Decries youth invasion of PJHU, inappropriate engagements
Seeks fair play, peaceful settlement of issues
BY COBHAM NSA – Controversies surrounding the planned takeover of Presbyterian Joint Hospital (PJH), located in Uburu community by the Ebonyi State Government (EBSG) have further deepened with the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria (PCN) accusing the government of “unwarranted blackmail and strong arm tactics” in its dealings.
Also, the Church has expressed regrets at the State government’s decision to snub all communication channels and proposed engagements that seek to promote a negotiated and amicable settlement of the issues at stake.
In a statement titled: “A DISTURBING TAKE-OVER OF THE PRESBYTERIAN JOINT HOSPITAL, UBURU”, the Church however said despite receiving cold shoulders from the EBSG so far, it will continue to tow the path of peace and honour in amicably resolving all contentious issues given the “long-standing good relationship” between the two sides.
The statement highlighting issues surrounding PCN’s disagreement with the State government over the hospital was issued by the Department of Information and Public Affairs (DIPA), Presbyterian Church of Nigeria (PCN) with the Authority of its Board of Trustees.
Signed by the Head of DIPA, Rt. Rev. Nnoke Ibe, Ph.D, the six-page statement said; “Though we are aware of our constitutional rights as a Church on this issue, the long-standing good relationship between the Church and Government, compels the Church to implore Ebonyi State Government to create a conducive platform for amicable resolution of the issues involved.”
Laying bare its pains and unhappiness at the turn of events, the PCN lamented the unfair and bizarre handling of the processes so far, alleging that; “The youths of Uburu have invaded the Hospital (PJHU) saying that the Governor sent them, that they have taken over the Hospital. They now conduct search on persons entering or leaving the hospital premises. Maybe they want to start the occupation from the security section.”
The Church maintained that in the planned takeover of PJHU, it had expected an agreement to precede the exercise as a matter of due process, but regrettably, the only hints it got were speculations in the public space that the Ebonyi State EXCO has approved government takeover of the hospital on Friday, July 12, 2019.
Further defending its claims of being taken unawares by developments around the exercise, the PCN said; “Also announced same day on the State broadcast network, was the award of contracts for the construction of several blocks of buildings for the Ebonyi State Teaching Hospital on property the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria holds on lease and has developed over 107 years as the Presbyterian Joint Hospital, Uburu.”
It explained that; “The first and only takeover correspondence issued by the Ebonyi State Attorney General on this matter, was delivered to the Church on Friday, 8 May, 2020, dated 24 March, 2020 but delivered forty five (45) days after, by Courier Service.”
Obviously going down memory lane, the PCN insisted that no letter from the host Community, making any claims or conveying complaints against it, had “before now been copied or referred to the Church to explain her case”, even as it regretted failed attempts and official frustration at engaging Ebonyi State government at the highest level.
With allegations of deliberate and dubious attempts to discredit it before the public, the PCN said the State government has continued to rebuff approaches aimed at a peaceful settlement of contentious issues for no just cause.
According to its statement; “When in May 2018, the Governor approved an appointment to receive the Prelate, he was abroad in Scotland and Canada on appointment with partners. Upon his return, several appointments arranged for Tuesday 16/7/2019 and Tuesday 6/8/2019 were rebuffed and the Church leadership humiliated. Three channels approached to seek a negotiated settlement of the issue, have not received a positive response.”
The Church further explained its efforts at amicable resolution of issues thus: “We engaged a six-man Lagos-based medication Team of eminent Presbyterians, to seek other channels for reaching EBSG for a negotiated settlement. The Team met a brick-wall, as their contact was not forthcoming.
“About the same time too, another contact with a very reputable EBSG lawyer, was rebuffed. A third other initiative through Rev Fr Nwali, S.A to HE, to place the Church’s case before the Governor was preempted by the desperate strong arm intimidations which left the Church with few options.”
The PCN said happenings so far have continued to strengthen its thinking and conviction that the “Ebonyi State Government attempt at taking over Presbyterian Joint Hospital, Uburu is an unwarranted blackmail and strong arm tactics aimed at giving a dog a bad name in order to hang it.”
Further asserting that “the UMUOBULA and AMATA Families in Uburu, not Uburu Community, leased the parcels of land to the Church and that the lease term is still extant”, the statement submitted; “The Church has been paying land rents to her known landlords of UMUOBULA and AMATA Families up to date.”
However, to clarify their intentions on specific issues of concern, the statement said; “The Presbyterian Church of Nigeria, has no plan to stop Government’s best intentions for the people; but would insist on understanding and being clear and certain about where the Church fits into all that Ebonyi State Government plans for the Presbyterian Joint Hospital, Uburu, having come a long way together.
“The Church is also aware that Government’s power of eminent domain confers a power to take land it requires for public purposes; but that power is made constitutionally subject to procedures which guarantee the rights, privileges and entitlements of occupiers and holders.”
Additionally, the statement said; “Now that Government is aware the Hospital is a property of the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria, the Government should act in line with constitutional provisions to ensure that persons entitled to occupation of the property are given their legal entitlements.”
“Though we are aware of our constitutional rights as a Church on this issue, the long-standing good relationship between the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria and Ebonyi State Government, compel the Church to implore Ebonyi State Government to create a conducive platform for amicable resolution of the issues involved”, the PCN admonished.