In view of recent report that the government of the day in Imo State asked the appointees to move to churches and allegedly monitor preachers, a priest of the Catholic Church in Owerri has voiced out to condemn the proposal adding that no one can intimidate them.
A catholic priest of the Owerri Diocese, Rev Fr. Alex Okoro in a phone chat with Trumpeta regretted the publication which he declared as unfortunate by stating that “No one can fight God and will”.
The newly appointed Secretary to the Imo State Government, Engr Mark Uchendu, who has openly denied making some unpleasant statements during his swearing- in was accused to have directed appointees to monitor church preachings in the state.
Despite the denials of Uchendu, a knight of the Catholic Church, condemnations have been trailing the said comments.
One of the Catholic Priests in the Diocese, Fr Okoro disclosed that it would be a futile attempt for politicians to monitor preachers by stating that “God is the Rock and if the Rock stumbles in him he cannot live”.
According to Okoro who is of the Mount Carmel Catholic Parish, Emekuku, in Owerri North LGA “the blood of the martyrs are the peace of the church. The church cannot be intimidated. Let him be ready to clear all of us.
“Whether he likes it or not the priest will continue to tell the people the truth whether he likes it or not”.
Similarly, Catholic lawyers of Nigeria under the umbrella of the National Association of Catholic lawyers of Nigeria has threatened to drag Uchendu to court if he fails to retract the statement.
According to the group, the intention, was to “spy on Churches”, obviously to identify preachers who hold and may express opinions or canvass positions that are adverse to Governor Rochas Okorocha or the Government of Imo state.
“Ordinarily, we are inclined to dismiss this media publication as mere beer parlour gossip and perhaps the figment of the Reporter’s imagination, but coming from a very well respected media outfit of the Catholic Archdiocese of Owerri, we have no choice but to believe the report. Indeed, we have since confirmed from ecclesiastical authorities in Imo State, that this offensive statement was uttered by Engr. Uchendu Mark.
“It is rather unfortunate that a ranking official of a Government that was democratically put in place by the people of Imo State, will now turn around, for no just cause other than to ingratiate himself to his principal, to express a viewpoint that is completely at variance with democratic principles and capable of violating constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights.
“What is particularly worrisome is the fact Engr. Uchendu Mark is a Catholic and ought to be familiar with the sanctity and inviolability of sacred places. Obviously, his faith and Catholic identity can take a back seat as long as his position in government is guaranteed. It is only against the background of this conjecture that one may appreciate the statement credited to Engr. Uchendu Mark otherwise it is bewildering to say the least.
“As Catholics and as Ministers in the Temple of Justice; we find this totally unacceptable, and Engr. Uchendu Mark must be told in no uncertain terms”.
According to the statement signed by Mike Utsaha, the spokesman,
“Consequently, we demand an immediate withdrawal of this offensive statement, failing which we’d be left with no option but to utilize all legal and constitutional means to uphold the sanctity of the Church and the dignity of those serving in the vineyard of the Lord. The 1999 Constitution guarantees the right to freedom of expression, it also protects the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion and no one, no matter how highly or lowly placed, is permitted to engage in any conduct or utterances that are inimical to this constitutional imperative”.
Uchendu in his denial disclosed that his expressions were misconstrued by the reported publication. While stating that he remains a staunch member of the Catholic Church as a knight, he requested the Church to cautious in handling such issue.
Trumpeta recalls that few weeks ago a Pastor of Assemblies of God Church in one of the Owerri suburbs, Amakohia was arrested and paraded before newsmen by the Imo State police command for allegedly making false prophecies against the Imo State governor Owelle Rochas Okorocha.
It would also be recalled that Okorocha in one public outing lamented about the attacks they have been receiving from men of God. The governor gave instances where he and his family members experienced unsavory attitude from religious men.