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18.02.2005 Crime & Punishment

Sunyani Court dismisses SDA suit

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Sunyani (B/A), Feb. 18, GNA - The Sunyani Fast Track High Court on Thursday dismissed a suit filed against Paul Osei Agyemang, a former member of the Seventh-Day Adventist (SDA) church at Berekum and some dismissed branches by the Board of Trustees of the Ghana Association of the church and the Mid-West Ghana Conference of the church. The court, presided over by Mrs. Justice Mariama Owusu, awarded a cost of one million cedis against the plaintiffs.

The court noted that by virtue of the defendants' admission in their statement of defence that the plaintiffs were the owners and managers of all the properties of the church, the subject matter of the suit, the plaintiffs were entitled to judgment.

Dismissing the application, Justice Mariama noted that the plaintiffs in their writ of summons averred that they were the incorporated body of the SDA Church, Ghana owned all the movable and immovable properties of the Church's branches in the country.

The plaintiffs' statement of claim included the declaration of title over all movable and immovable properties within the Conference, recovery of possessions of all such properties, perpetual injunction restraining the defendants, their agents, privies, assigns, workers, members or any body or persons, claiming through them from anyway interfering with the properties of the Church.

Other claims were general damages, order for accounts, order restraining the defendants from using the name of the Church or purporting to do anything in connection with the Church.

The plaintiffs further averred that the first defendant, Paul Osei Agyemang, was an expelled member of the SDA Church who had formed the Remnant Evangelistic Centre of SDA Mission at Berekum. They said Agyemang was removed from the Church upon his refusal to recognize church authority and the formation of the Centre, which according to them he used to propagate programmes and teachings contrary to the SDA Church.

The plaintiffs also accused Agyemang of using his "unrecognised" Evangelistic Centre to collect tithes and offerings due to the SDA Church, in addition to using the name of the organization to associate himself and raise funds from off shoot bodies of the Church abroad.

The defendants, however noted: "It is only some unscrupulous and corrupt individuals among the leadership of the Church who after having been caught in a web of the financial irregularities and dereliction of duty, have been using the name of the Board of Trustees and the Mid-West Ghana Conference as a smokescreen to carry out and perpetrate the corrupt practices".

The court noted that it was true that the defendants had admitted that the plaintiffs owned all the movable and immovable properties of all SDA Churches in Ghana.

It also noted that the second defendant, Remnant Evangelistic Centre, was the body charged with the authority under the Church Manual to administer, protect or dispose of all offerings, financial accounts and all properties, real or personal within the territory of the Mid-West Conference of the SDA Church.

The court stressed that, "from the totality of their statement of defence, the defendants have denied plaintiffs' claim that Agyemang had been expelled as a member of the SDA Church".

Justice Mariama added that the defendants had denied that they had formed the Remnant Evangelistic Centre of SDA Mission, at Berekum, denied using second defendant for collecting tithes and offerings due to the SDA Church and also using the name of his organization to associate himself and raise funds from offshoot bodies of the SDA Church abroad." "The only way to resolve these allegations and denials is to take evidence. Since SDA as a church is a body corporate being managed by Trustees, that admission alone cannot be taken in isolation as the Church consists of thousands of individuals and they cannot individually represent the church, hence the incorporation".

Justice Mariama Owusu stated: "So therefore whether or not defendants have been expelled from the church is a matter of evidence. Whether or not the defendants have formed the Remnant Evangelistic Centre of SDA Mission, Berekum, is also a matter of evidence. At this stage, it is premature to give plaintiffs judgment".

Mr Kwame Fosu Gyeabour, a Sunyani-based lawyer represented the plaintiffs while Mr Obiri Francis stood in for Nana Obiri Boahen for the defendants.

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