Ebonyi State government and the Catholic Diocese of Abakaliki on Monday traded words over the arrest and incarceration of a Priest, Fr. Timothy Ngwuta in Abakaliki.
The Catholic Church, Diocese of Abakaliki in a statement signed by Fr. Matthew Uzoma Opoke, Chancellor, Catholic Diocese of Abakaliki, said all efforts to secure the release Fr. Timothy Ngwuta on bail have been hampered by the Executive Order preventing any court in the state from entertaining matters relating to Effium crisis.
The statement reads in part: “The Church in the name of God, appeals to all the people of Effium and Ezza Effium involved in this inter-communal war, to lay down their arms and embrace the path of peace. Nothing justifies the senseless killing and maiming of innocent lives. Peace can never be achieved under the barrel of guns.
“Since the matter is before the courts, we will not be making any more statements on the case. We urge all to withhold judgement and let the case run its course.
“We implore all people of goodwill to join us in praying God to touch those responsible for the incarceration of Fr. Timothy to listen to the voice of right conscience. We commend the whole process into the hands of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of Priests and the Star of Evangelization. Pray for peace in our State and in the Country” the church stated.
In a swift reaction, the Ebonyi state government through the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Cletus Ofoke cautioned the Catholic Church to desist from saying that the priest is incarcerated in prison as a result of the executive order.
Ofoke who spoke to journalists in Abakaliki said, “There is nothing like Executive Order on the Effium crisis, there is nothing to that effect. Of course, the government can never issue an order stopping the court from doing its legitimate duty. It is aimed at tarnishing somebody’s image and maligning the government. There is nothing like that.
“Once a matter is in court, nobody talks about it other than for the legal process to take its course. This is what the Ebonyi State government has done and the government has no hand in the Priest case. The case of the Priest is purely a legal issue from police to court.
“So, nothing concerns Ebonyi State government and it is not only the Priest that is being incarcerated over the matter there, in Effium. People are aware that so many people have been charged to court; some of them are in prison, and some of them are being tried in court. So, the Priest is also a human being” he stated.