By Phil Okose,
In its bid to recover what it said belonged to it, Bishop Crowther Memorial Primary School, Onitsha, the Anglican communion, Diocese on the Niger, Onitsha, Anambra state, has allegedly dragged the Anambra state government led by Governor Willie Obiano to court.
This disclosure was made by the chancellor of the diocese and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Kpajie Nnamdi Ibegbu, who said that the church had filed three different suits against the Anambra state government in connection with the disputed Bishop Crowther Memorial Primary School.
Ibegbu, who did not give details of the suit, expressed confidence that the pendulum of victory would swing in the direction of the church at the court. According to him, “with all the documents we have and the facts we have, no reasonable tribunal will enter judgment against us”.
He traced the origin of the school to 1927 when one Lady Anesthesia Modebe leased the land located at the Nkisi road to Church Missionary Society (CMS) now Niger Diocese. He said a school named after Bishop Crowther was much later built on the land but the Local Authority equivalent of local government area, wanted a school they would aid.
Hear him: “The Church granted them the school but in 1970 the East Central State administration under Ukpai Asika, took over the control, management and administration of all the schools in the defunct East Central State. However, in 2012, Mr. Peter Obi as the governor of Anambra state due to the disputes and false claims of ownership by the Roman Catholic Church of some schools, set up a committee on the resolution of disputes, over takeover of schools by the then East Central State.
“The report which was submitted to Obi in Page 43 no 43 clearly stated that the school belongs to the Niger Diocese”. In the report the committee headed by a former chief judge of the state, Justice G. U. U, Ononiba with Pastor.Azubuike. Nkalagu, a deputy director, administration as secretary said, “evidence of the inquiry showed that Bishop Crowther Memorial Primary School is an Anglican Primary School built in 1956. It should be given to them”.
Although the report was submitted on September 28, 2003 and the government failed to implement its recommendation till date, a new twist, however, emerged last September when the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) from the flood prone areas of the state were accommodated in the facility.
According to Ibegbu, the Obiano-led government saw the lodging of flood displaced persons at the facility as an opportunity to drive the Anglican faithful worshipping there out of the place, as persons acting on its behalf allegedly pulled the structure down and desecrated the church altar.
“They immediately fenced the entire place and chased the Diocese on the Niger out. So, that is the position we are faced with but we won’t relent”.
The chancellor lamented that government was clearly aware of this report but they have sympathy or leaning to the Roman Catholic Church.
Orient Daily recalled that the Anglican Church, which has continued to accuse the state government of playing the scripts of Catholic Church in the lingering land tussle, last week dispatched their clergies to Government House at Awka to protest the continued siege of the school by security operatives and prevention of the Anglicans from having access to the worship place. The protesting priests who spent almost an hour, sitting in front of the government house and awaiting Governor Obiano to personally address them, left disappointed as the governor failed to show up. Days later a counter protest was staged by a group under the aegis of Concerned Christian and Non-Christian Citizens of Anambra state, at the Anambra state police headquarters.