By Anayo Okoli
UMUAHIA—BUT for the timely intervention of the police and Abia State House of Assembly, blood would have flowed freely in Amaiyi Okpo Ihechiowa community of Arochukwu Council area of Abia State, following a land dispute between the Catholic Church and some members of the community.
Some members of the community led by the current chairman of Arochukwu Local Government Council, Chief Kalu James Kalu, are laying claim to a parcel of land the community freely donated to the Catholic Church since 1989 for the purpose of developing the sleeping rural community.
Trouble began when an indigene of the community, Rev. Dr. Peter Amah Ole, an American based Catholic Priest, with the permission of the church, decided to build a Catholic hospital in a portion of the land for the community. But the idea was opposed by the Council chairman, Kalu James Kalu and his group who claimed that that the portion of the land does not belong to the church.
They were also said to have alleged that Rev. Fr. Ole was building the hospital for himself and not for the church, a claim promptly dismissed by the Catholic Diocese of Umuahia, which confirmed its authority for Rev. Ole to build the hospital for the church.
In fact, Kalu and his group were even alleged to have used thugs to attempt to stop the contractor building the hospital from working on the site.
Hospital for the church
Irked by their action, Rev Fr. Amah Ole petitioned the Abia State House of Assembly through his representative, Hon. Luke Onyeani. In the petition dated February 14, 2017, Ole alerted the House of a charged “security situation” over a piece of land donated to the Catholic Church measuring about 4.126 hectares donated by “my people of Amaiyi Okpo”. “Development started in the land in 2010 with the permission of the Catholic Bishop of Umuahia. I, Rev. Peter Amah Ole sponsoring the project through my non-profit organization based in the United States of America.
“After commissioning the hospital, the current Arochukwu L.G.A. Chairman and his two brothers [allegedly] hired some people to disrupt the project from taking off. The Chairman argued that the Bishop is not aware of the project and that I am doing it for personal benefit. The Bishop came to our village with a letter denying Kalu James Kalu’s claim and affirming his permission of the ongoing project.
“Since his election as the chairman, his disruption of the project and [alleged] threat to many community members have significantly taken dangerous dimension, leading to a breach of public peace and order.
This hospital is what Government could have done, but I took it up as an individual for the benefit of the Church and Okpo community. Kalu James Kalu for sheer jealousy wants to disallow our people from the benefit of this modern hospital which has been equipped”, Rev. Ole said in the petition.
The Catholic Bishop of Umuahia Diocese, Dr. Lucius Iwejuru Ugorji had in a letter dated 19th December, 2015, and addressed to the Amaiyi Okpo Community, confirmed that the church authorized the building of the hospital by Rev. Fr. Ole.
“I wish to state that the Catholic Diocese of Umuahia has a persisting interest in the land and has not handed over the property to any individual or family. Furthermore, I attest that Rev. Fr. Peter Amah has my permission and consent to build a hospital on the site on behalf of the Catholic Diocese of Umuahia for the benefit of the community.
“This hospital is owned by the Catholic Church and is to be called Holy Family Catholic Hospital, Okpo Ihechiowa. It will be managed by the Sisters of Jesus the Saviour, a Catholic Religious Congregation established by Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Edeh at Elele. The construction of the Convent to accommodate the Sisters has commenced”, Bishop Ugorji clarified in his letter.
To further clarify ownership of the land and douse tension, the traditional ruler of the community, Eze-Ogo Sunday Kalu Ole wrote to the commissioner of police on 12th August 2015, stating the position of the community on the land in question.
In the letter, he affirmed that the “land was donated to the Catholic Church by Amaiyi people through Adaanu Age Grade of Amaiyi Okpo Ihechiowa; that the Community is very happy that the land is being developed by the Church through Rev. Fr. Peter Amah Ole after fifty years; that the community has no intention to stop and will not stop the ongoing project embarked on by Rev. fr. Peter Amah Ole”. The letter was also signed by six other community chiefs.
Meanwhile, the matter is being treated by the public petitions committee of the Abia State House of Assembly which last Thursday summoned the Council chairman and his group as well as the community leaders and Rev. Fr. Ole.