Isese: Legal Battle Unfolds As Traditional Worshippers Sues IGP, Others Over Rights Breach
Traditional worshippers in Kwara State, Nigeria, have lodged a fundamental rights enforcement suit at the Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos. This lawsuit targets the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) and seven others, alleging the infringement of their fundamental rights.
The suit names several respondents, including the Kwara State Police Commissioner, the State Government, Registered Trustees of the Council of Ulama (Islamic Clerics), Justice Salihu Mohammed (Executive Secretary of the Council of Ulama), Sheikh (Dr) Mohammed Bashir Saliu (Chief Imam of Ilorin and Chairman of the Council of Ulama), Alfa Abdulsalam Baba Tonile Okuta-Agidu, Kwara State Magistrates Court in Ilorin, and the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCoS) in Ilorin, Kwara State. The lawsuit, identified as FHC/L/CS/1674/2023, was filed by lawyer and activist Olukoya Ogungbeje.
Claiming to represent the interests of traditional religion adherents and worshippers in Nigeria, Ogungbeje cites freedom of religion, thoughts, belief, and conscience as the basis for the suit. He refers to Sections 36, 38, 42, and 46 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, Order II Rules 1 and 2 of the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules 2009, Order XI of the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules 2009, and Section 6(6)(b) of the Constitution as the legal foundation for the suit.
Ogungbeje seeks the following from the court:”A determination on whether he can bring the suit to the court in the public interest, seeking the enforcement of any of the Fundamental Rights outlined in Chapter IV of the Constitution. This includes seeking redress for any violation or breach of the rights guaranteed by the Constitution, regardless of whether the relief sought is personal to the applicant or not.
“A decision on whether the fundamental rights to freedom of religion, guaranteed under Section 38 of the Constitution, extend to traditional religion adherents who are citizens of Nigeria. This aims to ensure they can practice their religion, partake in cultural festivals, and celebrate their beliefs without hindrance or obstruction from any party or state in Nigeria.
“A ruling on whether the cessation of the Isese cultural festival scheduled for August 20, 2023, and the subsequent arrest, arraignment, and detention of traditional religion adherents and worshippers by the respondents—under the pretext of defamation of character—constitutes a direct violation of these individuals’ rights to freedom of religion, thoughts, and conscience.
“A determination of whether, if the previous questions are answered affirmatively, the suspension of the Isese cultural festival and the arrest, arraignment, and detention of traditional religion adherents as Nigerian citizens constitute a blatant infringement of the rights to a fair hearing and freedom of religion. This analysis is based on Sections 36 and 38 of the Constitution and whether such actions should be declared unconstitutional.”
At the time of this report, the respondents have not filed any responses to the legal action, and a date for the hearing of the applicant’s motion on notice is yet to be scheduled.