This article explores the juristic personality of churches under common law as applicable in Nigeria. Generally, the popular assumptions by which churches seek juristic personality or enjoy its benefits are through incorporation as a company limited by guarantee or registering trustees under the Companies and Allied Matters Act 1990 (CAMA). Consequently, the courts have denied some churches the benefits of being juristic persons where the churches are unable to prove their juristic status in terms of CAMA. This article argues that besides the provisions of CAMA, churches can acquire juristic personality through other means, including under common law applicable in Nigeria without the need to register under CAMA. However, it seems most lawyers representing churches, the courts, jurists and academics alike are ignorant of this position. Consequently, this article seeks to create awareness and shine a light on the juristic personality of churches under the common law. The article evaluates historical records, statutes, extant literature to trace the juristic personality of churches to common law and argues that the same is enforceable in Nigeria.
The issue of the legal status of churches as it relates to their juristic personality came up again in Dairo v Registered Trustees of Diocese of Lagos.