From Geoffrey Anyanwu, Enugu
The management of Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) has said it never ordered the shutting down of Providence High School, Enugu.
It blamed what happened in the school last week on the overzealousness of those that went to enforce the court order obtained by the corporation.
AMCON spokesman Jude Nwuzor, addressing newsmen in Enugu on the development, said that though AMCON actually got an express order of the court to enforce on the property where the school is, its intention was not to lock the school but to show sign of possession.
It could be recalled that AMCON officials had on January 21 stormed the school with about 40 armed policemen and locked the gates of the school with 344 female border students inside, manhandling and smashing phones of some of the staff of the school who dare asked questions.
The Corporation, however, unlocked the gates after six days following newspaper reports and outcry of Nigerians over the danger locking in the students portends.
But explaining the situation to newsmen yesterday, Nwuzor said: ‘The story of the school was unfortunate because AMCON never ever enforces on schools, we don’t shut down schools. This is not our first experience with a school, we had a certain school in Lekki that is probably about three times the size of this school in Enugu here that we took over some years ago, and we never shut the doors of that school. What we normally do, the Court Bailiffs will come just did the possessory order sign on the wall and put a board on the gate and leave the school to run because we understand the implication and the reality of what education system represents for Nigeria. AMCON also does not enforce in religious settings, we don’t enforce in hospitals and I think it is important the media know that.
‘My MD is a family man he has his children in school too he can’t go and lockdown a school where students are. So he never said anybody should shut down the school or detains 344 students which were not true because the students did not know that enforcement was going on. So is a court order we executed and we believe that if there is an aggrieved party, the person should go back to the court and negotiate.
‘AMCON intention ab initio was not even to lock the school, is to show sign of possession and you work away. AMCON does not work in court, is not AMCON staff that came there to execute the order, is court bailiffs.’
Asked if taking possession entails manhandling of staff of the school, the AMCON image maker said: ‘You can’t rule out overzealousness, you cannot rule it out. When you send somebody to go and do something and you are not doing it personally, you can’t account for the way the people can amount pressure.
‘AMCON actually got an express order of the court to enforce on the property based on certain documentation that was presented to the court regarding the case. I am sure the school is not in denial that they know that there was something like that coming because the time AMCON goes to court is when we have exhausted all avenues of peaceful resolution. The management of AMCON and the school has been engaging and of the cause, you know when people make an agreement and fail, the only place you can go to get interpretation is the court and the court granted AMCON the order and AMCON just enforced the order.
‘The school is not shut down, as we speak; the gates of the school are open. Of course, on that first day the Bailiff had to obey the court because the Bailiff cannot go back to the court and tell the Judge that the order he granted he will not enforce it, he closed it. But because we understand the sensitivity of the sector it was long opened.’
On the way forward he said: ‘What we think is the way forward is for the school authority to engage amicable resolution and even this period courts are encouraging what they call alternative dispute resolution. Everything should not war, everything should not be fought but there is a court order, yes it has to be enforced, you want to solve the problem, go back to the court and say based on A, B, C, D, this is what we can do. So I think rather than engage in the media war, the school lawyer should actually engage the court or the management of AMCON.’