It is impossible for churches to obtain Governor’s consent for lands belonging to churches in the 12 states that make up what is referred to as the core Northern States of Nigeria. The above revelation was made by the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, Most Rev. Matthew Hassan Kukah.
Bishop Kukah was speaking during a Seminar organized by the National Association of Catholic Lawyers, (NACL) Lagos Archdioceses on the topic; Ownership, Registration & Transfer of Landed Properties by Churches, Mosques & NGOs,
According to Bishop Kukah, it is some sort of an Unwritten law that in these 12 Northern states, no permission is given for lands to be used for the purposes of building churches. He noted that religious liberty in Northern Nigeria has remained a big issue which successive Nigerian Government has avoided like plague. He said that even in higher institutions of learning, lands are not even allotted within the schools for building of churches. He made specifical mention of a letter which was issued for churches to be granted allocation to build within the Uthman Dan Fodio university and the refusal of the institution to accede to the request.
He expressed optimism that Seminars centered around similar topics, would create the needed awareness and change.
Lending his voice to Bishop Kukah’s submission, Chief Tony Idigbe SAN who was one of the panelists noted that such restriction of minority requires advocacy, public enlightenment and litigation. He urged the NACL to take steps to draw the attention of relevant stakeholders to this challenge.
On his part, the President of the Muslim Lawyers Association of Nigeria, Lagos Chapter while condemning the development noted that no sector must be treated in isolation in Nigeria as the freedom of Association is a guaranteed right of all Nigerians regardless of religious affiliation. He said that Nigerians should be allowed to practice their religion without restrictions. He urged the Association to take steps towards addressing the issue in court.
The Seminar which was held via Zoom Conference addressed topics such as “Ownership of landed properties by Churches, Mosques, NGOs and incorporated Trustees – law and challenges”; “The Institutional frameworks that support perfection of Title in Acquisition of properties by Churches, Mosques, NGOs in Nigeria; A need for reform”; “Acquisition of properties and perfection of legal Title. The need for improvement in the Legal Framework and Institutional Support”; “Acquisition of properties and perfection of legal Title by Churches, Mosques, NGOs; The cross-border perspective” and “Effect of Section 839 of CAMA, power of the Commission to suspend Trustees and appoint an interim Manager; Implication of same when it comes to acquiring properties, whether the manager so appointed can acquire property on behalf of the Association”
The Keynote Address was delivered by the Registrar General of the Corporate Affairs Commission- Alhaji A.G Abubarkar and the speakers drawn from various aspect of the legal profession were Hon Justice Ebiowei Tobi (JCA), Chief Joe-Kyari Gadzama SAN, Chief Anthony Idigbe SAN, Dr Babatunde Ajibade SAN and Dr Kubi Udofia, while Mrs. Titilola Akinlawon, SAN moderated the sessions.
In his opening remarks, the Chairman of the Association Mr. Philip Njeteneh noted that the Seminar became necessary in view of the challenges faced by legal practitioners, churches, mosques and NGOs in perfecting title to their property.