Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State has directed the State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Cletus Ofoke, to sue the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria to account for all intervention funds released to it by his predecessor, Martin Elechi.
Governor Umahi announced the directive on Wednesday in his office at the new Government House, Centenary City, Abakaliki, as part of his Statewide broadcast to commemorate Nigeria’s 60th Independence Anniversary celebration and Ebonyi State at 24.
Recall that the State Government had allegedly muscled a hospital from the original owners, the Presbyterian Mission, leading to its final takeover by government on September 7, 2020.
The Church had alleged that the government’s takeover was without recourse to due process, a development it described as intimidation of the highest order.
The forceful takeover, which was allegedly perfected by government in connivance with some community members, was also predicated on the ground that lease granted to the Church for the hospital has expired, having lasted over 100 years.
The Church was accused of gross mismanagement of their own hospital, which sounded appalling to major stakeholders.
It was learnt that the Church later took the State Government to Court seeking redress for the forceful eviction.
During the briefing, the Governor, probably in expression of discontent with the action of the Church, also directed that the Church’s Branch at the former leprosy settlement in Uburu, known as Colony, to be be sealed for having taken the government to Court.
He accused the Church of diverting its own intervention funds as extended to Mission hospitals during the regime of Chief Martin Elechi, to the building of its University in Ohafia, Abia State, and directed that the Church be sued for probe.
He explained that the hospital has been converted to a Community General Hospital as a requirement for the Ebonyi State University Medical Cchool located there.
Umahi said: “Of course we have taken over the Presbyterian Joint Hospital, Uburu, making it the 14th General Hospital, and also making it the Community General Hospital which is a requirement for the Medical School
“I learnt they took us to Court.
“We will meet them in Court.
“And if we are on Court, the Church in Colony should be sealed.
“So, they can worship in any other place.
“We are also the temple of God, each and everyone of us; the building is not the temple of God.
“If they want us to make peace, they can come for the peace.
“I have also asked the HAG to take them to Court to account for all the intervention funds that the Elechi Administration gave to them, which they took and went to another State to build a University in the name of Church.
“We are no longer deceived.
“Church is in the heart
“Inasmuch as we respect God and respect the men of God, but nobody should deceive us, cheat us or fool us because he calls himself man of God.
“We are all men and women of God.”
The Governor at the event also announced the State’s readiness to distribute the second phase of COVID-19 palliative to the people of the State, amounting to over N4 billion, to cushion the economic hardship occasioned by the pandemic for the forthcoming Christmas celebration.
Consequently, a 16-member COVID-19 Fund Implementation Committee, chaired by the Deputy Governor, Dr. Kelechi Igwe, was inaugurated by the Governor to manage the disbursement.
The Committee has the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Francis Nwifuru, as the Vice Chairman, while the Commissioner for Health, Dr. Daniel Umezurike, was named the Secretary.
Other members include the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Religious and Welfare Matters, Rev. Fr. Abraham Nwali; and Chief Medical Director, Alex Ekwueme Federal University Teaching Hospital, Dr. Emeka Onwe.