From Aloysius Attah, Onitsha
Worshipers and members of Olu ndi Enuigwe Adoration Centre, Church Prayer Ministries established by a Catholic Priest of Onitsha Archdiocese, Rev. Fr. Jude Uchegbusi are in pain and distress following the invasion of the centre by youths of Obosi community, Anambra State.
The invader, the reporter gathered, left in their trail monumental losses.
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The youths in their number had last weekend allegedly invaded the worship centre, armed with dangerous weapons and with an earth moving equipment. They reportedly mowed down structures, monuments and sacred objects of worship, even as people praying in the centre ran in different directions for the safety of their lives.
Spiritual Director of the centre, Fr. Jude Uchegbusi who decried the unwarranted actions of the youths, accused the traditional ruler of Obosi community, Igwe Chidubem Iweka of being the mastermind of the incident during which, in his words, structures and property worth millions of naira were destroyed.
The cleric bemoaned what he described as incessant molestation, invasion, assault and battering of worshippers and workers allegedly perpetrated by the youth of Obosi community whom he said are now claiming ownership of the land where the worship centre was built.
Fr. Uchegbusi lamented that though the church property and structures demolished were worth over N20 million, he added that the damage incurred by the demolition of the sacred images and altar of worship on the souls of the worshippers was unquantifiable.
“The damage is not just monetary. It killed many souls of worshippers, destroying their faith. No amount one we pay materially will be enough to pay for the damages. I call on them to repent.
“As the bulldozer was demolishing our structures and sacred images, we called Igwe Chidubem Iweka of Obosi on phone several times to ascertain whether he was the person who issued the order as the youths claimed but he refused to pick our calls. We put a call to the President General of Obosi, Ikechukwu Okolo who said he could not intervene or stop the Obosi youths until he heard from Igwe Obosi. The boys had a field day threatening to shoot me if I showed up. They razed the whole worship centre,” Fr. Uchegbusi lamented.
A security consultant to the Adoration Ministry, Emeka Orizu and Chidiebube Aputazia, personal assistant to the cleric, in their separate speeches alleged that the youths claimed they came straight from the palace alleging that Igwe Obosi ordered them to demolish the worship centre.
“In one occasion when those youths invaded us, they used an axe to design my body leaving me with deep wounds. They even damaged my phones. The PG was informed about it but all he could tell us was to take heart,” Aputazia said.
A worshipper and eyewitness, Chidieber Nwabuko who described the action of the youths as a sacrilege, told the reporter that the bulldozer operator who was contracted to do the job refused to work on getting to the place when he discovered that his assignment was to pull down a worship centre.
“They threatened to beat him up, saying he had been paid for the job at the palace before they set out. In fact, they had to keep making several calls which they claimed were to the palace before the operator started destroying the church of God and the sacred images against his will,
Giving further insight, Fr. Uchegbusi stressed that the property, located at Ugbongene Layout near Idemili Obosi Bypass, was originally 23 plots of land. He said the land was negotiated and purchased from Umuopi family, the original owners of the land and disclosed that the Federal Government utilized about 10 plots of the land for the construction of the Second Niger bridge road leaving behind about 13 plots for the ministry.
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“The documents of 23 plots of land purchased from Umuopi family, Obosi are with us. In 2019, the Federal Government decided to construct a road leading to the Second Niger Bridge through the land, which we obliged. The Archbishop of Onitsha Catholic Archdiocese, Most Rev. Valerian Okeke advised us to temporarily vacate the place to enable the construction company do their job after which they utilized about 10 plots out of the property..
“Since we returned after the company finished work on the area to reconstruct and continue our normal worship in our property, it has been one trouble after the other. The youths of Umuopi family came destroying church structures saying that government compensated us so we do not have any land left. We said no. Government only compensated us for the much it used, we still have about 13 plots left. Many times they came and beat up worshippers and artisans reconstructing the place and confiscated their work tools.
“We have been trying to make peace. After about three invasions and extortion last year, we approached the President General of Obosi community who tried to mediate between Olu Ndi Enuigwe Adoration Ministry and Umuopi family. The PG asked them to go and verify whether we encroached into another person’s land, they said no. This fourth negotiation which ended with another compensation of one million naira was documented as an MOU and signed by witnesses including the PG stating that we should not be harassed again. But we were surprised at this latest development and demolition,” he said.
Meanwhile, Fr. Uchegbusi also revealed that Archbishop Okeke had earlier inaugurated a peace panel of inquiry headed by Rev Fr. Theophilus Odukwe to resolve the impasse but alleged that Obosi people refused to honour several invitations from the panel.
The security consultant, Emeka Orizu also alleged that he has been receiving threat messages since the incident happened. He said he had called and approached both the monarch and PG on the matter urging them to use their good offices to stop the criminality, invasion and intimidation allegedly perpetrated by those youths against the Adoration Ministry. But he said all was to no avail.
“The last time I spoke with the PG on this issue he told me to do whatever is necessary to recover the situation. We have written a petition to the AIG Nigerian Police Zone 13 to come to our rescue because this is a pure case of trespass, assault and threat to lives,” said Orizu.
In a telephone interview, Igwe Chidubem Iweka of Obosi denied sending any group of armed youths to demolish the worship center.
However, the President General of Obosi Town Union, Ikechukwu Okolo when contacted called for dialogue and claimed that Fr. Onwuegbusi was the architect of his own misfortune. He said all his efforts as the community leader to mediate between the Adoration ministry and Obosi indigenes were frustrated by the cleric.
According to the PG, “I did not receive any invitation from the Archbishop for any peace talk. Rather, Fr Onwuegbusi at a point said he had lost confidence in the palace and refused the invitation from Eze Obosi for further dialogue.
“Igwe Chidubem Iweka of Obosi could not have sent people to demolish a worship centre. I found out that the cleric acquired property and built structures blocking other property owners around that area from having access roads to their lands. So the original land owners and youths simply went to recover access roads encroached by the ministry,” Okolo said.
But the cleric fired back at Okolo saying that he was just twisting the facts of the matter.
“How can the PG say he called me for dialogue and I refused? The right thing to do is for them to replace what they damaged and then invite us for a talk. The matter is at the Zone 13 , Ukpo, Anambra State and the AIG made it clear to them that they committed desecration and reminded them that if it was to be a Muslim worship centre, the perpetrators would all be beheaded. They have no reason whatsoever to invade a worship centre. They are not civil, and they keep lying. We areAsking for justice,” Fr. Uchegbusi said.