Qua iboe Church
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Following the recent opening of the new legal year, Qua Iboe Church is set to launch a substantive legal challenge against actions by break-away/seceding members who attempted to change its name.

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Already the Court of Appeal sitting in Calabar had on March 5 this year granted the church full right to challenge the purported name change.

In paving the way for a substantive suit to commence, the Appeal Court had dismissed preliminary objections filed by break-away members, now acting under the name United Evangelical Church, to stop the ruling of the Federal High Court, Uyo that had also dismissed their earlier objections.

Elders of Qua Iboe Church had in December 2015 filed a lawsuit, alleging that the break-away members together with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), attempted to change the church’s name to United Evangelical Church. They alleged in their writ of summons and statement of claims that the seceding members in connivance with the CAC, fraudulently changed and substituted Qua Iboe Church’s registration number 498 with United Evangelical Church without authorization from the National Conference which is the highest ruling organ of the church.

The Elders also alleged that those parading themselves as members of United Evangelical Church have seized and taken over landed properties of Qua Iboe Church as well as obstructing conduct of worship services in the congregations. In a swift counter-action, the seceding members filed a notice on motion in an attempt to block the case.

But the Federal High Court on May 10, 2016, ruled that the Elders have the right to approach the court on the crisis. Basing its ruling on the law of church administration, the Federal High Court said ‘So long as a remnant of Qua Iboe Church remains members, by virtue of their position, they are entitled to protect their proprietary interest which they can pursue in a court of law’.

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Dissatisfied by the ruling, the seceding members appealed against it at the Court of Appeal, Calabar. In their four main points, they claimed that the Federal High Court has no jurisdiction over the issue of land/property of a church and secondly, also queried that the Elders were individuals who do not constitute the corporate church and should not be heard.

In their third point, they questioned whether the Federal High Court was right regarding the parties who brought the case as properly constituted. Lastly, they contended that the suit brought by the Elders was statute-barred and was coming almost five years far beyond the period allowed for objections in matters of corporate registration/deregistration.

Officials of the United Evangelical Church argued in their motion that they duly filed a notice for change of Qua Iboe Church in 2010 but questioned why the Elders went to court five years after. However, all the four issues raised in the appeal were dismissed therefore paving way for the commencement of the substantive case as soon as possible.

In dismissing the four issues, the Appeal Court said the Federal High Court has the jurisdiction to hear the case brought by the Elders since it involves a federal entity-CAC- in an alleged case of a fraudulent act of registration/deregistration.

The Appeal Court also upheld that the Elders have the rights as individuals to sue in defense of the church especially in a matter allegedly tainted in fraud as long as they were not pursuing the personal but corporate interest of the church. On the issue of statute limitation, the court ruled that the case of alleged fraud raised in the case overrides the question of time limitation.

The Elders in a 21-point statement of claim comprehensively listed out harped on what they alleged to be fraud committed by the break-away members in the name-change crisis. They strongly insisted that the National Conference never authorized the name of Qua Iboe Church or its 1972 constitution to be changed.

They also alleged that some of the trustees the seceding members used in supplanting United Evangelical Church on registration number 498 of Qua Iboe Church were long dead even before the listing.

The name-change crisis has generated a lot of concerns even outside the church, government circles, and the general public. Non-members of the church have also joined in attempts to reconcile the parties. Among such reconciliatory efforts was the one led by the prelate emeritus of the Methodist Church, Rev Sunday Mbang about a year ago but it fell through.

 

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