Catholics have no land dispute with Anglicans in Onitsha – By AZUBIKE ANAZOR
The Vanguard Newspaper of 1st October 2018 carried on its page 16 the following news item captioned:
“Catholics, Anglicans, Anambra Govt bicker over land”
The said publication went on to say as follows “the Cold War existing between the Angloican Communion and Catholic Church in Anambra State, yesterday reared it’s ugly head again with the prevention of Anglican from worshiping at Bishop Crowther Memorial Church owned by the diocese of the Niger by Security operatives”
The caption and contents of the said publication will, if left unchallenged, amount to a distortion of well-known historical facts and propel and goad religious zealots into taking actions that will turn out to be misguided and wrong-headed.
The social media are equally awash with the stories of the conflicts between Catholics and Anglicans over ownership of Crowther Memorial Primary School and Omunwaegboka primary school, Onitsha.
It is against the foregoing background that it has become necessary to set the records straight concerning ownership of Crowther Memorial primary School/Omunwaegboka primary School Onitsha and at the same time debunk the trending lie relating to the history of the grant of land upon which the Basilica of the Most Holy Trinity is Situate.
WHO OWNS CROWTHER MEMORIAL SCHOOL?
One fallacy that is being bandied about the pseudo writers and suborned social media commentators is that the Crowther Memorial Primary school Onitsha, situate at the intersection between the Old Nkisi Road and Ridge Road, Onitsha is the bona fide property of the Anglican Church. This is NOT TRUE.
Crowther Memorial primary school and the adjoining Omunwaegboka primary school are the property of the Government of Anambra State. Neither the school nor the land upon which it is situate is the property of the Anglican Church.
The “1964 Directory of Elementry Schools of Eastern Nigeria” issued by the ministry of Education under code No: 9/20/62/21 described the schools as “L.A Niger Square”. It is instructive to note that the schools are not described as mission schools but as L.A schools.
It is apposite to point out that there is no correlation between the name “Crowther” attaching to one of the schools and Anglican Communion. Infact, Bishop Crowther Memorial School (BCM) is situate just a kilometer from the present disputed land near the Ose Market, Onitsha. That school is totally different from Omunwaegboka and Crowther primary schools which are government properties.
Sequel to the government take-over of schools in defunct East Central State of Nigeria after the civil war, there was a renaming of schools, and that was when the name Crowther came into being in the disputed property. It is not, was not, and could not have been a Mission School for there is nowhere in the entire Anambra State where a mission school co-existed with a local authority (L.A.) school in the same premises.
Genesis of the current impasse
How did the misconception originate? The Anglicans, the Chosen Charismatic Movement, the Redeemed Church, and others began, in recent times, to apply to Head Teachers of the school for permission to use the school for worship and religious services. The Anglicans were using the school only on Wednesdays and never on Sundays, paying the head teacher N600 each Wednesday of the week they would use the Schools for said religious services.
Mrs. Victoria Nnani, who was the head teacher in 2006-2008, constructed metal protectors to safeguard the rooms in the school building. The Anglicans approached her and requested to be allowed to keep some of their equipment therein, explaining to her that they would be having crusade in the premises. Their request was innocently granted.
It is inexplicable how an ostensible application for use of a school property for a temporary crusade has transmuted to a deceitful creeping into and an internecine war over, Government property. The equipment the Anglicans placed in one of the rooms have remained unremoved but it is now being used as a basis for claiming the school as Anglican property and as a rendezvous for religious worship. What an indecent maneuver?
DID ANGLICANS GRANT THE CATHOLICS BASILICA LAND?
Another despicable fallacy being currently peddled is that the Church Missionary Society (CMS), the precursor to the Anglican Church granted, the Roman Catholic Church the land upon which the Basilica of the Most Holy Trinity and other church assets are situate. What a mischievous distortion of history?
In the 19th century when the Anglicans landed as Church Missionary Society, they requested the then traditional ruler of Onitsha, the Obi of Onitsha, to give them land for building a church. The Obi offered them two differently located parcels of land from which to choose one, for their missionary establishments. These lands were (1) the large expanse of the dry land at Ozalla Road, Onitsha, and (2) the marshy land near the bank of the River Niger, Onitsha.
When the Roman Catholic Mission led by Fr. Luz landed in 1885, they went also to the Obi of Onitsha and asked for land for setting up their mission. Obi Anazonwu, now on the throne, having ascertained that the CMS had made a choice and preferred the Ozalla Road parcel of land and infact had commenced missionary activity thereon, then granted the Catholics the marshy, mosquito-infested land near the bank of River Niger, Onitsha, in perpetuity.
It is noteworthy that the Anglicans were granted a lease of their own land where the All Saints Cathedral is presently situate for a period of 100 years. This lease recently expired, leading to a renewal for another 100 years, for an embarrassingly humongous sum of money paid to their Onitsha land-owing-family overlords. In contrast, the Catholics have no such burden to worry about as their grant was made for eternity. The logical question therefore is: could the Anglicans have granted the Catholics land in perpetuity when their own land suffers from a lease encumbrance? The obvious answer is of course No!
Let it be stated, for the umpteenth time, that it was the late Obi Anazonwu, the then traditional ruler of Onitsha, that granted the Catholic Church the land upon which the Catholic Archdiocese of Onitsha is headquartered, and not the Church Missionary Society, CMS, or the successor Anglican Church.
The Anglican Church should desist from laying claim over, or trespassing into, government schools and government property in Anambra State. An end should equally be put to the cheap blackmail of linking the Catholic Church to any dispute it has over government property.
The Catholic Church, knowing as it does that these are government institutions, never lays any claim to ownership of either Crowther Memorial Primary School or Omunwaegboka Primary School. They are, and remain, government establishments situate on government land and premises. Let sound reason prevail! Preachers of peace should not promote war and violence as the Anglicans are doing right now!!
Barr. Azubike Anazor, KSJI