Supreme Court Affirms Sacking of Assemblies of God Church Superintendent
The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed an appeal by the suspended General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God Church, Rev. Paul Emeka, challenging his suspension and dismissal from the church.
In a unanimous judgment by its five-man panel, the apex court resolved the leadership tussle in favour of the church and its Acting General Superintendent, Rev. Chidi Okoroafor.
In the lead judgment by Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, the apex court affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeal in Enugu, which had upheld the suspension and dismissal of the appellant by the church.
The apex court held that there was no proper proof that the suit at the trial court was properly served on the respondents as required by law.
The Supreme Court held that it was wrong for the appellant to have served his originating summons filed before the Enugu State High Court, on No. 5, Mbalano Street Enugu, in Enugu State, when the order of the court was specific and categorical that the process should be served on Evangel House of the church in Enugu.
It held that the case of wrongful service was clear from the affidavit deposed to by a court bailiff in Enugu, stating that he served the originating summons on one Shadrack Lawrence through one Richard Ake when the Enugu High Court ordered that the summons must be taken to the Evangel House of the church. According to Justice Kekere-Ekun, in the eyes of the law, the originating summons was not served on the proper party as required by law.
She therefore held that the respondent could not be held liable because the issue of service was a fundamental one in law.
She held that the purported service wrongly effected was null and void and no suit could be validly built on it.
On the appellant’s alleged violation of his fair hearing by the church, the apex court held that the fundamental human right as enshrined in Chapter Four of the 1999 constitution did not cover a head of church sacked and expelled by the church.
The apex court added that the right to be a member of a church was not a right recognised under the Chapter Four of the 1999 Constitution.
Justice Kekere-Ekun ruled, “Being a pastor, General Superintendent and member of a church is not a fundamental right as envisaged in the 1999 Constitution.
“The remedy for the removal of the appellant as a pastor, General Superintendent and a member of the respondent, does not fall within section 36 because the right to be a pastor is not a constitutional one.”
She held that the provisions of section 36 (1) of the 1999 Constitution on which the appellant anchored his appeal, did not cover proceedings emanating from domestic meetings, standing ad hoc committees except the proceedings of court of law.
She dismissed the appeal for lacking in merit.
The leadership crisis which has been rocking the church for over two years had resulted into the emergence of two factional leaders and multiple court actions.
The crisis started after the General Council of the church on March 6, 2014, suspended Rev. Paul Emeka for allegedly violating several sections of the Constitution and Bye Laws of the Church, especially Article 12 which prohibits members from suing or instigating any other person to sue the church for any reason.
The General Committee took the decision to suspend Emeka at its meeting held on Thursday, March 6, 2014, at the Conference Hall of the National Secretariat, Enugu, after the committee deliberated on the implications of his action on the image of the church worldwide.
The decision of the church was contained in a letter dated March 6, 2014 titled, ‘Re: Rev. Prof. Paul Emeka, former General Superintendent, Assemblies of God, Nigeria’ and signed by the General Secretary, Rev. Dr. John Ikoni; Acting General Superintendent, Rev. Dr. Chidi Okoroafor, and General Treasurer, Rev. Vincent Alaje.
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