Properties worth several millions of naira have been destroyed as a result of the clash between the Olu Ndi Enigwe Adoration Ministry, Obosi, in the Idemili North Local Government Area of Anambra State, and members of the community.
It was gathered that the crisis, which had become frequent, was a result of an unresolved dispute between the ministry and some members of the community over land.
When our correspondent visited the community on Sunday, it was learnt that despite various peaceful resolutions, including the setting up of a peace panel by the Archbishop of the Onitsha Catholic Archdiocesan, Valerian Okeke, the crisis remained unresolved.
Some youths in the community were said to have invaded the ministry’s ground with a bulldozer and demolished the building on it and destroyed other valuables.
Speaking to our correspondent on the site of the demolished Church, the Spiritual Director of the Olu Ndi Enigwe Adoration Ministry, Rev Fr Jude Olundienigwe, said the property, which was originally 23 plots of land, was fully negotiated and purchased from the Umuopi family, the original owners of the land.
He also claimed that the Federal Government had utilised about 10 plots of the land for the construction of the Second Niger Bridge road, leaving about 13 plots for the ministry.
He accused the monarch of the community of masterminding the constant invasion of the premises by youths, whom he said were claiming that the land now belonged to the community.
The cleric lamented that constant invasion had led to assault, battering and molestation of worshippers and workers, claiming that the Church had lost over N20m to it.
Fr Olundienigwe said, “The youths came with a bulldozer last week and as they were demolishing our Church and sacred images, I put a call across to the monarch, Igwe Chidubem Iweka of Obosi, several times to ascertain if he was the one who issued the order, as the youths claimed, but he refused to take the call.
“We put a call to the President-General of the Obosi community, Sir Ikechukwu Okolo, who said he could not intervene or stop the youths until he heard from Igwe Obosi. The boys had a field day and threatened to shoot me. They razed down the entire worship centre.
“The documents of the 23 plots of land purchased from the 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 Dr Valerian Okeke, advised us to temporarily vacate the place to enable the construction company to do their job after and they utilised about 10 plots out of the property.
“Since we returned to reconstruct and continue our normal worship on our property, it has been trouble. Youths from the Umuopi family came and destroyed the Church’s structures, saying that the government compensated us and because of that, we did not have any land left. We said no, the 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 extortions last year, we approached the president-general of the community, who tried to mediate between the Church and the Umuopi family. He asked them to go and verify if we encroached on another person’s land, but they said no. The fourth round of negotiation, which ended with another compensation of N1m, was documented as an MoU and signed by witnesses, including the president-general, stating that we should not be harassed again, but we were surprised by this latest development.
“Although the church property and structures demolished were worth over N20m, the damage incurred to the demolition of the sacred images and altar of worship on the souls of worshippers is unquantifiable. The damage is not just monetary. It killed the souls of many worshippers and destroyed their faith. I call on them to repent.”
When contacted, Igwe Iweka denied sending armed youths to demolish the worship centre.
Okolo, in his reaction, alleged that Rev Fr Olundienigwe was the architect of his own misfortune, saying all his efforts as the community leader to mediate between the ministry and Obosi indigenes were frustrated by the cleric.
He said, “I did not receive any invitation from the archbishop for any peace talk; rather, Fr Olundienigwe at a point said he had lost confidence in the palace and refused the invitation of the Eze Obosi for further dialogue.
“The Igwe could not have sent people to demolish a worship centre as claimed by the Church. I found out that Fr Olundienigwe acquired the property and built structures blocking other property owners around that area from having access roads to their land. So the original land owners simply went to recover the access roads encroached upon by the ministry.”