By; Oladele Adedayo, Ado-Ekiti.
The Catholic Diocese of Ekiti has instituted legal action against the Ekiti State government over the imposition of levies on pupils and students of its primary and secondary schools.
While the Bishop of the Diocese, Most Rev. Felix Femi Ajakaye, has also condemned the closure of seven schools run by the church in the state as some of them are preparing for their National Examinations Council (NECO) examinations.
In an originating summons in the suit filed at an Ekiti State high court by the Incorporated Trustees of the Catholic Diocese of Ekiti as claimants, against the Attorney General of Ekiti State as well as the Commissioner for Education, Ekiti State as defendants, the Church wants three questions determined.
The Church prayed the court to determine “whether every child of primary school and junior secondary school age in Ekiti State is not entitled to free and compulsory basic education under Section 2 of Compulsory Free Universal Education Act, 2004 and Section 19 of Ekiti State Universal Basic Education Board Law.”
It also wants the court to determine if “the imposition of education development levy or any tax or levy on pupils and schools in Ekiti State, including the claimants schools, by the defendants, does not violate Section 2 of Compulsory Free Universal Basic Education Act 2004 and Section 19 of Ekiti State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) Law.”
The Catholic Church also wants the court to determine whether the defendants could impose education development levy or tax on pupils and schools “without a law validly passed by the Ekiti State House of Assembly” in view of some sections of the Nigerian constitution.
Among others, it prayed the court to declare that the defendants could not impose education development levy or tax on pupils and schools and to also restrain the defendants from further demand of the levy.
Also in a motion on notice to the same defendants in the suit with number HAD/38/2016, the Church sought an order of mandatory injunction directing the defendants to endorse and approve the applications of students of its schools for the 2016 NECO examination pending the determination of the substantive case.
It also sought a similar order for its pupils in the various primary schools run by the Church in Ekiti Diocese.
Addressing newsmen on the development, Bishop Ajakaye said he was “concerned about the propriety of imposing any development levy on pupils and students in Catholic mission schools in Ekiti State, moreover when our schools are paying various levies and taxes demanded by both the local and state governments respectively.”
He lamented that the closure of the schools was “very painful personally to me,” saying “they are writing exams and government is closing down their schools. That is insensitivity.”
Bishop Ajakaye said as a law abiding body, the Church was taking the steps to seek judicial resolution of the matter with regards to the actions of the state government rather than resorting to self-help.
The Catholic Diocese of Ekiti operates 15 primary and seven secondary schools in Ekiti State and Bishop Ajakaye announced that seven of them had been closed by the state government following the breakdown of negotiations between the Diocese and representatives of the state government.
By; Oladele Adedayo, Ado-Ekiti.