By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA–The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, on Thursday, okayed hearing on a suit seeking to stop the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from conducting elections on Saturdays.
The suit was brought before the court by a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Mr Ugochukwu Uchenwa.
Uchenwa, who is an elder of the church, is also seeking an order of court to stop the conduct of examinations on Saturdays.
According to the plaintiff, fixing elections and examinations on Saturdays violate his right and that of other members of the church, to freedom of worship.
He is praying the court to declare the fixing of elections and examinations on Saturdays as unconstitutional.
In the alternative, the plaintiff, urged the court to order the defendants to allow him and other members of his church to vote or write examinations on any other day of the week, including Sundays.
Cited as defendants in the suit are President Muhammadu Buhari, the Attorney-General of the Federation, INEC and the Minister of Internal Affairs.
Others, are the Joint Admission and Matriculation Examinations, JAMB, the National Examination Council, NECO, West African Examination Council, WAEC, and the National Business and Technical Examination Board.
When the matter was called on Thursday, only counsel to the plaintiff, Mr Benjamin Amaefule was present in court.
Amaefule told the court that all the defendants, except NECO, were duly served with all the court processes.
He wondered why none of the defendants was in court for the matter to be heard.
In a brief ruling, Justice James Omotosho adjourned the matter till March 15 for hearing and to allow the plaintiff to effect service on NECO.
Specifically, the plaintiff, in the originating summons he filed before the court, is seeking a declaration that the schedule of elections in Nigeria on Saturdays, the “sabbath day”, 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”, he argued.
He wants, “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”.
He maintained that fixing exams “Sabbath day of the Lord ”, is also a violation of right to freedom of education of the applicant and the members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church Nigeria.
Consequently, he prayed the court for an order to restrain INEC from further violating the rights of member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church by holding elections on Saturdays.
“In the alternative, order INEC to mark out a different day for the members of the church to participate in their own election if the INEC cannot schedule and hold the elections on a day other than on Saturdays”.
He further 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.” (Vanguard)