The Forum of Concerned Nguru Citizens in Nsukka, Enugu State has petitioned the Bishop of Catholic Diocese of Nsukka, seeking his intervention in an alleged case of land grabbing by Rev. Fr. Paul Obayi for the purpose of building a university.
In the petition dated June 12, 2017, which copies were sent to the Cathedral Administrator, St. Theresa’s Cathedral, Nsukka and the Parish Priest, St. Anthony’s Parish, Nguru Nsukka, the Chairman of the Forum, Hon. Titus Attah and the Secretary, Sylvester Okey Onah appealed to the Bishop to use his position to settle the differences between the Priest and the community.
The Forum wrote: “We are a community of predominantly Catholic faithful and we reasonably understand the implications of complaints against people in the Priesthood. But we have no other option for peaceful settlement. We also believe that as a proud son of Nsukka, you will approach this matter with both brotherly wisdom driven by a deep understanding of the peculiarities of Nsukka, and a spiritual inspiration, from your years as a servant in the Alter and House of the Most High.”
The petitioners explained that the issue at hand was a vast expanse of land totalling over 109 hectares belonging to Nguru Community that Rev. Fr. Obayi allegedly conspired with a few selfish people in Nguru Community to appropriate for himself.
“Some time 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,” the petitioners stated.
The group further alleged: “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.
The Forum said: “The bulk of us, and of course a vast majority of Nguru indigenes, are living outside the homeland and when the news got to us on what was happening, we made contacts with those at home only to discover that consultation was narrow and did not involve all the stakeholders.
“As a brother, who grew up with some of us in this Forum, we wrote a letter to Fr. Obayi, asking for further discussions on the matter before anything could happen on that expanse of land. The said letter is hereby attached for your kind perusal.”
The group also alleged that Fr. Obayi, however, never replied nor reached out to any member of the Forum for further exploration and interrogation of the idea, not until they had an altercation through a telephone conversation with him in their bid to resolve this issue during which he was said to have labelled them “as an ‘unknown group’ probably not worthy of any consultation.”
The group further explained to the Bishop that “community issues such as this are not a democracy where the majority carries the vote. Everyone who is from Nguru has a share in that expanse of land and must be seen to have acceded to its transfer to another person. 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, only to reply when he had perfected his plans is a major pointer.”
“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,” the group alleged.
It then raised a number of questions: “What kind of university is he bringing to Nguru and placing on an expanse of land larger than the two campuses of the University of Lagos put together?
“Where is the approved (permanent or provisional) license for the establishment of that university by the National Universities Commission?
“Where is the Memorandum of Understanding between Fr. Obayi, his company, and the university he is bringing to Nguru?
“Is this university a community school or Fr. Obayi’s private enterprise?
“If it is Fr. Obayi’s private enterprise, is he expecting to make profits from school enrolment and other activities the institution involves in?
“If there is going to be profit; how right does it sound to him as a Priest of God, that he appropriates a vast expanse of land belonging to his community, grows it to make profits while penury and want ravage his people?
“If this university will belong to Fr. Obayi, what happens when (his mortal being) 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?”
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