By Odogwu Emeka Odogwu
Anglican Churches in Anambra State through the Anglican Diocese on the Niger, have appealed to the Anambra State Governor, Chief Willie Obiano, to intervene and return a parcel of land situated at St Simon's Bishop Crowther Memorial Church, Onitsha, to the Church as it rightly belongs to the Church.
Obiano's Chief of Staff, Mr. Primus Odili, had allegedly directed policemen to cordon off the church premises and ensure that the Anglican Church did not worship there on Sunday, a development that prompted the Anglicans to protest there last Sunday.
The Anglicans are claiming the land but it was rumoured that Catholics were interfering but Obiano's aide said the land neither belonged to the Anglicans nor the Roman Catholics, but the state government. He thus ordered for security to protect the environment.
Obiano was accused by Anglicans of complicity in the scheme to take the land away from the Anglican Church because it was allegedly under dispute between it and the Catholic Church in Onitsha.
According to the Anglicans, Obiano, a Catholic, was aiding his church to acquire their land at St Simon's Bishop Crowther Memorial Church located at the back of the Basilica of the Most Holy Trinity Onitsha ( a Catholic Cathedral).
They alleged that the Anambra State Government had erected a high wall round the school with the aim of ceding it to the Catholic Church, surreptitiously.
The Anglicans claimed last Sunday that their priests and faithful who went to worship inside the school premises were prevented by security operatives sent by the government.
Addressing newsmen, Rev. Dr Onwuzuligbo said, 'We have been worshipping here since 2006 but last week we had a meeting here and three people came in and identified themselves as Internally Displaced Persons 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 and told him about them and he told us to build a place where we could be worshipping so that the IDPs could be accommodated in the buildings where we worshipped until they left.
'We agreed and started building a structure and later a priest from the Basilica of the Most Holy Trinity came into where we were building and told us he came to know what he would tell the Archbishop; later another Rev Father who identified himself as chancellor, came and told us he would want to know what was happening here and we were wondering what informed their coming into where we were building a temporary structure in a land that belonged to us.
'Last Monday the local government, chairmen Mr. Patrick Mbah, asked us to stop work and we stopped and on Tuesday same week, they told us to start work again and we started and later they told us that the governor told us to stop work and we stopped again.
'That same Tuesday, the chairman of Onitsha North, Mr Mbah, came with some people and knocked down what we were building and the same day the Commissioner for Education, Prof. Kate Omenugha, and chairman of Anambra State Universal Basic Education Board, ASUBEB, Nze Emeka Olisa, came here and after our discussion with them, they told us to move the IDPs to one side, allow the school children in the classes and make use of our church building.
'We were surprised again that on Sunday morning when we came to worship, to see the whole compound taken over by policemen, Anambra State Vigilante,and Operation Clean and Healthy Anambra State, who prevented us from entering and worshiping in the compound.
They said they were acting on the express order of the Governor,' Rev Onwuzuligbo alleged.
According to him, the Governor directed that they should not be worshipping here, a directive, he said, they doubted as coming from the Governor when the said land belonged to the Anglican Communion.
'Even if the state government has the right to acquire any land, it does that for the overriding interest of the public and not for parochial interest or to oppress,' he further alleged.
When contacted, Mr Odili denied the allegations but admitted he asked the Anglican Church to stop work at the site.
He said there was nothing concerning the Catholic and Anglican churches in the land, insisting that the land belonged to the 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 of ASUBEB, Chief Olisa Nzemeka, to go to Onitsha and investigate and they came back and confirmed that a structure was being built there and I had to stop them,' Odili stated.
The Director of Social Communications, Rev Fr Martin Ukor, and the Chief Press Secretary to Archbishop Valerian Okeke, Rev. Fr. Benjamin Ogbunuko, in their separate reactions said that the Catholic Church had no hand in the land dispute between the Anambra State Government and the Anglican Church.