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Anglophone Church Leaders Trial Takes Another Ugly Twist 

By Joe Dinga Pefok

Archbishop of Bamenda, His Grace Cornelius Fontem Esua

The Court Case pitting Anglophone Church Leaders and the Consortium of Parents has taken an unprecedented twist as the July 24 hearing narrows.

Speaking to The Post in Douala on July 18, the Lead Counsel for the Plaintiff, Barrister Julius Ngu Tabe Achu, said they have decided to decentralise the trial of the Church Leaders, following complaints by some defendants that they have been dragged to courts out of their area of work or place of residence.

The defendants in the case include: the Bishops of the Bamenda Provincial Episcopal Conference, BAPEC, the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon, PCC, and the Executive President of the Cameroon Baptist Convention, CBC.

The case was initially filed at the Magistrate Courts of Bamenda and Buea.

But Barrister Achu said Kumbo, Mamfe and Kumba have now been added to the list of courts that will entertain the case.

According to him, the defendants concerned, Mgrs. George Nkuo, Andrew Nkea and Agapitus Nfon, respectively have officially been notified.

Barrister Achu also disclosed that the case will hold simultaneously in the aforementioned Courts.

The Archbishop of Bamenda, His Grace Cornelius Fontem Esua, his Auxiliary Mgr. Michael Bibi and CBC Executive Secretary Rev. Godwill Ncham Chiatoh, will face trial at the Bamenda Magistrate Court.

While Bishop Immanuel Bushu of Buea Diocese and PCC Moderator, Rt. Rev. Samuel Fonki Forba, will stand trial at the Buea Magistrate Court.

Meanwhile, the Consortium of Parents had accused the Church leaders of refusing to re-open their schools during the 2016/17 academic year, after the Anglophone teachers trade unions embarked on an indefinite strike action on November 21, 2016.

The case against the Anglophone Church leaders, which was first slated for April 21, was postponed even before the day, to June 5.

On June 5, the matter was also adjourned to July 24.

Civil Complainants Boycott Hearing

There have been complaints in the Anglophone Regions that members of the Consortium of Parents have not been publicly seen. None of them was in court on June 5.

But when The Post asked Barrister Achu why members of the Consortium of Parents did not appear in court on June 5, and whether they will be in court on July 24, he said the Law does not oblige a civil complainant to appear in court, unless a matter gets to a critical state, where it becomes very necessary for the person to appear in court.

He said the law authorises a lawyer to represent a civil complainant in a court matter.

He insisted that the civil complainants in the matter are not supposed to be treated differently from what the law states, just because the defendants in the matter are Church leaders.

He said there have been several cases that have come up in courts across the country that started and ended without the civil complainants appearing in court.

He, however, did not make a definite statement whether the civil complainants in the case against the Church leaders will appear in court or not.

Unanswered Question!

On why he has not dropped the case when the Church leaders have called for resumption of schools in September, Barrister Achu retorted “it is not my case. I am a lawyer and I am playing my role as legal counsel in the matter. I am helping a group of parents to seek justice.

These parents and their families feel very hurt that the Church leaders caused the children not to return to school…after they had paid huge sums of money as fees”.

Achu also criticised the announcements made by the Church leaders, indicating that their schools will reopen in September.

He said the announcements leave an important question unanswered, whether students of confessional schools who paid fees last academic year and attended classes for two months, will have to pay fees again for the new academic year, or will they attend school for free as compensation for the money they paid last year.

“The Church leaders have not said what will become of the money that parents paid as fees for the 2016/17 academic year and their children were kept away from school. Parents deserve to have a clear answer to this question”.

Achu observed that following the Church leaders’ instructions that principals should conduct interviews, “I have finally been vindicated.

I insisted that if pupils and students of confessional school had not return to school after the strike… it was because the Church leaders had not made announcements in their different Churches for parents to send their children back to school. Others claimed that the Church leaders were not to blame for the non-resumption of schools.

Today that the Church leaders have made announcements that schools will resume in September, we see parents turning up with their children to seek admission. So I was right,” Achu said.

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