By Ononye VC

An Onitsha High Court presided over by Hon Justice J I Nweze on Wednesday dismissed the suit filed against the Catholic Archdiocese of Onitsha and the Anambra state government over ownership of Ugborimili Primary School, Housing Estate,Fegge Onitsha. The case was brought by the Registered Trustees of God’s Portion Ministries Intl against the Anambra State Government and the Catholic Archdiocese of Onitsha. The Pentecostal Group had sued both parties arguing that Government had no right to return the Ugborilimi Primary Schools to the Catholic Church. It falsely asserted that the schools were not built by the Catholic Church but by the State Government such that the handover to the Church was done in error. In a swift reaction,the Anambra State Government and the Catholic Archdiocese of Onitsha countered the claim, contending that Ugbormili schools were built by the Roman Catholic Mission way back before Nigeria’s independence. According to the defendants,the schools were later taken over by the Government without payment of compensation. Recall that,government, as part of policy of returning schools to their previous owners, returned Ugborimili Primary Schools to the Catholic Archdiocese of Onitsha, sequel to Executive Order of the Governor in compliance with, and effectuation of Public Education (Transfer of Schools)(Special Provisions) Amended Law of 2011. The said Order was issued and gazetted in April 2021. Barr Azubike Anazor, Senior Counsel to the Catholic Archdiocese of Onitsha had contended before Justice Nweze that the case before the court was grossly misconceived, that the suit was a challenge to the authority of Anambra State Government to implement a law validly enacted by the State House of Assembly. He argued that a condition precedent to the exercise of the jurisdiction of the courts in fundamental rights suits is that the enforcement of fundamental rights must be the main issue as well as the ancillary claim. Where the main claim or principal claim is not for securing enforcement of a fundamental rights, the jurisdiction of the court could not be properly exercised and the action would be incompetent and liable to dismissal. He cited a plethora of legal authorities to buttress his argument. The Judge agreed with Barr Anazor’s reasonings and submissions and dismissed the case with N100,000 cost in favour of the Catholic Church and another N100,000 in favour of the Anambra State Government. The Pentecostal Group(plaintiff) was represented by Barr O.C Ogugua. Barr Ifeanyi Agwuncha, Principal State Counsel represented the State Government while Senior Counsel, Barr Azubike Anazor defended the Catholic Archdiocese of Onitsha.

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