The children of late Chief A.O. Ezeoke of Obinabo village, Nkpologwu in Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra State, has accused the Catholic Bishop of Awka Diocese, Most Rev. Dr. Paulinus Ezeokafor, of confiscation of their late father’s property, threatening their life, intimidating and oppressing them.
Speaking at a press conference in Awka, the head of Ezeoke family, Dr. Sylvester Ezeoke, said that the Catholic Bishop has confiscated all the properties belonging to their late father including money which was entrusted in his care, claiming it was given over to the church by their late father.
Narrating his story, Ezeoke in an emotion laden voice said: “Our father before his death was a devout Roman Catholic faithful and he raised all of us in the Catholic faith, having firmly believed that it was God that rescued him from poverty. During his lifetime, he made several sacrifices and charity works for the church, trained many priests and was very close to the successive Catholic bishops of Awka, Onitsha and Nnewi Diocese.
“During his later days, he was a very close confidant to Bishop Paulinus Ezeokafor to whom he frequently paid visits and sought counsel with and advices. During his last days, he firmly told us to see Bishop Ezeokafor as his friend and confidant, that if we needed any help or advice when he is gone, we should always go to him.
“Also, that he left a very important message and our belongings in his care to hand over to us when he is no more, because most of us are in different jobs. This is in order to ensure equity and fairness to all his children without preference to anybody based on age.
“During his visits to Enugu where I live, he stays with me in the same house and I am aware that on one of his visits he brought Bishop Ezeokafor to Enugu branch of UBA where he made him co-signatory to his personal account at the bank which held over N6 million and also took him to Onitsha branch of Diamond Bank where he also made him a co-signatory to his personal account holding also about N6 million and handed him other documents to keep in custody for us for onward distribution to us as all of us are not resident in Nigeria.
“When our father died, I took my siblings to see Bishop Paulinus Ezeokafor, the Catholic Bishop of Awka diocese, to inform him on what had befallen us and to choose a date for his burial, we also asked him if there is any financial help he could offer us, we knew he had access to our father’s accounts. He told us boldly to go and borrow money if we don’t have money to bury our father. We left his office devastated.
“We got home and contributed money, sourced for some money from our friends to give our father a befitting burial. We equally took care of Bishop Ezeokafor and all the priests in attendance without minding his attitude towards the burial of his friend.”
Continuing, the Enugu based medical practitioner said that after the burial of their father, the family continued with the management of the companies left by their late father while waiting for the Bishop to call a meeting of the family members to give them the message from their late father but they didn’t hear from the Bishop for over a year.
“As a result of the long wait, some of my siblings started making phone calls to him. He reluctantly called a meeting and told us that our father had left a Will with him and that he was not experienced in dealing with such matters, that he would hand over our affairs to his legal department headed by Rev. Bar. Edwin Sunday Chukwujekwu Obiora and his team, but before he would do that or unseal the Will, we should go and write a letter of undertaking that we would believe whatever he told us, being naïve to the whole situation and trusting him, not knowing it was a coercion, we did as he told us. After handing him the letter, we were told that there was another Will or the same Will at the probate court and that we would be invited by the probate for reading of the Will.
“We got invitation to the probate a few weeks later and on getting there, the Probate Registrar mentioned the existence of two Wills, an earlier one deposited by our father and another one deposited by someone a few days after his death and that she would read the latter one. I raised an objection but it was turned down by the Probate Registrar.
“After reading the Will to us, with the Bishop and his agents present, we immediately applied for a certified true copy of the will which we got, but I and my brother immediately noticed that my father’s signature on it had been transplanted or scanned unto the will, we alerted our other siblings to this and also seeing the relationship between the bishop and, his legal team and the probate registrar, we suspected something was fishy. More so, the content of the Will does not look like what our father would do, because the Will included our two companies and its assets as things to be bequeathed by Will, and we are fully aware that our father had good knowledge of company and allied matters administrative procedures, having been in the management of other companies, including Profound Assurance Company with its shareholders, that these two companies Almart & Co. Ltd. and Nkpologwu Aguata Commercial Ltd. had shareholders, he couldn’t have made such mistakes, if he wanted to dissolve the companies he knew it could be done by transfer of shares through the CAC and not by Will.
“Puzzled by this, I and my brother placed a caveat/restriction on the grant of probate to the Will. Telling the probate that the Will contains assets of two companies which should not be there, to give us some time to find out what was going on.
“We went to CAC’s head office at Abuja for enquiries. The result showed that no changes had been made to the companies and its management. This means that somebody must have manipulated the Will. We made several attempts and efforts to reach Bishop Paulinus Ezeokafor to inform him of this development but he ignored all the calls.
“Information reaching us was that he picked offence at us for not foolishly believing and following along. The next thing was that Rev. Fr. Bar. Edwin Sunday Chukwujekwu Obiora started writing threatening letters to us and to our tenants to vacate the companies, that they have the original documents of the companies.”
Ezeoke said that efforts made to reach Bishop Ezeokafor severally failed as both calls and SMS messages informing him of all the illegalities that Rev. Fr. Bar. Edwin Sunday Chukwujekwu Obiora were committing was not replied to.
He added: “His silence only meant that he was aware and supports him. Reaching his agent, Rev. Bar. Edwin Chukwujekwu Obiora, on one occasion he told us that we were nobodies; that they have now taken over the companies, even though illegally, as probate has not been granted.
“We had no other option than to file a suit at the state high court, seeking an order of court not to allow probate over our companies and its assets and the Will.”
Ezeoke said the matter is still on-going at the Chief Judge’s Court at Awka. He accused Rev. Fr. Bar. Edwin Sunday Chukwujekwu Obiora of still harassing the secretary of their late father’s company and their tenants even while allegedly visiting and extorting money from them.
“He is psychologically coercing our customers to stop co-operating with us. We humbly ignored him, not wanting to go into loggerheads with the church.
“We wondered whether the Bishop Paulinus Ezeokafor knew about these activities of Rev. Fr. Bar. Edwin Obiora. I still have all the messages in my phone.
“The next thing was that Rev. Fr. Bar. Edwin Sunday Chukwujekwu Obiora took some thugs and went to some of our properties, summoned the tenants and was issuing them letters of demand for payments to be made to him, using the diocesan law office’s (Equity Chambers) letter head, and that anyone who fails, he would arrest the person with police.
“He did the same at our buildings in both Onitsha and Enugu. Our tenants, having panicked, informed us about this, we met them and reassured them to ignore them, as they were trouble makers that are illegally seeking to possess what does not belong to them, parading the name of the church.”
Reacting to the allegations levelled against him by the Ezeoke family, Rev Fr Edwin Sunday Chukwujekwu, said: “Will case on the telephone? The matter is in court. Go and tell them that the matter is in court that they can’t talk on it.
“The people that addressed you are two out of the eleven children of late Chief Ezeoke, ask them where others are.
“This matter is before the chief judge of Anambra State, and the chief judge doesn’t take it lightly when cases before him are published by journalists.
“The matter is also before a Federal High Court. I don’t have the powers to talk about it. So, go and tell them that they cannot talk on the matter, they are the most stupid set of people on earth.”
Chukwujekwu said that he spoke as the legal adviser to the executors of the Will.
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