Court dismisses suit to stop conduct of elections, examinations on Saturdays

Court dismisses suit to stop conduct of elections, examinations on Saturdays

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A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, on Wednesday, dismissed a suit filed by an elder of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Mr Ugochukwu Uchenwa seeking to stop the conduct of elections and examinations on Saturdays in Nigeria.

The trial Judge, Justice James Omotoso in his judgment, dismissed the suit for being frivolous, vexatious, irritating and baseless.

The Judge held that the fundamental rights being claimed by the plaintiff were not at large and could not be curtailed by government policy.

Besides, he held that the Seventh Day Adventist Church is in the minority in Nigeria and cannot impose its doctrine on the majority of other religious denominations in the country.

The plaintiff, Uchenwa, who is an elder of the church, filed the suit on the grounds that fixing elections and examinations on Saturdays violated his rights and that of other members of the church to freedom of worship.

While praying the court to declare the fixing of elections and examinations on Saturdays as unconstitutional, the plaintiff, in the alternative, 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.

Listed as defendants in the suit are the President, the Attorney-General of the Federation, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the Minister of Internal Affairs, the Joint Admission and Matriculation Examinations (JAMB), the National Examination Council (NECO), West African Examination Council (WAEC), the National Business and Technical Examination Board, Council of Legal Education and the Ministry of Education.

Counsel to the plaintiff, Mr Benjamin Amaefule had 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 and a declaration that the schedule of elections in Nigeria on Saturdays, the “Sabbath day”, was a violation of his fundamental rights 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 said and
maintained that fixing examinations and elections on the “Sabbath day of the Lord ”, was also a violation of right to freedom of education of the applicant and the members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church Nigeria.

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The plaintiff asked the court to declare that the actions of the 5th to 8th respondents fixing examinations on Saturdays, a “Sabbath day of the Lord” was unconstitutional and 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 INEC cannot schedule and hold 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 option for the members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church to write their exams on days other than Saturdays.

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 holiday just the same way Sundays are public holidays, insisting 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, in a 17- 17-paragraph affidavit on behalf of her clients in opposition to the suit had, prayed the court to dismiss it for lacking in merit.

On 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, adding that, 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”.

Counsel to JAMB, Safinat Lamidi, had, in a preliminary objection, prayed the court to dismiss the suit as it lacked the jurisdiction to entertain it.

NIGERIAN TRIBUNE


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