Youths destroy church building in Anambra and beat worshipers *247ureports.com
By Izunna Okafor, Awka
Buildings and property worth millions of naira have been destroyed, as the ongoing land dispute between the Ministry of Worship of Olu Ndi Enigwe, Obosi in Idemili North Local Government Area of Anambra State and community members escalates.
The land dispute, which spawned multiple crises and clashes between the church and community members, dragged on for a long time and remained unresolved, despite various peace agreements and the interventions of some stakeholders, including the Archbishop Valerian Okeke of the Metropolitan Catholic Archdiocese of Onitsha.
It was learned that despite all these interventions, angry youths from the community invaded the church with a bulldozer and demolished the building, and destroyed other valuables and property therein.
However, during the peaceful resolution, some young people from the community allegedly bulldozed the church, demolished the building and destroyed other valuables.
Speaking with reporters, the spiritual director of the demolished church, Rev. Fr. Jude Uche Olundienigwe, said the land where the building stood, which was originally 23 plots, was fully negotiated and purchased from of its original owners, the Umuopi family.
He also claimed that the federal government had used about 10 plots of land for the construction of the second highway bridge over the Niger, leaving behind about 13 plots for the ministry.
As if that were not enough, he said, the youth of the community constantly began to invade and claim that the remaining part of the land should now belong to the community.
He accused the community’s traditional leader of orchestrating the constant invasions of the church by youths who he says claim the church land now belongs to the community – an act, he said. alleged, which was orchestrated by the traditional leader of the community, Igwe Chidubem Iweka.
While alleging that the invasions had led to aggression, beatings and molestation of worshipers and church workers, the cleric also noted that the church had lost over N20 million from the activities. destructive of young people in the community.
He also claimed to have called Igwe Iweka when the destruction was in progress, to check if he was aware of their actions, as they claimed, but he never returned the call.
He said: “The youths came with the bulldozer and as they demolished our church and our sacred images, I called the monarch, Igwe Chidubem Iweka of Obosi several times to find out if he was the person who gave the order, as the youth claimed, but he refused to take the call.
“We called the General Chairman of the Obosi Community, Sir Ikechukwu Okolo, who said he could not intervene or arrest the Obosi youths until he heard from Igwe Obosi. The boys had fun threatening to shoot me if I showed up. They razed the entire worship center.
“The documents of the 23 plots of land purchased from the Umuopi, Obosi family are with us. In 2019, the federal government decided to build a road leading to the second Niger bridge across land, which we obliged. The Archbishop of the Catholic Diocese of Onitsha, Msgr. Valerian Okeke, advised us to vacate the premises temporarily to allow the construction company to do its job, after which they used about 10 plots off the property.
“Since we came back to rebuild and continue our normal worship at our property, there have been issues. The young people from the Umuopi family came to destroy the structures of the church, saying that the government was compensating us, so we have no more land. We said no, the government only compensated us for the amount they used, we still have about 13 plots left. Several times, they came to beat up the faithful and the craftsmen who were rebuilding the place, confiscated their work tools.
“We tried to make peace. After about three invasions and extortions last year, we approached the general president of the community, who tried to mediate between the church and the Umuopi family. The PG asked them to go and check if we were encroaching on other people’s land, they said no. This fourth negotiation, which ended with another compensation of one million naira, was documented in the form of a memorandum of understanding and signed by witnesses, including the PG stating that we should no longer be harassed, but we were surprised at this latest development and demolition.
“Although the demolished church property and structures were worth over 20 million naira, the damage caused by the demolition of the sacred images and shrine altar to the souls of worshipers was unquantifiable. The damage is not only monetary; he has killed many souls of worshipers, destroying their faith. No amount that one will pay materially will be enough to pay the damages. I call on them to repent.
However, when contacted, Igwe Iweka denied sending a group of armed youths to demolish the worship center.
For his part, the President General of the community, Sir Ikechukwu Okolo, in his reaction, affirmed that the Rev. Olundienigwe was the architect of his own misfortune, saying all his efforts as a community leader to mediate between the worship ministry and the natives of Obosi were frustrated by the cleric.
In his words, “I did not receive any invitation from the Archbishop for a peace talk, rather Fr. Olundienigwe at one point said he had lost faith in the palace and declined the invitation to ‘Eze Obosi for further dialogue.
“The Igwe could not have sent people to demolish a worship center as claimed by the church. I learned that Fr. Olundienigwe acquired properties and built structures preventing other landowners around this area from having access roads to their land.
“So the original landowners – the youngsters just went to reclaim the access roads encroached upon by the ministry,” he said.