Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State has faulted the St Andrews Anglican Church, Ekpoma for encroaching on government land by erecting a church building and a high wall to fence off the Ukpughele Primary School in the community.
Oshiomhole during a meeting with the Archbishop of Bendel Province, Anglican Communion, Most Rev’d Friday Imaekhai and other Church leaders said the church was not in conflict with the state government but with pupils of the school who are also children of the church parishioners.
The Governor who inspected who at the school to inspect the perimeter fence which had been pulled down by officials of the state Ministry of Lands, Survey, Housing and Urban Development said “the issue is whether this is school land or government land”.
He said: “The Church operates on the basis of rules and regulations and I think the Anglican Church is an organized church, governed by rules and procedures, nobody can just go and set up an Anglican Church without permission from appropriate authority.
“By the same logic, Edo State is governed by Law, and there is a government, a government that is accountable, that is the trustee of the people including the Christians and the Children.
“Now the Laws are clear. You do not erect anything without previous authorization. You are obliged by Law to design and present your document to the Ministry of Land, Survey, Housing and urban development for clearance; whether the land belongs to you or not.”
Governor Oshiomhole maintained that the leadership of the church Ekpoma acted in error for erecting a fence and another new structure on government school land without clearance.
He dismissed the argument by Most Rev. Dr. Friday Imaekhai that the school belonged to the church and that the church property were destroyed by the school children. He maintained that government had in the 70s taken over Mission schools and that the said land on which the church erected a new building and a perimeter fence was government land.
Oshiomhole said the perimeter fence erected by the church w0as done in a such a way as to deny the students and teachers access to their school through the access gate, wondering if the Church expected the pupils to jump over the fence to access their school, maintaining that schools were not prison yards that should be fenced off with high walls.
He maintained that the law does not respect anyone and ordered that all documents relating to the new building should be submitted to the officials of the Ministry of Land, Survey, Housing and Urban development for necessary verification.
Addressing the Governor, the Archbishop of Anglican Communion, Bendel Province, Most Rev. Imaekhai admitted that the school was a mission school taken over by government in the seventies.
“Between 1975 and 1976 when government took over schools, this school was one of the schools taken over by the government”, admitting that the Church did not obtain prior auhorisation from government before erecting a perimeter fence.
According to him “we thought we have done something that government would have commended us for because the school has become a hideout for criminals and school children have destroyed church property using the church ground as football pitch,” he stressed
Meanwhile, Governor Oshiomhole has directed the Commissioner for Basic Education, Hon. Patrick Aguinede to include Ukpughele Primary School, founded in 1938 in the list of schools to be renovated beginning from next month.