A bill seeking to amend the 1999 Constitution in order to establish such courts passed second reading at the House in Abuja.
A replica of the Sharia Court of Appeal, the bill defines the functions and jurisdiction of the courts as well as the qualifications of the presiding judges.
The judges shall be cardinals drawn from the Christian faith.
“The Ecclesiastical Court, when established, shall complement the regular courts in adjudicating in matters relating to the tenets of the Christian faith between individuals and groups that yield and submit to its jurisdiction,” a notation on the bill read.
It was sponsored by a member from Plateau State, Mr. Gyang Istifanus-Dung, and eight other lawmakers.
The others are Yusuf Tajudeen, Kwewum Shawulu, Solomon Maren, Gaza Jonathan, Shiddi Danjuma, Timothy Golu, Johnbull Shekarau and Sunday Katung.
Being a constitutional amendment bill, the piece of legislation passed second reading in a majority voice vote without elaborate debate.
It was referred to the Ad Hoc Committee on Review of the 1999 Constitution for detailed analysis.
The session was presided over by the Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, who said the constitution review committee would work on the bill and report back to the House.
The constitution review committee is chaired by the Deputy Speaker, Mr. Yussuff Lasun.
Istifanus-Dung, in defending the bill, spoke on the jurisdiction of the Ecclesiastical Court, explaining that it “shall exercise such appellate and supervisory jurisdiction in civil proceedings involving questions of Ecclesiastical Law and Christian Personal Law…”
Section 27C(1) (2) of the bill, gives details of jurisdiction of the court, among which are “any question of Christian personal law regarding marriage concluded in accordance 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.”
It added, “Where all the parties to the proceedings are Christians, any question or Christian personal law regarding a marriage where no prior or subsequent customary or statutory marriage is contracted, including the validity or dissolution of that marriage, or regarding family relationship, a founding or the guardianship of an infant…”
The bill specifically provides that when all parties to a case before a court of first instance are Christians, the case should be determined in accordance with Christian personal law, or any question.
The qualifications, appointments and tenure of the cardinals are spelt out in Section 270 C(1)-(5) of the bill.
Istifanus-Dung explained further that, “The judges (cardinals) of the Ecclesiastical Court shall be drawn from those learned in law and shall be required to administer justice in accordance with the Christian faith and the law of the nation.”
In a separate bill, which also passed second reading, the House proposed to split the offices of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice.
The sponsor of the bill, Mr. Mohammed Monguno, had argued that the office often came under influence from the executive, making the minister/AGF to pander more to the dictates of the President or the governor of a state as against serving the overall interest of the people.
Leading the debate, Monguno, a member of the All Progressives Congress from Borno State, said, “The purpose of this bill is to amend a section of the 1999 Constitution and make a provision that makes the AGF’s office and that of the justice minister separate.
“The reason is because of the enormity of the functions and powers given to the two offices.
“The constitution gives the AGF the power to start and discontinue any criminal proceedings. The implication is that the office of the AGF is a quasi-judicial office, while it is under the executive. That function has to be carried out judiciously and judicially.
“So, because of the enormity of the office, and having occupied the office in Borno State, I know what is required.
“The AGF office should be separated to avoid any political interference/influence from politicians.”
Like the Ecclesiastical Court bill, Monguno’s bill was referred to Lasun’s committee for further legislative input.
…probe death of female corper, Ifedolapo, at Kano camp
The House of Representatives on Tuesday directed its Committee on Youth Development and Committee on Healthcare Services to investigate the death of a female National Youth Service Corps member, Miss Ifedolapo Rachael-Oladepo.
The late first class graduate of Aviation Transport Management had died last week while undergoing orientation at the NYSC camp in Kano State.
She graduated from the Ladoke Akintola University, Ogbomosho and hailed from Ila-Orangun in Ila Local Government Area of Osun State.
The House resolution was passed after a member from Osun State, Mr. Olufemi Fakeye, moved a motion demanding a probe of the incident.
He recalled that the deceased had taken ill on November 25 and “promptly” reported to camp officials, but added that the officials thought that Rachael-Oladepo was “feigning sickness in order to dodge routine strenuous exercises.”
Fakeye observed that she apparently did not receive adequate medical attention as her condition worsened in the hands of fellow NYSC doctors and nurses.
“Because Rachael-Oladepo’s medical condition did not improve many hours after being admitted to the camp clinic, she was belatedly evacuated to another hospital where she reportedly died,” he told the House.
Although, members passed the motion in a unanimous voice vote without further debate, the House asked the management of the NYSC to post experienced doctors to each orientation camp in the country.
They also called for the proper equipping of camps with senior personnel and medical provisions.
Aside a decision to investigate the death, members observed a minute’s silence in honour of Rachael-Oladepo.
They also resolved to “send a delegation to condole and commiserate with the family of the fallen corps member.”
The two committees were directed to conduct the investigation and report back to the House within four weeks.