By Ann Godwin, Port Harcourt
No fewer than 13 persons have been arraigned at a Port Harcourt High Court for allegedly embezzling millions of Church fund and disturbance of worship at St. Matthews Anglican Church, Diocese of Niger Delta North, Port Harcourt.
The 13 accused persons are Victor Amachree, Kingdom Amadi, Eric Obi, Sunny Ohimai, Uche Okechukwu Samuel Unendi and Oyedele Ogundipe. Others are Oje Uguadele, Kingsley Onyekosor, Samuel Adeyemi, Merrygold Harcourt, Veronica Johnson and Adeniyi Emmanuel.
They are facing a 22-count charge bordering on stealing, conspiracy, malicious damage and disturbance of peace and worship.The defendants were also alleged to have assaulted Venerable Chimela Samuel while officiating in the Church.
The Prosecutor, Musa Saidat noted in charge sheet no 769/2017 that the offences were criminal in nature, stressing that justice would be done.”Ogundipe between December 20, 2013 and July 12, 2016 stole of N20.9 million from the bank account of Saint Matthew’s Anglican Church, Mkpogwu, Port Harcourt,” she said.
She added that the offence contravened section 390 of the criminal code law CAP 37 Vol. 11 Laws of Rivers State1999.”Emmanuel Adeniyi, between December 20, 2013 and July 12, 2016, stole N5.6 million from the bank account of Saint Mathew’s Anglican Church, Nkpogu, Port Harcourt.
“The accused also disturbed religious worship by locking out Venerable Chimela Samuel and the congregation and preventing them from worship,” the charges read.
However, the accused persons pleaded not guilty to the charges.Lead Counsel to the accused, Chika Igbokwe told journalists after the court session that the Church runs a mission, explaining that the alleged stolen monies were used for missionary works.
He said: “We have all the records of all the money in question. They were used for missionary purposes and they were sent in advance for the work of God even to countries outside Nigeria,”
The Counsel however, accused the Archbishop of Niger Delta Diocese, Ignatius Kattey of intimidating members of the Church, adding that the accused persons have been on administrative bail since 2015.
The presiding Judge, Justice Crescent Dappa-Addo granted the defendants bail in the sum of N100, 000 each with sureties who should be members of the Church and are resident within the court’s jurisdiction. The case was adjourned till June 28, 2017 for hearing.