Methodist church, royal father battle over land in Enugu

For the four autonomous communities of Omuoha, Ndiuno, Ndiagu and Amangwu that make up the Obuoffia clan in Awkunanaw, Nkanu-West Local Government of Enugu State, what had bond them together – the Ezeajum Village Square – from inception appears to have become their major source of discord now.
The village square which houses a civic centre, a public school and the Immanuel Methodist Church is now causing friction amongst some members of the communities and the church.
Crisis had erupted in Obuoffia as the Immanuel Methodist Church rose to build a nursery school for its pupils whose number has grown up to 150.
While some sections of the Obuoffia clan believe the land has been given to the Methodist Church, the traditional ruler of Omuoha, Igwe Obiora Igwesi, feels otherwise.
Those who support the church feel that it should be given an unfettered access to use the land for any developmental project, but Igwe Igwesi and his supporters say the clan must maintain its public school alongside that of the church to protect the interest of the poor in the community.
But as the communities and groups were battling to reconcile their separate stands, five of their sons: Hon. William Ohaa, former administrator for Awkunanaw Development Centre; Hon. Donald Onovo, supervisory councilor for Nkanu-West LGA; Mr Onyebuchi Ani, councillorship aspirant; Mr Chinonso Ani; and Mr Osita Ugwu, jointly wrote a petition to the Enugu State Police Commissioner on May 18, this year, accusing Igwe Igwesi of conspiracy, robbery and attempted assassination, which Igwesi said were all falsehood manufactured against him.
In the petition, the five persons had claimed that on July last year “the Obuoffia community had a meeting which started around 12 noon in the premises of the Central School Obuoffia to discuss the issue of the ownership of the primary school premises where the Methodist Church plans to establish a school. These premises have been returned to the Methodist Church as the original owners by the government of Enugu State.
“Igwe Obiora Igwesi has been in the forefront to frustrate the Methodist Church from embarking on any development project in Obuoffia community, and has sworn to deal ruthlessly with all the people supporting the development projects of the Methodist Church in the town.”
They told the police commissioner that prior to the meeting Igwesi had held several meetings in his house with Chidi Ugwu, Ifeanyi Ngwu, Henry Okeke, Ebuka Nwagbara, Friday Okeke and others, making the traditional ruler to signal Chidi Ugwu on the day of the meeting to beat up one Mr Osita Ugwu, which led to the meeting ending in pandemonium.
“As people scampered for safety, Chidi Ugwu rushed to Hon. Donald Onovo, lifted a chair and landed it on his face, inflicting a deep cut on his face. At the same time, Henry Okeke and Friday Okeke rushed and started beating Onyebuchi Ani and Chinonso Ani, smashing chairs on their heads. As people were running for their life, Hon. William Ohaa made to escape through the door but suddenly saw Chidi Ugwu and Henry Okeke, who surrounded him, brandishing dangerous weapons, and started punching him mercilessly,” they claimed.
As this was happening, they claimed that Igwe Igwesi himself was busy signaling and barking out instructions to them on who to beat and maim while he physically held Hon. Donald Onovo, making Chidi Ugwu to have a field day assaulting him.
They also accused Igwe Igwesi of being a cog in the wheel of peace and progress in Obuoffia town.
“Not long ago, he sent this same group of people to pull down the compound of one Mr Osita Awuchi; in the dead of the night, they went and pulled down the poor man’s house,” they said, adding that he threatened to deal with him if he complained.
They also accused him of sending his terror group to the house of one Sylvanus Ani (Ochili Ozuo), saying that “the elders in Omuoha Obuoffia community live in perpetual fear as he unleashes his band of cultists on them any time there was a community gathering.”
They also alleged that in April, Igwe Igwesi sent another group to the Methodist Church premises, where they (the petitioners) were previously attacked, and destroyed the church property and building.
They, therefore, called on the commissioner of police “to direct the Special Anti-Robbery Squad of the state Police Command to investigate our complaint by inviting the above named persons for questioning and prosecution.”
Indeed, the Commissioner of Police in Enugu acting on the petition through SARS invited Igwe Igwesi and Henry Okeke for questioning and the traditional ruler was detained in the SARS office from morning to night, till around 11p.m when he was allowed to go home.
But Igwe Igwesi, who came to The Sun office to respond to the allegations raised by the five petitioners, said that they were being sponsored by one of his friends and brother to one of the petitioners, Chinyeaka Ohaa, who he said was aggrieved that he became the traditional ruler of Omuoha autonomous community.
Igwesi said that when the Omuoha autonomous community was created, Ohaa, a one-time Accountant General of the state, who has been his friend and hails from the Amangwu community, called him and asked if he wanted to be the traditional ruler of Omuoha and he said no.
But Igwesi said that he changed his mind when his people put pressure on him to accept to ascend the throne abdicated by his father, saying that he only succumbed when the pressure became too much.
He said that his friend Ohaa was not happy that he accepted to be the traditional ruler of Omuoha as he had already penciled down Sylvanus Ani, an Imo State-based business mogul for the stool.
He said that the petition to the police was the fifth in the series of petitions written against him by those who were not happy that he became the traditional ruler.
He said that he was even kidnapped in 2011 and released after 10 days when ransom was paid, disclosing that the kidnappers had told him that one Alhaji sent them to kidnap him after telling them that he was an oppressor.
According to Igwesi, his traducers had even written petitions, claiming that he was killing people randomly every year and runs a cult group  to constantly bring trouble for him.
“I am not a cultist and I don’t know any cult member. All the people who were mentioned in the petition to the police are those seen in opposition of the Ohaas,” he said.
He said that the house of Osita Awuchi which they accused him to have demolished was pulled down by the community because he trespassed where his father built his fence to erect a new fence, which the young man also realized later.
He also said that those who brought out Sylvanus Ani to contest the throne with him moved against him when he saw reasons to step down for him even as he said that the fight that broke out during their meeting was not caused by him in any way.
Explaining, Igwesi disclosed that the Methodist Church was the first church to come to Obuoffia and was given a land at Ncheke (at Nmuru, an evil forest) that was a little bit far from the community.
He said that it was later that the church begged that it be allowed to occupy a portion of the Ezeajum village square.
“They used the village square and later used palm front to build school there until the government took over the school. The church never built a hut there; every building there was either done by the government or the community. We even contributed to the building of the church which they later used as nursery and primary school,” he said.
He said he was only opposed to the Methodist Church taking over the entire village square for the purpose of building a school.
He said it would have been better if the place was shared between the church and the communities so that the public school would still be there for the poor community people since schools run by missionaries are usually expensive.
But when contacted, the Methodist Minister, Very Rev. Geoffrey Kanu told Oriental News that the four communities that comprised Obuoffia gave the land to the church in 1925 because it was an evil forest (Nmuru).
According to Kanu, who hails from Imo State but is minister at the Immanuel Methodist Church Obuoffia, Igwe Igwesi’s father was among the elders of the communities that gave the land to the church.
He said that since the problem started it was Igwe Igwesi and Igwe Felix Obodoani that have refused to allow the church develop the land that their fore-fathers gave to it.
Rev. Kanu dismissed the reasons given by Igwesi that a private school run by the church would be expensive for some people in the community, pointing out that some of them are already attending private schools in other towns.
He, therefore, said that the reasons given by Igwesi were not genuine as they run contrary to his earlier subdued position to allow the church carry on with its project.
He said that Igwe Igwesi, whose mother and brother are still members of the Methodist Church does not want the church to develop the town.
The church minister said that he was disturbed that the two traditional rulers could incite their boys to come and destroy the church property even when the church is situated in Amangwu land, which is not their autonomous community.
Corroborating what Kanu said, the Methodist Circuit Steward, Elder Chris Onovo, told Oriental News that the church premises was given to them in 1925 by Eze Achom of Obuoffia.
Onovo said that the Methodist first started a church at the place and later a school called Methodist School Obuoffia, which was run by the missionary until it was taken over by the state government who renamed it Central School Obuoffia.
“We have our church there and built a befitting cathedral. We started a nursery school facing the church; we were building the school when the youths said we wanted to take over their school and the church closed its own school,” he said.
Elder Onovo said that the church later began the school again and as the pupils rose to 150 they decided to build another school when commotion started, making the four traditional rulers from the communities that make up Obuoffia to intervene.
He said that after series of meetings with the four traditional rulers, they agreed with the exception of one of them that the church builds another school.
As soon as the church started to erect the school, one of the traditional rulers he refused to mention his name sponsored the youths to demolish their fence and profile pegs put to begin the school building.
“We reported the incident to the police, but one Igwe came to beg so that there will not be any arrest, pleading that we give him four days to settle the matter,” he said, saying that their petition was written on April 27 this year.

The Sun
Methodist church, royal father battle over land in Enugu Methodist church, royal father battle over land in Enugu Reviewed by Unknown on Monday, July 13, 2015 Rating: 5

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