OJO ISAAC writes that the Fundamental Human Rights suit between the Diocese on the Niger and the Anambra State Government pending at the Federal High Court, Awka, has been transferred to the Anambra State Chief Judge.
The Presiding Judge, Hon Justice I. B. Gafai, who transferred the case at a sitting that was to be his ruling on the suit said that the purpose of the transfer was to enable the state judge to reassign the case in order to first determine the rightful owner of the piece of land in question.
He said that the determination of the ownership of the land should precede the issue of fundamental Human Rights infringement, adding that it was of no benefit to either party to rule on the alleged human rights violations when the owner of the said land is not determined.
The judge said that rather than dismiss the suit on the ground of lack of jurisdiction as had earlier prayed by the counsels of the state government, the respondents, he instead decided to take the case to the state Chief Judge under whose power he said the case could be reassigned for the determination of the ownership of the land.
In the early sittings when counsels for the parties were making their submissions, Barr Nnamdi Ibegbu (SAN), the leading counsel for the applicants, Diocese on the Niger, had in his arguments told the court that the Anglican Church had been at the place of dispute for decades, the fact of which he said the government knew but invariably fenced the place, chasing the worshippers and their priests out of the place.
According to him, the government used the presence of the Internally Displaced Persons, IDP’s, then as a ploy to fence the place after which he said the government put police men at the gate, the outcome of which he told the court that has now forced the congregation to worship along the street, saying that it should not be so.
In his pleading, Barr Ibegbu prayed the court to allow the congregation to continue its normal worship in its former place of worship.
But also in his submission, Barr Patrick Ikwueto (SAN), the leading counsel for the respondents, Anambra State Government, had argued that the applicants’ claim of Fundamental Human Rights was inappropriate, adding that if what was in dispute was their claim of ownership of the said school premises, they should not come to the Federal High Court.