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Delta villagers protest, give Catholic Church 2-week ultimatum to quit land

•Church, Educ ministry at war over operation of school
•Govt handed over institution to Catholic Mission — Church official

By Perez Brisibe

UGHELLI – THE people of Ekuigbo community, Ughelli North Local Government Area, Delta State have issued a 14-day ultimatum to the Catholic Church to quit their land if it does not want the Delta State Government to operate Saint Theresa Grammar School in the community.

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The Catholic Mission and Ministry of Education, Asaba, are currently at loggerheads over the running of the school In fact, new students were to resume for the new academic session in September, but a tussle broke out over the ownership between the church and the ministry.

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Placard-carrying protesters led by the president general of the community, Ovwigho Emmanuel, stormed the palace of the Ovie of Ughelli, HRH Oharisi III and the office of the Chief Inspector of Education, CIE, in Ugheli North, saying: “We have issued a two week ultimatum to the Catholic Church to hands off their claim of ownership on the school.”

“The community did not sell the land to the Catholic mission but rather, the land was only leased to them and the ownership claim of the mission is erroneous,” he asserted.

School allegedly handed over to church in 2011

Director of Communication of the Warri Diocese, Rev. Fr. Benedict Ukutegbe and the Catholic Dean/Vicar of Ughelli, Rev. Fr. Godwin Orudje, declined comments when contacted.

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Findings by NDV showed that the school with two sites was operated by the state government before it was reportedly handed back to the Catholic Mission together with 26 other schools in 2011 by the Delta state government under the administration of former governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan.

An official of the Warri diocese, who preferred anonymity, told NDV that the state government did not formally takeover the operation of the school from the church.

“You would agree with me that in 2011, 27 out of 40 schools were handed back to the Catholic Church, including St. Theresa’s Grammar School.

“But in this case, the Delta State government attempted to take over the operation of the school in one of the sites after giving it to the church and wants to run it exclusively without the input of the church, and we feel this is wrong, so that is actually the crux of the matter,” he added.

Chaos

Government awarded a contract for the renovation and upgrading of the second site of the school, now known as Government Model Secondary School, Ekuigbo.

From available information, the school was to resume the 2018 academic session, September 17, on completion of the building project and teachers under the State Education Board had been transferred to the school.

Students who passed the entrance examination as conducted by the state education authority had completed their registration pending the resumption until the confusion set in with the Catholic Mission claiming ownership of the school under its missionary services.

Not to miss the 2018 academic session, parents of the admitted students had to re-enlist their wards at other available schools.

Education commissioner declines comment

Though the state commissioner for Basic Education, Chiedu Ebie, declined comments on the issue when contacted over the protest, the CIE in charge of Ughelli North, Anthony Akponovo, while assuring the people of his support, said: “The ministry had been on this matter for awhile and we are still on it, but I want to assure you that it would be pursued to logical conclusion.”

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