A bill for the establishment of the Ecclesiastical Court of Appeal in Nigeria has passed the second reading in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, December 6, 2016.
The bill seeks to amend the 1999 constitution, to provide for the establishment of the Christian Courts of Appeal in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and of the 36 states.
When passed into law, the bill seeks to compliment the regular courts in adjudicating matters relating to the tenets of Christian faith between individuals and groups that yields to the jurisdiction.
The bill, sponsored by Gyang Istifanus Dung and eight lawmakers, also provides for the functions and jurisdiction of the courts, as well as the qualification, appointments and tenure of cardinals of the Ecclesiastical Courts.
Speaking on the bill, Dung said: “The amendment will no doubt widen the scope of jurisprudence, adjudication and legal practice in our nation and bring to reality the administration of Ecclesiastical Christian tenets and law in adjudicating matters of personal Christian law and civic matters, which shall be prescribed in the rules of practice and procedure of the Ecclesiastical Court.”
“ In all, it has 14 alterations in section 6,84,185, 240, 246, 247, 288, 289, 292, and 318 of the Principal Act; it alters the second, third, sixth and seventh schedule of the Principal Act. It has four insertions in Part 1G, section 270A-E, Part 2D, section 285A-E and a citation.”
On the jurisdiction of the bill he said: “ The Ecclesiastical Court shall exercise such appellate and supervisory jurisdiction in civil proceedings involving questions of Ecclesiastical Law and Christian Personal Law as provided in the new section 270B(1) – (5) including:
“(a) any question of Christian Personal Law regarding marriage concluded in acordance with that law; including a question relating to the validity or dissolution of such marriage or a question that depends on such a marriage and relating to family relationship or the guardianship of an infant;
“(b) where all parties to the proceedings are Christians, any question or Christian Personal Law where no prior or customary or statutory marriage is contracted, including the validity or dissolution of that marriage, or regarding family relationship, or the guardianship of an infant;
“ (c) any question of Christian Personal Law regarding a will or succession where the widower, donor, testator or deceased person is a Christian;
“(d) any question of Christian Personal Law regarding an infant, prodigal or person of unsound mind who is a Christian or the maintenance or the guardianship of a Christian who is physically or mentally infirm;
“Or (e) where all parties to the proceedings, being Christians, have requested the court that hears the case in the first instance to determine, that the case in accordance with Christian Personal law, or any question.”
He continued: “This amendment conforms with and activated Section 37(1) CFRN 1999 (as amended), which guarantees the right of every citizen to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including freedom to propagate his religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance.”
Speaker, House of Representatives, Mr Yakubu Dogara referred the bill to the Special ad hoc Committee on the Review of the 1999 constitution.