Some elders of the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Rivers State have dragged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Federal Government and the Attorney General of the Federation to court over the continuous holding of elections on Saturday.
The applicants in the matter, Chief Emeka Anyabelem, Elder Asonye Onwudebe, Felix Minikwu and Chinedu Omesurum, said conducting elections on Saturday amounts to the violation of their rights to worship and disenfranchisement of other members of their church.
In the suit, PHC/2836/2018, the applicants prayed the court to declare that holding elections on Saturday, the worship day for the denomination, is a violation of the Seventh Day Adventist Church members rights.
The suit read in part: “A declaration that the applicants’ known day of worship being Saturday, they are entitled to their freedom of religion and worship on Saturdays unhindered or by any means, whatsoever, under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended).
“A declaration that the fixing/scheduling of the 2019 presidential and National Assembly elections on Saturday, February 16, 2019, and the governorship and state Assembly elections/Federal Capital Territory (FCT) council elections on Saturday, March 2, by the first respondent, in concert with the second and third respondents, constitute a violation of the applicants’ fundamental rights to freedom of religion.”
The applicants said their rights being violated are guaranteed under Section 38 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, and Article 8 of the African Charter on Human and People’s (Enforcement and Ratification) Act, Cap A9.
The applicants further prayed the court to make an order of injunction restraining the third defendants, INEC, from conducting the 2019 election as scheduled or scheduling any other elections on Saturday.
Meanwhile, when the matter came up yesterday, in court, Ahamefule Owurre, counsel to the applicants, prayed for adjournment, to allow him to reply counter affidavit of the defence on point of law.
He said the desire of the applicants is that elections be fixed between Monday and Thursday to allow many people to participate in the electioneering process.
However, the trial judge, Justice M. Danagogo, adjourned the matter till December 18, for motions.
In 2011, the church threatened to sue the federal government over the general election should its members be disenfranchised through the fixing of poll dates on Saturdays and urged the government to shift election days to enable its members to participate.
Also, the church called on the former INEC chairman, Attahiru Jega, to reconsider changing the election timetable to enable its members to participate in the exercise.