Sunday Ejike – Abuja
Justice James Omotosho has adjourned till May 22 for hearing in a suit filed by a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Ugochukwu Uchenwa, seeking to stop the conduct of elections and examinations on Saturdays.
At the proceedings on Wednesday, the court granted an application by Osasogie Uwaifo, representing President Muhammadu Buhari, and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), who are the first and second respondents for extension of time to regularise their processes.
The court also granted same application by the plaintiff’s counsel, Benjamin Amaefule and deemed their processes as duly filled and served.
Uchenwa had argued in his suit that conducting elections and examinations on Saturdays violates his fundamental rights to freedom of worship as a citizen and a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and prayed the court to declare the fixing of elections and examinations on Saturdays unconstitutional.
In the alternative, the plaintiff asked the court to order the defendants to allow him and other members of his church to vote or take examinations on any other day of the week including Sundays.
Listed as defendants in the suit are President Muhammadu Buhari, the Attorney-General of the Federation, the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC), Minister of Internal Affairs, Joint Admission and Matriculation Examinations (JAMB), National Examination Council (NECO), West African Examination Council, (WAEC) and the National Business and Technical Examination Board.
In the originating summons, the plaintiff is asking the court to declare that the schedule of elections in Nigeria on Saturdays, the “Sabbath day” as observed by members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, is 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.
“A declaration that the actions of the 5th to 8th respondents fixing examinations on Saturdays, a “Sabbath day of the Lord” 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.
“It is 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 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, the court should order INEC to mark out a different day for the members of the church to participate in their own election if the electoral umpire cannot schedule and hold the elections on a day other than Saturdays.
He also wants 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.
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