HomeCourt room newsCourt Sets March 20 for Judgement in Suit Challenging Saturday Elections, Exams

Court Sets March 20 for Judgement in Suit Challenging Saturday Elections, Exams

Date:

The Federal High Court in Abuja on Wednesday, January 10, fixed March 20 to deliver judgement in a suit filed by Mr Ugochukwu Uchenwa, a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, seeking to stop the conduct of elections and examinations on Saturdays.

Justice James Omotosho set the date after hearing arguments from both sides of the case.

Mr. Uchenwa, an elder of the church, argues that scheduling elections and examinations on Saturdays violates his and other church members’ rights to freedom of worship. He claims it forces them to choose between their religious beliefs and participating in civic duties or educational opportunities.

He is praying the court to declare the fixing of elections and examinations on Saturdays as unconstitutional.

In the alternative, the plaintiff prayed the court to order the defendants to allow him and other members of his church to vote or write examinations on any other day of the week including Sundays.

The defendants, which include the President, the Attorney-General of the Federation, the Minister of Internal Affairs, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the Joint Admission and Matriculation Examinations (JAMB), the National Examination Council (NECO), the West African Examination Council (WAEC), the National Business and Technical Examination Board (NABTEB), Council of Legal Education and the Ministry of Education, oppose the lawsuit.

They argue that Nigeria is a secular state and has not adopted any official religion. Therefore, they contend that forcing them to accommodate the specific religious practices of one group would violate the rights of others.

At Wednesday’s hearing, counsel to the plaintiff, Mr Benjamin Amaefule, told the court that his client was only seeking an enforcement of his fundamental right to freedom of education and freedom to participate in elections.

Amaefule told the court that his client was seeking, among others, a declaration that the schedule of elections in Nigeria on Saturdays, the “Sabbath day,” was a violation of his fundamental right to freedom of worship.

“It is also a violation of conscience, profession and free practice of faith and right to participate freely in the government of the applicant and that of entire members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Nigeria”.

He maintained that fixing examinations and elections on the “Sabbath day of the Lord” was also a violation of the right to freedom of education of the applicant and the members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church Nigeria.

The plaintiff asked the court for some relief including a declaration that the actions of the 5th to 8th respondents fixing examinations on Saturdays, a “Sabbath day of the Lord” was unconstitutional.

“It is a violation of the fundamental rights of freedom of conscience, profession and free practice of faith of the members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church Nigeria”.

He prayed the court for an order restraining INEC from further violating the rights of members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church by holding elections on Saturdays.

“In the alternative, order INEC to mark out a different day for the members of the church to participate in their own election if the INEC cannot schedule and hold the elections on a day other than on Saturdays”.

“An order restraining the 5th to 8th respondents from scheduling and conducting compulsory public examinations on Saturdays, without making an option for the members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church to write their exams on days other than Saturdays.

“An order mandating the 10th respondent to cease from conducting any academic programme or activities on Saturdays, the Sabbath day of the Lord without giving members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church a different day to participate in such academic activities by itself or through any of its department.”

The plaintiff also asked the court to make an order mandating the 1st and 2nd respondents (the President and the AGF) to declare Saturdays as public holidays just the same way Sundays are public holidays.

Moreover, he insisted that Sunday was the first day of the week while Saturday was the seventh day of the week, hence the Sabbath day.

Responding on behalf of the President and the AGF, Maimuna Shiru told the court that she filed a 17- paragraph affidavit on behalf of her client in opposition to the suit.

She prayed the court to dismiss the suit for lacking in merit.

For his part, counsel to WAEC, Mr Friday Chorio argued that Nigeria was a circular state as it had not adopted any religion as its own.

According to Chorio, the constitution provides that Nigeria shall not adopt any religion as its own.

“In this circumstance, the plaintiff is seeking for an interpretation of the law that Saturday should be fixed as a holy day for the Seventh-day Adventist church.

“We have so many laws that provide for holidays. Section 4 of the Public Holiday Act provides and declares Sunday as a public holiday so government activities cannot take place on Sundays.

“Anybody can adopt Sunday as his or her own holiday so you cannot come to court and ask the court to declare Saturday as a public holiday.”

For the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, (JAMB), Safinat Lamidi told the court that she filed a preliminary objection praying the court to dismiss the suit as it lacked the jurisdiction to entertain it.

The Minister of Internal Affairs, INEC, NECO, National Business and Technical Board, Council for Legal Education and the Ministry of Education were all absent in court as no counsel announced appearance on their behalf.

However, Justice Omotosho having confirmed that they were duly notified of the hearing date proceeded to hear the matter and subsequently fixed March 20 for judgement.

(NAN)

Share on

Place your
Adver here

For more details, contact

Related articles:

Court Rules Employee Compensation Act Does not Exclude Right of Action in Negligence

…Awards N30 Million Against Firm The National Industrial Court has...

Otedola, Zenith Bank Opt for Out-of-Court Settlement

Femi Otedola, the chairman of FBN Holdings and majority shareholder of Geregu...

N17bn Debt: GTB Drags 60 Bank chiefs to court

Guaranty Trust Bank has dragged no fewer than 60...

Court to Rules on Suit Seeking to Nullify 2024 Kano Chieftaincy Law June 20

A Federal High Court, sitting in Kano, has fixed...

Rights Infringement: Kano Government to Pay N10m Damages to Deposed Emir

A Federal High Court in Kano on Friday upheld...