A non-governmental organisation (NGO) in Anambra State-Justice is Equity (JIE), represented by the Resident Priest in charge of St Simon’s Bishop Crowther Memorial (BCM) Church, Onitsha, Dr. Leonard Onwuzuligbo, has lamented over what it sees as the continuous marginalisation, intimidation and exclusion of the rest citizens of the state by the successive Roman Catholic-led administrations.
The ugly trend, the group noted, went full blast immediately after former Governor Chinwoke Mbadinuju left office in 2003 and kick-started from the reign of former Governor Chris Ngige and literally became a policy, though unwritten, from the last administration.
Thereon, virtually no issue of government escaped the full involvement and imprimatur of the Roman Catholic Church leadership in the state, they said.
The group said that their cries should not be ignored because like the popular Igbo adage says that where a crying child points fingers, one of his parents is there. He said interestingly, God never sanctioned inequality, maltreatment, injustice, inequity and unfairness of any kind.
Leading a procession of more than 200 fully-robed priests of the church and thousands of parishioners, praying and singing praises to God, while stern looking policemen, Nigerian Security and Civil Defense operatives, men of the Anambra State Vigilante, (AVS), and the Operation Clean and Healthy Anambra State officials (OCHA Brigade) barricaded the entrance of the church, Rev Dr Onwuzuligbo prayed fervently for reason to prevail.
Addressing newsmen, shortly after the open air service, Rev. Onwuzuligbo said that “we have been worshipping here since 2006 and last week we were having a meeting here and three people came in and identified themselves as Internally Displaced Person (IDPs) who were asked to come and stay in the Primary School section, and we welcomed them.
“We called the chairman of Onitsha North Local Government Area, and told him about them and he told us to allow them, but to build a place where we could be worshipping so that the IDPs could be accommodated in the buildings where we normally worship until they leave.
President of the Gideon’s, Barrister Chuba Oranusi -a former member of the State House of Assembly, told journalists that “in 2001 when the priest’s house was put up, some people came to claim that the land belong to the Roman Catholic Church and the then presiding Archbishop Albert Obiefuna wrote the government and the State Assembly, that the land does not belong to the Catholic Church.
Reacting to allegation, the Anambra State Government through the Chief of Staff to Governor Willie Obiano, Mr. Primus Odili, said: “There was nothing concerning the Catholic and the Anglican over the land, that the land belongs to Anambra State Government.”
“I was told that some people wanted to build on the land and I sent the Commissioner for Education, Prof. Kate Omenugha and Chairman ASUBEB, Chief Olisa Nzemeka to go and investigate and they came back and confirmed that a structure was being built there and I had to stop them.”
However, Catholic Archdiocese of Onitsha while reacting through its Director of Social Communication Rev. Fr. Martin Ukor and the Chief Press Secretary to Archbishop Valerian Okeke, Rev. Fr. Benjamin Ogbunuko, said that “the Catholic Church has no hand in the land dispute between the Anambra State Government and the Anglican Church.”
They also said “there was never a time the Catholic Church was laying claims to the land, if the Anglican Church has land dispute with the State government, it should settle it with the government without dragging the Catholic Church into it.”
However, the visibly angry Anglican faithful prevented from worshipping in their usual church warned that they will not tolerate the repeat of St Ebenezer Anglican Church Oyeolu Oze, Nkwelle Ezunaka incident where unknown people went and demolished one of the buildings in the church. That the governor visited the scene and it was clear the state knows those behind the incident that was now festering with bravado.”
They also noted that not long ago, a governor of one of the states in the South East during one of his many running battles with the head of the Church in his state got so infuriated and frustrated with the clergy’s political meddlesomeness in the affairs of the state that he reportedly charged at the man of God to perish the idea and imagination to produce the next governor of the state.
A victim of the overbearing church leadership involvement in the daily way and manner of APGA administration got so piqued that he counseled the party to do everything to resist comments or any form of reaction or attacks over it if they don’t want to risk harsh details.”
The respondent who craved anonymity at this stage reeled out details after details on the appointments, employments, contracts and even projects and or the choice of new “acceptable” traditional rulers that could ever be certified by the state government.
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