Court strikes out church’s suit against pastor

court.jpg-citynewsTHE National Industrial court of Nigeria (NICN), Court 5, sitting in Lagos, has struck out a suit filed by The Registered Trustees of Four Square Gospel Church in Nigeria (FSGCN) (Claimant) against one of its former pastors, Rev. Isaac Adeyemi (Defendant) of former Livingspring Tabernacle, Ikorodu, Lagos State, for lack of jurisdiction.

In the suit, with the number NICN/LA/599/2014, filed on December 12, 2014, the claimant prayed the court, among other complaints, to declare that the defendant has no right to superintend, oversee or perform any ministerial function or functions either specifically in the claimant’s church, located at No. 89-93 Obafemi Awolowo road, Erunwen Junction, Ikorodu, Lagos State, and also known as Livingspring Tabernacle or generally in any of the claimant’s churches nationwide having been lawfully dismissed from the employment of the claimant’ church in an action, which the defendant fully affirmed in his advertorial in The Guardian Newspaper of December 6, 2014.

An order of perpetual injunction restraining the defendant from ministering, attending, interfering, delegating, performing or holding out or describing himself as a member, pastor, cleric or overseer of the claimant’s church, located at No. 89-93 Obafemi Awolowo road, Erunwen Junction, Ikorodu, Lagos State, also known as Livingspring Tabernacle.

An order of injunction restraining the defendant or anyone acting on his behalf or instruction from interfering with the use and management of the property of the claimant, located at No. 89-93 Obafemi Awolowo road, Erunwen Junction, Ikorodu, Lagos State and an order that the defendant renders account of various sums of money collected on behalf of the claimant from the claimant’s various churches known collectively as Ikorodu II District and unlawfully withheld from the claimant by the defendant in spite of the demand to that effect.

It would be recalled that on Saturday, August 2, 2014, police from Zone II Onikan, visited Rev. Isaac Adeyemi’s home on the orders of the FGCN headquarters to arrest him on account of these “trumped-up” charges of forging the General Overseer’s signature, obtaining a loan of N65million and diverting it to his own personal use; an allegation he strongly denied.

When the Police did not meet the pastor at home, they arrested his 25-year-old son, Peter and remanded him in police cell.

The following Sunday, at the Livingspring Tabernacle of the then Foursquare Gospel Church, the police ran into a brick wall in their attempt to take away the pastor and take over the church, accompanied by officials from the church’s headquarters.

This crisis, according to Adeyemi, stemmed from the headquarters’ decision to suspend him for abandoning a leadership conference for “Embrace,” a soul-winning programme organized by the local church in ikorodu.

Adeyemi disclosed that the problem he was experiencing was a fallout of his contest for the post of the General Overseer of the church with the present General Overseer of the church, of which he said wasn’t his idea to contest but for the nomination by the stakeholders.

Meanwhile, the parish has since pulled out of Foursquare Gospel Church in Nigeria and is now a separate Pentecostal church of its own with the name, ‘Embrace International Assembly,’ stating then that the church was not a conventional Foursquare church and that he was not posted their by anybody.

He said the church did not get a dime from the national level in the construction of the building; it was built solely by the efforts of the congregation.

In his ruling, Hon Justice Oyebiola Oyewumi stated that her court was not established for the purpose for which the two parties came there.

Oyewumi, who requested for a letter of appointment from the claimant who stated in his suit that the defendant was his employee and as such, had been dismissed from his duties, stated that she had requested for copies of the pay slips attached to the letter but was not given.

She ruled that in the first place, there seemed to have been no contract between the two parties.

The Judge further noted that in the letter filed by the claimant, they attached a disclaimer and a letter of dismissal, which the counsel to Adeyemi, Ayoola Julius didn’t contest.

According to her, since the defendant wasn’t contesting his dismissal from the church, there was no basis for bringing him to the industrial court. And that, even if there were to be any reason to come there, it ought to have been the defendant that should have brought his employers to the court to challenge the dismissal.

She said: “Since the subject matter of this suit is not covered in 254C (1) of the 1999 constitution, it will amount to probing into the internal affairs of the church should this court proceed with this matter. This court will definitely be going outside its bounds or undertaking a futile exercise if it refuses to decline jurisdiction at this point.

“The restraining orders and reliefs sought for in this case are not within the competence of this court. The preliminary objection filed by the defendant succeeds consequently, I hold that this court has no jurisdiction to entertain and determine the claimant’s suit. This suit is accordingly struck out. Claimant is at liberty to ventilate its grievances in the appropriate court.”

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