A Nigerian Catholic priest has sued his church for accusing him of impregnating a woman.
The priest, Charles Oyebade, filed the case since in 2018 at Ekpoma High court, Edo State, South-South Nigeria, after the church suspended him indefinitely over an alleged sexual affair with a woman named Cynthia Nnaji.
The Catholic Church tried to stop the court from hearing the case, saying the priest did not exhaust the internal mechanisms of resolving disputes within the church before heading to the court.
But the judge, J. O. Okeaya-Inneh, on April 16 this year, ruled that the case should go on.
Catholic priests voluntarily submit themselves to an oath of celibacy which forbids them from sex.
The embattled priest, Mr Oyebade, belongs to the Order of Discalced Carmelite, a sect which has chosen a secluded life, devoted to prayers, within the Catholic Church. He was ordained priest in November 2014.
The priest has denied being responsible for Ms Nnaji’s pregnancy nor ever having sex with her.
He is in court to challenge his suspension by the Order of Discalced Carmelite.
Apart from Ms Nnaji, the other defendants in the case are the Order of Discalced Carmelite, and a priest, Canice-Mary Azuoma, who is a regional vicar of the Order in Nigeria.
Ms Nnaji in 2017 reported to the Catholic Church that she was pregnant for the reverend father, according to a court paper sighted by PREMIUM TIMES.
But the priest told the court, through his lawyer, that the church hastily suspended him without giving him a fair hearing, and without conducting a pregnancy and paternity test as demanded by him.
The priest told the court that the vicar, Mr Azuoma, gave Ms Nnaji N450,000 immediately she came up with the allegation against him (Mr Oyebade), therefore making the case appear as a “set-up.”
He further told the court that Ms Nnaji sent text messages to him, confessing that she lied that she was pregnant.
Justice Okeaya-Inneh, while dismissing the preliminary objection by the Order of Discalced Carmelite, said the Nigerian constitution which guarantees Mr Oyebade rights to seek redress hold sway when it clashes with the constitution and norms of the Order and the Codes of Canon law.
PREMIUM TIMES, on Monday, contacted the Order of Discalced Carmelite in Nigeria for their comment on the matter.
One Israel Ani, who picked the call, introduced himself as a secretary to the vicar, Mr Azuoma, but declined comment on the matter.
He also refused to give the vicar’s contact phone number as requested by the reporter.