Benin Baptist Prelacy: Appeal Court Voids Rev. Usuanlele Election

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By Ikhili Monday EBALU, Benin City
The Court of Appeal sitting in Benin has set aside the judgment of a High Court in Edo that affirmed the appointment / election of Rev (Dr.) Osama Usuanlele as prelate of the United Baptist Mission (Church) of Nigeria.
In setting aside the judgment in an appeal brought pursuant to the case by Rev (Dr) Arnold Osaheni Emwanta for himself and on behalf of the Executive Elders Committee United Baptist Mission, Benin, and Elder (DN) G S Obanor, chairman, investigation committee and two others, the appellate court held that it found merit in the appeal and set aside the judgment of the lower court that granted the respondent’s claims.
Justice Baloukuromo Moses Ugo who read the lead judgment said; “In the final analysis, I find merit in the appeal and it is hereby allowed and the judgment of the lower court granting respondents claims is set aside and in its place, an order dismissing his claim in that court is hereby made”.
Justice Ugo’s judgment which was supported by his learned brothers, Justices Hamma Akawu Barka, and Adekunle Owoade held that the whole election / selection process from which the respondent purportedly emerged was a comedy of error and so voided by section 1 (3) of the United Baptist Mission’s Constitution.
The judgment read in parts, “yes, the late Acting Prelate who later turned around to impugn the process was the same person that set this illegal process in motion, but that fact contrary to the reasoning of the lower court and the respondent, does not make any difference to its obvious invalidity of the process given the clear provisions of the Mission’s Constitution”.
The judge held that it was the lower court and the respondent and his counsel that read the Mission’s Constitution upside down in the sense that the Constitution is clear in section 29 (3) (b) and further reinforced in section 31 (1), to the effect that the minimum priesthood requirement to contesting the mission’s prelacy is 10 years post ordination experience.
The appellate court disagreed with the trial judge’s decision to conveniently ignore the provisions of section 31 (1) in its interpretation, insisting that a correct interpretation of the said section should have put paid to the issue even going by the respondent’s own postulation of latter provisions of a statute or instrument prevailing over earlier provisions on the same issue where there is a conflict.
The court also held that the lower court was wrong in holding that the respondent (Rev (Dr) Osama Usuanlele) with 10 – year post ordination experience as at 2008 was qualified to contest and be elected the United Baptist Mission’s Prelate under its constitution. “He was not at all eligible and neither the equally illegal Transition and Installation/Working Committee nor anybody in the mission has the power to waive the requirement for him. Section 1 on the constitution forbids it. His election even on this ground alone is void”, the judge concluded.