In Nsukka Reverend Father accused of hijacking community land

The community members also alleged that it resorted to petitioning the Bishop after various attempts to talk to the accused priest fell on deaf ears.

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The Catholic Bishop of Nsukka has been petitioned by concerned members of the Nguru community in Nsukka over alleged activities of a Catholic Reverend Father in the state.

In the petition signed by Hon Titus Attah, Okechukwu Onah and Amegu Idike, the group sought the Bishop's intervention in stopping the accused Reverend Father, Paul Obayi from allegedly hijacking an expanse of land which is believed to be a property of the community.

The community members also alleged that it resorted to petitioning the Bishop after various attempts to talk to the accused priest fell on deaf ears.

"As a brother, who grew up with some of us in this Forum, we wrote a letter to Fr Paul, asking for further discussions on the matter before anything could happen on that expanse of land. But Fr Obayi never replied nor reached out to any member of this Forum for further exploration and interrogation of the idea," the group said in its petiton.

Explaining how the Reverend Father had tried hijacking the community land spanning into 109 hectares, representatives of the Nguru community alleged that the community was deceived by the priest to appropriate the land.

"The issue at hand is a vast expanse of land totaling well over 109 hectares belonging to Nguru Community that Rev Fr Paul Obayi, a Priest under your watch and guidance, has conspired with a few selfish people in Nguru Community to appropriate for himself.

A disputed land (Illustration) play

A disputed land (Illustration)



"Sometimes ago, we learnt that following a dispute over the ownership of Obelibe (a vast land area, owned collectively by the entire Nguru Community) and Likke ( a kindred in Nguru), Fr Obayi had presented what he made the people of the village to see as a peaceful resolution to the simmering dispute. We understand he offered to take the land and build a university on it. Information we had said he had claimed he has a partnership with a foreign university to bring the educational institution to our community.

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"In full cohorts with him are a few, largely idle and jobless young people in the community that we understand have been profiting financially from our brother, the reverend ever since. With these people behind him, it was therefore easier to sell the idea to the council of elders (Akpuru Arua) who lack the capacity, for reasons of age and generation gaps) to properly interrogate the issue.

"We therefore understand the benefits and value of education for societal growth and personal development."

Continuing, the concerned members of the Nguru community further said: "But we also understand the opportunity costs of trading off the fixed asset owned by an entire community to just one individual, irrespective of his or her vocation and status. We also believe that such transactions, where it would take place, should be discussed exhaustively with all and every stakeholder to ensure total buy-in, support and even prayers.

"In the case of Fr Obayi and Nguru, he neither got the buy-in of the majority nor even made any effort of any significance in that direction. Ignoring the first letter we wrote him on this is a major pointer.

"The signatories to this petition are beneficiaries of good and sound education. Such benefits have propelled them to career heights that places on them the burden and role speaking for the community and solving problems where and when they occur.

"We want education for our people. A good number of us have been awarding scholarships to people in the community without blowing any trumpet. We want development for our people. Many of us have been engaging governments at various levels to make a few developmental strides happen. But we insist that whatever will happen to our collective patrimony should and must have our seal of approval before such could go on.

"While we waited patiently for Fr Obayi to see reason to embrace dialogue, he unilaterally scripted an agreement and signed same with the elders and before one could think further, he had deployed earth-moving equipment to the site, probably for mapping and surveying.

"Our Lord Bishop, we do not believe this is the right course to take. There are questions we need to ask Fr Obayi and if and when we fully agree with him, we will encourage him to talk to all other stakeholders to ensure everyone is carried along.

"If this University will belong to Fr Obayi, what happens when he, a mortal departs this earth? Will the university return to Nguru, the original land owners? Will it return to Fr Obayi’s family (his brothers and other close relatives) since he is a priest and is, by his vocation, expected not to marry and bear children of his own? Or will it return to the Church he vowed to serve with and for the rest of his life?

"Assuming all stakeholders agree that Obelibe is available to be given away, who or what informed the choice of a university as the priority project on that land? If a university our challenging development imperative? Should we be given the choice and options to choose what best suits us to locate at Obelibe or should Fr Obayi choose for us?

"If and when we agree that a university is the best we wish to be sited at Obelibe, and that we are given the land to Fr Obayi to do whatever he pleases and even Will it to whomever delights his emotions and preferences, what are the tangible, measurable, enforceable, documented benefits to Nguru that will, no matter how inadequate, compensate for their generosity in given over to him their land?

"We are open for any meaningful dialogue and engagement necessary to peaceful resolve this matter in the interest of the long term peace and brotherhood of our dear Nguru," the petition reads in part.

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