Former President of Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Mr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), has threatened to sue National Assembly and Attorney-General of the Federation over the absence of Christian and Ecclesiastical Courts in the 1999 Constitution.
Agbakoba, in a petition to the Senate President, entitled Establishment of Ecclesiastical Courts, argued that it was a violation of Section 42 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which prohibits discrimination on account of religion.
He observed that no provision was made for Christians to have their religious and spiritual affairs adjudicated by persons adequately learned in Ecclesiastical laws and biblical jurisprudence.
Agbakoba said: “Islamic and Customary practitioners are well recognised and accommodated in the Constitution by the establishment of the Customary and Islamic court systems in Sections 260, 265, 275 and 280.
“But no corresponding provision is made for Christians or Ecclesiastical Courts. Christians are forced to resort to Customary and High Courts which are manned by persons with little or no knowledge of Ecclesiastical law and jurisprudence.”
He recommended that in the “present Constitution alteration process, provision be made for the establishment of Christian and Ecclesiastical Courts. Nigeria is a multi-religious country and faith is personal.
“I believe matters of faith should not be contained in the Constitution as provided by Section 10, which prohibits state religion.”
But if we must retain customary and Islamic law systems, and I have nothing against this, then provision must be made for Christian/Ecclesiastical Courts.”
He added that “it occurred to me that it may well be an oversight that the present system violates Section 42 of the 1999 Constitution which prohibits discrimination on account of religion which is why I am giving this notice.”