Judge blocks Nigerian state from screening and licensing pastors

A Nigerian judge sided with a Christian group on 19 June and told the Kaduna State government it has no right to screen and license pastors.

Justice Hajara Gwadah said it was an “affront to this honourable court” that Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai, and his administration, attempted to push through the law even though they knew these court proceedings, brought by a Christian denomination, were imminent.

Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai's plan to bring in a law licensing pastors has been blocked by a court
Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai’s plan to bring in a law licensing pastors has been blocked by a court

The judge added that while the northern state had the power to regulate religious activities, the plan to vet and license pastors was a gross violation of fundamental human rights and was inconsistent with the Nigerian Constitution.

“Our argument is that you cannot license pastors because they already have licences [from God]. In Christianity, not only ordained pastors preach. Every Christian is commanded to preach the Gospel,” said Sunny Akanni, lawyer for the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, which brought the case against the governor and state government to the state’s High Court.

The government will appeal, according to the Director of Civil Litigation, Sanusi Usman.

John Hayab, the chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria in the state, called on the governor on 24 June to obey the court ruling. “If God can turn the hand of the pharaoh of Egypt, we believe that God can touch the heart of the governor,” he said.

Kaduna State, the population of which is fairly evenly divided between Christians and Muslims, has been wracked by internal strife with Christians often targeted by armed Fulani militants. Almost 300 people were killed in at least seven predominantly Christian villages across Kaduna State, Nigeria, in February and March 2019.

Barnabas Fund, barnabasfund.org