Rev. Fr. Timothy Ngwuta: The Universal Catholic Church Is In Ebonyi Prison

By Monday Eze

The frame up, arrest and continued detention of a Catholic clergyman and parish priest of Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church, Umuhuali, Ebonyi State, Reverend Father Timothy Ngwuta, for months now by Ebonyi State Government, EBSG, have attracted a flurry of bedlam across media platforms from Ebonyi people and the rest of the world. Rev. Fr. Ngwuta is a young Catholic priest of the Catholic Diocese of Abakaliki. He was arrested in December, 2021 and has remaind in detention till this moment.

Reverend Father Timothy Ngwuta's "offence" was that in December 2021 he intervened to effect the release of a car belonging to his medical doctor friend which was parked in Nwori Ishieke police division in Ebonyi State. The owner of the car had parked his car in Nwori Ishieke to visit his relations in a refugee camp in the outskirts of war-ravaged Effium Community but on coming back to his car, he found the four tires completely deflated and a mob waiting to attack him. Sensing danger, the medic escaped to safety through the help of the commercial motorcyclist who had ferried the hapless medic from Nwori Ishieke to the refugee camp, abandoning his car at Nwori Ishieke. After spending months in police cell, the clergyman was taken to an Abakaliki Magistrate Court and charged with the murder of the five missing civil engineers of NELAN Construction Company (otherwise known as the NELAN 5) who were mobilized to a road construction site in the war-torn Effium community at the instance of EBSG; promotion of war in Effium Community; arson et cetera alongside two other people.

A communal war broke out in Effium Community on 22nd January, 2021. Since then, the war which has allegedly consumed about 5000 lives comprising women, children and other vulnerable groups has been unabating. People have expressed reservations over EBSG's non-proactive handling of the crisis. For instance, people had expected the governor of Ebonyi State who had on 22nd February, 2021 reeled out the names of EBSG officials who "started" the war to prosecute those people, but nothing has been done in that regard. Rather, he sits in banquets with those officials while people die daily; and an innocent Catholic clergyman is rather being detained. People are also concerned that 55 Uffiom warriors and war machineries arrested with lethal weapons in Effium in April 2021 by the G.O.C. 82 Division of Nigerian Army in Enugu who visited Effium war theartre and handed over to Ebonyi State Command of the Nigerian Police Force were released in a stage-managed escape. Ebonyi State commissioner for internal security, Chief Stanley Emeagha, could not hide his indignation over that development and he told the world in network news broadcast that security officers were accomplices in the Effium communal war. The trend has continued. When soldiers arrested 52 armed Uffiom warriors in Inikiri Benard on 22nd December, 2021 and brought them to the police for prosecution, the arm-bearing Uffiom warriors were allegedly released on the pretext that they were children!

The war abated over time until EBSG on 4th April 2022 ordered for the release of 31 Uffiom warriors from detention. EBSG told the world that the warriors were "underaged children arrested as a result of the crises in Effium". Bedlams from Ebonyi people against that EBSG's decision fell on deaf ears. A week after the order, Ebonyi people woke up to the attack of Uffiom warriors [underaged children?] on Ezza-Effium refugee camps at Ebeta and Ohagelode Community in Ebonyi LGA. About 22 corpses of Ezza-Effium people and about 6 corpses of Izzi people of Ohagelode Community were counted. The Ohaukwu LGA chairman, Clement Odah, who has been fingered by EBSG as "causing" the war, issued a message after the attack, apologizing to Izzi clan for the killing of their people while, in a criminal ellipsis, refused to mention the 22 Ezza-Effium persons killed! EBSG received the report of the Judicial Panel of Inquiry it set up on Effium crisis since August, 2021. Since then, the government has neither released the report nor published a white paper on the report.

The frame-up, arrest and continued incaceration of blameless Rev. Father Timothy Ngwuta, an innocent Catholic priest who lost all his belongings as well as his former parish to Effium war is the highest instance of injustice in Ebonyi State. This is equally an unprecedented affront by the APC administration in Ebonyi State on the universal Church of Christ! This contrived escape route from liability over charges of executive negligence and recklessness which families of the NELAN engineers level against Ebonyi State governor in regard to the disappearance of the NELAN engineers from their project site cannot suffice.

This piece hereby charges EBSG to listen to Hon. Anayo Edwin and several others calling for the immediate release of Reverend Father Timothy Ngwuta. I dare to add that EBSG should tender unreserved apology to the Catholic Diocese of Abakaliki and the universal body of Jesus Christ for putting her up for denigration and scorn through the unnecessary frame up and detention of the innocent priest.