Court transfers suit against Catholic priests, others to Lagos

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By Taiye Agbaje

A Federal High Court, Abuja, on Tuesday, transferred a fundamental rights enforcement suit filed against Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, Most Rev. Alfred Adewale Martins, and others to Lagos division of the court for adjudication.

Justice Inyang Ekwo, in a judgment, held that it was in the interest of justice to transfer the matter since majority of the parties reside in Lagos.

“I find that apart from the 4th defendant whose residence this court can take judicial notice as being in Abuja, the applicant, by the averments in the affidavit in support of this case, is in Enugu; the 1st respondent resides in Lagos, the 2nd respondent resides in Lagos, the 3rd respondent by the averments in his counter-affidavit, resides in Lagos, and the 5th respondent resides in Lagos.

“With this evidence, I am of the opinion that this matter ought to have been filed in the Lagos Division of this court.

“The expenditure imposed on the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 5th respondents to defend this case in Abuja is not such that ought to be ignored.

“Furthermore, as much as this suit is by affidavit evidence, the court must avoid a situation where in the consideration of the said affidavit evidence, it finds the need to invite parties to give oral evidence to resolve any area of conflict thereof.

“Parties must be within the relevant territorial jurisdiction to avoid miscarriage of justice being occasioned on any of them.

“It is in the interest of justice that this matter, even though commenced in this division, be heard in Lagos division.

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“I therefore make an order pursuant to the provision of Section 22 (1) of the Federal High Court transferring this case to Lagos division of this court forthwith for adjudication.

“This is the order of this court,” the judge declared.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the applicant, Rev. Fr. Peter Ronald Scott, through his lawyer, Chibuzor Obiajunwa, had filed the suit to seek the protection of court against alleged threat of arrest and detention by the police.

In the originating motion on notice marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/473/2022 and filed on April 8, 2022, Scott sued Most Rev. Martins, Rev. Fr. David Kipkrono, Mr Athoney Onwudiwe Ebo, Inspector-General (I-G) of Police, and Commissioner of Police, Lagos State, as 1st to 5th respondents respectively.

He sought a declaration that Martins, Kipkrono and Ebo (1st to 3rd respondents) are not entitled to use I-G or the police commissioner (4th or 5th respondent) “to arrest or detain him in the guise of a police investigation over the decision of Mr Ebo Lawrence Chimaobi (3rd respondent’s son) to pursue his vocation abroad and all circumstances connected thereto.

“An order of the court perpetually restraining the 1st to 3rd respondents from using the 4th and/or the 5th respondents, their agents, privies, associates, agents or any member of his congregation in the guise of a police investigation over the decision of Mr Ebo Lawrence Chimaobi to pursue his vocation abroad and all circumstances connected thereto. ”

Scott, in his affidavit, averred that he was duly authorised to reside in Nigeria and presently in charge of the Nigerian Priory of a Catholic Congregation known as the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX), and was duly registered as an incorporated trusteeship.

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According to him, SSPX was founded in 1970 by Archbishop Marcel Francois Marie Joseph Lefebvre and against the wishes of the mainstream Catholic Church in 1988, and he consecrated four bishops to continue his work.

“This resulted in his excommunication as well as the society from the mainstream Catholic Church, till date,” he said.

Scott, therefore, alleged that Kipkrono, the parish priest of Saint Matthew Catholic Church, Amukoko, Lagos, and Lawrence’s father had accused him of kidnapping Lawrence, a 23-year old son, who completed his Electrical and Electronic Engineering degree from the Federal University of Technology, Owerri, in 2020, and proceeded to carry out his National Service programme at the SSPX’s present headquarters in Nigeria.

He alleged that they had threatened to get him arrested because Lawrence had deeply desired to become an SSPX priest and in January 2022, he was accepted into the society’s seminary and also obtained a religious visa to Argentina.

But in a counter affidavit deposed to by Mr Ebo, who is Lawrence’s father, the 1st to 3rd respondents disagreed with Scott.

Ebo alleged that Lawrence was indoctrinated into Scott’s church during his first year in the university between the age of 15 and 16.

He averred that upon completion of his degree programme, Lawrence was posted to Abuja for his National Youth Service but was advised and threatened by Scott to work his posting to Enugu State so as to continue the teachings and indoctrination into Scott’s church.

Ebo said though he tried to get his son to work with a specialised company, he said Scott successfully convinced him (Lawrence) to work with the church.(NAN)

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Edited by Sadiya Hamza

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