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17 Jul 2017

Community Tackles Catholic Priest Over Proposed University

Some indigenes of Nguru community in the Nsukka Local Government Area of Enugu State have accused a priest of the Nsukka Catholic Diocese, Rev. Fr. Paul Obayi, of allegedly taking over their land to build a university.

Obayi, who belongs to the Okunerere Adoration Ministry, Nsukka, is also a member of the community.

The indigenes, under the aegis of the Forum of Concerned Nguru Citizens, accused the priest of taking over more than 109 hectares of land without due consultation.

In a petition to the Catholic Bishop of Nsukka, Rt. Rev. Godfrey Onah, the group alleged that Obayi gave N10m and a bus to some community leaders in order to take the land.

The petition, signed by the Chairman of the forum, Titus Attah; and Secretary, Sylvester Onah, stated that efforts by the group to seek answers to questions regarding the land were rebuffed by Obayi.

The petition read in part, “Sometime ago, we learnt that following a dispute over the ownership of Obelibe, a vast land area owned collectively by the entire Nguru community, and a kindred in Nguru, Likke, Fr. Obayi presented a ‘peaceful resolution’ to the dispute.

“We understand that he offered to take over the land and build a university on it. Information we had said he claimed that he had a partnership deal with a foreign university to bring the educational institution to our community.

“In full cohorts with him were a few young people in the community that we understand have been profiting financially from him. 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, to properly interrogate the issue.

“The bulk 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 did not involve all the stakeholders.

“But we understand the opportunity cost of trading off the fixed asset owned by an entire community to just one individual. We also believe that such a transaction, where it would take place, should be discussed exhaustively with every stakeholder.”

The group said it wrote a letter to the priest for a discussion on the matter, but he did not reply.

The men, who claimed not be against the establishment of a tertiary institution in the community, said they were concerned about the future of the institution.

“Some of the questions we want answers to are: what kind of university is he bringing to Nguru on an expanse of land larger than the two campuses of the University of Lagos put together? Where is the approved (permanent or provisional) licence for the establishment of that university by the National Universities Commission? Is the 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?

“Beyond the bus he bought for our council of elders (most of whom are above 85 years old), the N5m he brought, and the cash gifts that we also understood some young people have got out of his generosity, what is the take-out for Nguru beyond the intangible satisfaction and bragging right that a private university was sited in their village?

“What are the tangible, measurable, enforceable, documented benefits to Nguru that will, no matter how inadequate, compensate for their generosity in giving over to him their land?” the petition said.

The group said the matter, if not well resolved, could lead to chaos and disagreements which would endanger the peace of the community in the future.

Obayi did not respond to calls and text messages, which our correspondent had been sending to his mobile phone since July 6, 2017.

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