed by the House of Assembly, saying it infringed the fundamental rights of pastors to propagate Christianity in the state.
Specifically, Justice Hajara Gwadah ruled that the plan by the government to issue licences to the pastors of Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), using the bill, is a gross violation of their fundamental human rights, which guarantees the freedom of association and freedom of religion.
The judge also declared the bill as inconsistent with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) and, therefore illegal, null and void.
Gwadah, who lamented the action of the House of Assembly in proceeding to pass the bill into law despite pending court proceedings and a subsisting court injunction restraining the action, said it was “an affront to this honourable court.”
The case was instituted by the PFN, Kaduna chapter, since 2016 against Governor Nasir El-Rufai, the House of Assembly and the attorney general and commissioner for justice.
The state branch of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), described the verdict as a landmark victory for all religious bodies in Kaduna.
Reverend John Joseph Hayab, CAN chairman in the state, said: “It shows that some of the excesses of Governor El-Rufai and the House of Assembly are now being exposed to the world. We are hundred percent in support of this judgment and a point has been made that you cannot trample on the fundamental rights of religious practices of the people.”
In his reaction, the State Director of Civil Litigation, Usman Sanusi, who represented the respondents, said the government would appeal the judgment.