THE Office of the Governor of Anambra State has noted, with dismay, the recent protest by some priests from the Anglican Diocese on the Niger over the ownership of Bishop Crowther Memorial Primary School, Onitsha and wishes to state as follows:
What is today known as Crowther Memorial Primary School used to be one of the five Onitsha Urban County Council schools before the Nigeria-Biafra War. It was renamed after the war to Crowther Memorial Primary School by the Dr Ukpabi Asika administration of East Central State. However, the change of name did not affect its ownership and management which is totally by the Government of Anambra State.
It must be mentioned that even when the previous administration handed some schools back to the Missions, Crowther Memorial Primary School was not one of those schools and has remained a government owned public school till date.
The current controversy which led to the protest was created by a certain Bishop and his wife who decided to erect the foundation for a building at Crowther Memorial Primary School without obtaining approval from the government. And when their efforts were halted by the appropriate authorities, they incited some priests in the Diocese to stage a protest over what rightly belongs to the government. Happily, some well-informed priests in the fold refused to join the protest because they knew the truth.
It is worrisome that some priests were misled into staging a protest over a matter that is before a competent court of law at a time when the buzzword in our country is “the rule of law.” Had this Bishop rightly applied for a piece of land anywhere in the state, Anambra State Government would have been obliged to grant his request the same way it had granted a similar request by another Bishop in the Anglican Diocese of Awka.
It has to be noted that the Government of Anambra State under Governor Willie Obiano has enjoyed very peaceful and cordial relations with all denominations of the church in Anambra State including the Pentecostals, the Anglicans and the Catholics. And more specifically, the Obiano administration has supported all the synods hosted by the Anglican Church and assisted in the hosting of all its visiting dignitaries to the state since the administration came into existence.
In sustenance of the Mission Schools initiative, the Obiano administration has so far donated the sum of N600m to 300 schools owned by the Anglican Church in Anambra State.
In the aspect of school infrastructure, the Obiano administration has so far constructed 82 classrooms and 4 VIP toilets in 24 compartments in Anglican schools. It has also provided 2596 units of tables and chairs these schools. All of these were achieved at an estimated cost of N168, 750,000.
Similarly, it has donated the sum of N266m in funding to hospitals owned by the Anglican Church. Iyienu Hospital alone gulped N100m in 2014. In addition, it helped to rebuild all the internal roads in most hospitals owned by the church in the state. It has also continued to pay the salaries of teachers and offer subventions to Mission Schools.
From the above clarifications, it is crystal clear that the Obiano administration is neither against the Diocese on the Niger nor the Anglican Church in Anambra State. Therefore, the disagreement that led to the recent protest is an isolated case where a Bishop and his wife decided to encroach on government property and still muster enough guts to incite some priests to demonstrate over a property that does not belong to them.
Therefore, pushed against the wall, the Government of Anambra State cannot fold its hands and watch its property invaded and forcibly taken away by anybody or group of people no matter how highly placed. Nor shall the Obiano administration tolerate any attempt to intimidate; blackmail or arm-twist it into surrendering a government property to any individual or group.
In the past five years, Anambra State has built up a reputation as Nigeria’s safest and most peaceful state. We therefore warn the general public to resist any attempt to cajole anyone into taking sides with people who are bent on breaching the peace and fomenting trouble in the state because such people shall be arrested and prosecuted according to the law.
Finally, there is something inherently wrong in taking to the streets to protest a case that is already in court! We advise the protesting priests to give peace a chance and allow the law to take its full course as is the standard in every true democratic setting.