Clergy and worshippers of the Anglican Diocese on the Niger, Onitsha, Anambra State, have accused Governor Willie Obiano of collaborating with the Catholic Church to forcefully acquire their land.
The Church accused Obiano of aiding his church to acquire their land at St Simon’s Bishop Crowther Memorial Church behind the Basilica of the Most Holy Trinity Onitsha (a Catholic cathedral) and of building a high wall round the school with the aim of ceding it to the Catholic Church.
Worshippers were barred from entering the church on Sunday but yesterday, about 200 priests, 5,000 worshippers and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), defied security presence and entered the St. Simon Bishop Crowther Memorial Church to celebrate Nigeria at 58.
Rev. Dr Onwuzuligbo, who addressed reporters, 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 (IDPs), saying they had been asked to come and stay in the Primary School section, and we welcomed them….
“But we were surprised to see the compound taken over by security men on Sunday morning, who prevented us from entering the compound and worshiping, saying they were carrying out the governor’s orders.
“This is a religious war against us by the Catholic Church. Whoever is behind preventing us from our place of worship is just playing the script written by the Catholics.
“They said the governor forbade us from worshipping here, but we wonder how the governor will give such directive in a land that belongs to the Anglican Communion; we know it is the Catholic Church that is using the Onitsha North council chairman and the Governor to intimidate us.”
But the government, through Obiano’s Chief of Staff, Primus Odili, said: “There was nothing concerning the Catholic and the Anglican in the land; that the land belongs 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 ASUBEB, Chief Olisa Nzemeka, to investigate. They returned with confirmation that a structure is being built there and I had to stop them.”
The Catholic Church, through the Director of Social Communication Fr. Martin Ukor and Chief Press Secretary to Archbishop Valerian Okeke, Fr. Benjamin Ogbunuko, said: “The Catholic Church has no hand in the land dispute between the government and the Anglican Church.”