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Land Dispute: Ex-Enugu Finance Commissioner Threatens Legal Action Against Catholic Church

By IGNATIUS OKPARA, Enugu

(AFRICAN EXAMINER) – Former Enugu state commissioner for finance and lands, Deacon Okey Ogbodo and family have threatened a legal action against a Catholic church in Enugu over alleged trespass and destruction of  properties in their ancestral land.
They also accused the parish in question, St. Patrick Catholic church Onah Lane, Umueze street Awkunanaw, in Enugu South council Area of Enugu state, of forging a map purporting to have emanated from the state ministry of lands.

The Ogbodos, declared that they are “the ancestral and legal owners of all the parcel of land located at the tail-end of Onah lane, Umueze street, off Agbani road Enugu.

According to the family, the said piece of land was ancestrally bequeathed to them by their fore-fathers.

A three page petition written on behalf of the  family by their lawyer, S. M. Anyanwu and co. addressed to the Rev. Father in charge of the parish, Rev. Father Aneke Pascal, warned the church to “stay away from our clients family land.”

The petition entitled, “criminal trespass, destruction of properties belonging to Onah Ogbodo family by your church members in a plot of land situated at Onah lane, Umueze street, off Agbani road Enugu”, was made available to African Examiner on Thursday.

It reads in parts: “the said land is also the only land inheritance our client got from their fore- fathers.

“We are further briefed that the said piece of land constitute an easement to other adjourning plots of lands, adding that there was never any land scheme or layout map made in respect of the said piece of land.

It said: “We are shocked beyond comprehension that a big church like Catholic could go to business centre to forge a map purporting to have emanated from ministry of lands, all in a  efforts to own our client’s land and create road,where there is none, we are indeed surprise”

The petition, which was also copied to the Enugu state chapter of Christian Association of Nigeria, (CAN)
recalled “that sometime in June last year, one Monsignor Ugwu approached the ex- Commissioner, who is head of the family, “offering to buy the said piece of land for value,  our client declined vehemently.

Anyanwu, equally alleged that following the refusal of his client to sell the land to the Catholic priest,he (Ugwu) went to invite officials of the ministry of Enugu capital Development Authority who came and “break through the fence of the land and created road where none existed.

The lawyer however, warned that “should there by any form of destruction, alteration, defacing in the fence or the piece of land, our client shall institute a full legal action without further recourse to you.

But reacting to the petition, the church, made available to newsmen copies of letters of complaint it earlier sent to the state government, concerning the said fence of the land which obstructs and blocks access to the homes of people residing within the area.

In the letter of complaint dated 22nd April 2016, addressed to the state commissioner for Enugu capital territory, the parishioners of the church, had clearly stated that the fence was subjecting residents of the area to necessary suffering.

The letter, titled: “Obstruction and blockage of access road by Deacon Okey Ogbodo”,disclosed that residents of the area, including members of the church, had approached the former Commission severally over the blockage caused by the fence, but “he adamantly refused to adhere to our complaints and removal of the fence.

Said the church: “The fence is an eyesore, totally out of keeping with the urban setting, it closes off a long- established right of way between the residents of St. Patrick’s church Umuchu lane and Umueze streets”.

The letter which was signed by parish priest of the church, Rev. Father Aneke, five land lords in the area, including Mr. Paul Mba, secretary of the parish pastoral council, Mr. Clement Anugwa, and chairman of works, in the church, Mr. Clement Agu, complained bitterly that the fence “forces those wishing to enter St. Patrick’s church from Umuchu lane to move round the street in order get access to the church.

“Deacon Okey Ogbodo, has prevented the members of the colony and public users of the road, access to their homes, because he thinks that nothing could be done either by government nor by residents of the area to him.”

 

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