Pastor Ezekiel fights registrar's plan to close his church

Pastor Ezekiel Odero (in white attire) with his lawyers, Danstan Omari (left) and Cliff Ombeta (right), arrive at the police headquarters in Mombasa County on Monday, May 29, 2023. [Kelvin Karani, Standard]

Pastor Ezekiel Odero, of New Life Prayer Centre and Church, has sued the Registrar of Societies over plans to close the church due to his alleged failure to file annual returns.

Odero said the decision to close down his church is politically motivated and unreasonable.

In his case before the High Court, the pastor argues the registrar has failed to accord him reasonable time to file his annual returns. 

He claims his church file has been missing and his efforts to trace it at the Registrar of Society’s office have been futile. 

Odero laments that the directive by the registrar was meant to beat the orders issued by Justice Olga Sewe, on the High Court in Mombasa, that the church should be re-opened.

His lawyers Danstan Omari and Shadrack Wambui said the government is hell-bent on nailing Pastor Odero without a sin.

The lawyers said the decisions government agencies have so far made on Odero and his church are an injustice to him and his followers’ right to worship.

"It is increasingly disheartening of the numerous attempts by State to persecute me, frustrate my ministry and eventually not only shut down the New Life Prayer Centre and Church but also all my other projects,” Odero said in his court papers. 

He claims the registrar served him with a letter requiring him to file returns on May 25, 2023. The letter indicated that the registrar would close the church if he fails to comply with the requirement to update his returns from 2012 to 2022.

The pastor claims the letter was later backdated to April 27, 2023.

He said it is unfair for the registrar to require him to act on a timeline that has already lapsed.

“Unless this honourable court moves with celerity and arrests the impending illegality and injustices that are to be occasioned by the first respondent, the applicant shall suffer irreparable harm and his congregants' freedom of religion shall be curtailed in contravention of Article 32 of the Constitution,” Omari and Ombeta told the court.

Odero wants the court to quash the registrar’s letter.

At the same time, he wants his file availed and the costs of the case paid. He has also sued Attorney General over the matter. 

"It's absolutely irrational for the first respondent to threaten to cancel the registration of New Life Prayer Centre and Church for failure to file its annual returns while being fully aware of the impediments it has tactfully placed to ensure the applicant is unable to fulfil the church's annual returns without the church's file that is primarily in the first respondent’s custody," said Odera, who is popularly known as Pastor Ezekiel.