On October 25, the High Court of Akwa Ibom State, formally served a summons on the Government of Akwa Ibom state in Nigeria. The suit was brought by our affiliate, the Atheist Society of Nigeria (ASN), and alleges that the government’s involvement in the building and promotion of an 8,500-seat worship center is ultra vires, unconstitutional and unlawful.
ASN issued a press release today explaining why they had taken this action. The full text of the press release follows:
In suit No: HU/321/2018 filed in Uyo, the Atheist Society of Nigeria sue Akwa Ibom State Government for its involvement in 8500 seat worship center at the High Court of Akwa Ibom State, Uyo judicial division.
The Government of Akwa Ibom has endorsed, promoted, sponsored and adopted the construction of an 8500 sitting capacity International Worship Centre believed to be costing the state an undisclosed billions of Naira and undisclosed area (size) of large parcel of public lands for that purpose.
After taking legal advice, ASN believes the Federal Constitution of Nigeria prohibits State or Federal Government involvement in religious affairs. Consequently, ASN believes the actions of both the Governor and the State Government are unconstitutional. ASN has asked the court to rule on the constitutionality of the state’s involvement in the worship centre project and, if it is ruled unconstitutional, to set out the steps the government must take to remedy the matter.
ASN believes this will become a far-reaching test case that will clarify the constitutional boundary between religion and state in Nigeria and have implications for many projects across the entire country. For the avoidance of doubt, ASN does not oppose the building of religious centres, but such should not be funded and promoted by the State.
ASN is happy that the Federal Constitution of Nigeria gives every citizen the right to follow a religion of their choice or to have no religion, and prohibits government interference in religious matters. It is to uphold these important principles that ASN is asking a court to clarify this matter.
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