By Seriki Adinoyi in Jos
The Assembly of God Nigeria (AGN) and its clerics have hailed the dismissal by a Jos High Court of a case against the church, seven of its clerics, and the Plateau Commissioner of Police by some clergies.
Speaking for the church and the clerics, their counsel, Lawrence Erewele and Obi Ehiabhi, who described the ruling as brilliant, noted that â€œthe sponsors of the crisis in the Assembly of God Nigeria have been exposed and failed in their quest to create a separate Northern church of the Assemblies of the God Nigeria”.
A Jos High Court on Wednesday dismissed a case against Assemblies of God, Nigeria and six clergies for lack of merit.
Justice Christine Dabup of the state High Court IV declared that the church was not a juristic person or individual to be sued as contained in section 5 (91)(96) of the Allied Matters Act.
Some members and clerics of the church — Yohanna Bot-Dalyop, Luka Daniel, Daniel Billy, John Vwashi, Samuel Panchi and Samuel Chung-Pam — had on May 22, 2017, sued the church, fellow clergies and the Commissioner of Police in Plateau, accusing them of not allowing them access to the church in Jos.
The clergies sued include Jacob Langs, Daniel Saje, Bulus Sambo, James Gyang, Luka Dung, Dachung Delson and Dusu Alison as well as the police commissioner as 1st to 8th defendants.
The plaintiffs through their counsel, Mr. I.O. Onah, prayed the court to interpret a Supreme Court judgment of February 24, 2017, which they (plaintiffs) claimed did not prevent them from being members of the church, nor from holding any leadership position.
They equally asked the court to issue an order to the defendants to allow them unhindered access to the Jos District branches of the church as agreed between the plaintiffs to the defendants including the security agents.
The plaintiffs also demanded N5 million as damages from the defendants as well as an apology for their arrest, harassment, invitations, prosecution and detention.
But the defendants through their counsel, Messers Lawrence Erewele and Obi Ehiabhi, objected to the plaintiff’s claims and declared that the High Court lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the matter already decided upon by the Supreme Court.
â€œFor the plaintiffs, who have been ex-communicated and expelled from the church to come back through the back door seeking the interpretation of a judgment of a Supreme Court is but an exercise in futility.
â€œMy Lord, this court, as a lower court, lacks the jurisdiction to entertain this matter and so should be dismissed for lack of merit, â€™â€™ Erewele argued.
Ehiabhi, in his own preliminary objection, described the action of suing the leadership of the Assemblies of God Nigeria and the church as an entity as incompetent.
â€œLooking at section 5 (91)(96) of the Allied Matters Act, Assembly of God Nigeria as a church cannot be sued because it is not a juristic person or individual; only the Board of Trustees can be sued.â€™
â€œI, therefore, pray this honourable court to strike out this case for lack of merit and competence,â€™â€™ Ehiabhi said.
The judge, in her ruling upheld all the prayers in the preliminary objections raised by the counsel to the defendants and struck out the case for lack of merit.
â€œHaving looked at the preliminary objections of the two counsel to the defendants, I hereby uphold all the reliefs sought for considering section 5 (91) (96) of the Allied Matters Act.
â€œI, therefore, hold that the suit filed by the plaintiffs failed, and is hereby dismissed and struck out for lack of merit,â€™â€™ Dabup declared.
In addition, the judge awarded a cost of N30,000 in favour of the two sets of preliminary objections raised by the two defence counsel.