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CRISIS HITS OUR LADY’S CHURCH ONITSHA

...As the Proprietor Asks the Church to Vacate Her Property
By FRANCIS EMEKA
Madam Juliana Onuorah
Madam Juliana Onuorah
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A 92 year old Madam Juliana Onuorah, the proprietor of Our Lady's Industrial Centre, Nkpor in Idemili North Local Government Araea of Anambra State has cried out to the world for alleged threat of life by the catholic Archdiocese of Onitsha over a church she single handedly built and donated to the archdiocese of Onitsha.

Recall that Madam Juliana in some year's back built Our Lady's Catholic Church Nkpor, which was dedicated by the then Archdiocesan bishop, Cardinal Francis Arinze in thanksgiving and fulfilment of her promise to God that she will build a befitting Basilica to God if she comes back to Nigeria alive from Western Germany where she went for medical treatment. On arrival to Nigeria, Cardinal Arinze laid a foundation stone for the church.

The landlady of the church has only one female surviving child, lady Patricia Onuorah who is now into hiding for fear of being arrested or molested by the security as the church and family have for sometimes now laying claims over the ownership of the church. The crisis deepens yesterday when suspected arsonists invaded the area and incidentally set the priests' house ablaze. A residence priest in the building, Rev Fr. Ben Oguejiofor was said to be inside the house as at that time while the parish priest, Rev. Fr. Martin Onukwuba was in the church celebrating mass.

The two priests on interrogation fingered the security operatives in the industrial centre, an incident that led to arrest and detention of over 22 workers of Our Lady's bread bakery within the compound by the Nigerian police from Ogidi Police Division. The Catholic youths of the parish in anger for attempting to burn their priests alive also invaded the industrial centre destroying some items and pulling down some perimeter fencing.

when thenigerianvoice.com visited the industrial Estate at Nkpor, items worth over N1 million were vanderlised including the electric moller machine, fridge and broken doors as well as the bread that the arrested workers abandoned for 3 days.

Responding on the development, the proprietor, Madam Juliana who sobs uncontrollably disclosed to this reporter that her life is now in danger over her own property wondering why the leadership of the church should allow the matter escalate to this point.

“I built this place because I am in good term with the priests and bishops. How can I instigate my workers to set my property ablaze as the church authority aledged and it is even a taboo to burn a church. I don't know why the church is fighting me over my property. I built the church in fulfilment of my promise to God. I never knew that my magnanimity will turn against me. They arrested all my workers, closed my bakery and chasing my only daughter around, pulled down my perimeter fencing and threatening to also burn me alive here. Let God reward all of us accordingly. Today, the Men of Order and Discipline (MOD) of the church led by one Raymond Ezenwa broke my window with his group and whisked all my workers away. We contacted the police but none of them was arrested. My life is now in danger.

“And for this, let me state clearly that the church is for worship of God, they should come and worship God and go but leave my property alone. I am not interested in the proceeds they get. I even give the little I have to support the work of God but what I cannot tolerate is fighting me with my own sweat and that is why I am calling on the world, the government, activists to hear my cry. I don't have anything to fight the church and I don't want anything to happen to my only daughter” she emphasised.

On her part, the daughter of the old widow, Lady Patricia Onuohah who spoke to our reporter on phone from where she is hiding, expressed disappointment on the church for oppressing the old widow which she said is a ploy to get at her.

Her words: I am disappointed that a catholic bishop will be there to oppress a widow. There is nothing he has not done to deal with us. He closed our orphanage home that was housing over 300 orphans and also closed our widow's programme. They have publicly announced in the church that they either take the church built by my mother or it will not be and they were doing all that because my father is not alive.

The manager of the bread bakery, Mrs Paulina Obidiaso threw emotions to the winds and wept uncontrollably while recounting their encounter in the hands of the police and catholic youths who they said, beat them to stupor.

“As we were working that morning, police came from Ogidi division and arrested us. They beat us mercilessly and latter took us to father's House asking us why we burnt Father's House which we know nothing about. But, before that, they broke all our doors looking for our security men and other workers. They even spoilt one of our machines.

The parish priest of the church, Rev Father Martin Onukwuba agreed that the church was built by Madam Onuorah and given to them saying that their landlady's daughter, Patricia Onuorah dumped Catholic church to Pentecostal church and wants to take over the church and give to Pentecostal church.

When contacted, the Police Public Relation Officer (PPRO) in Anambra State Mr Emeka Chukwuemeka said he has not been briefed on the matter and will not comment on the matter while the Spokes person of the Onitsha Archdiocese, Rev Father Pius Ukoh did not pick his calls nor respond to the text message sent to his mobile phone by this reporter

On the legal implication of such inhumanity to man, an Nnewi based lawyer from Oseloka and Osigwe Chambers, Barr Sam Anozie said that somebody who gives a gift can as well, take it back.

“Somebody that gives a gift can as well take it back either by deed or by parol. It is evidently that it is a gift to the church which is for enhancement of God's kingdom. But from what is going on now, it seems the church is more interested in the estate than the church work and hoodlums took the advantage of those things and burnt down the Father's house so that both parties can lay counter claims” he submitted.