Wednesday, January 29, 2014

92-year-old woman battles Catholic Church over land in Onitsha

In what could be termed a ‘Holy War’, a 92-year old woman, Madam Juliana Onuora from Nkpor, Idemili North Council Area of Anambra State and the Catholic Archdiocese of Onitsha are currently at loggerheads over a church the former built and donated to the Diocese, 27 years ago.

Madam Onuora in a petition sent to Pope Francis, has claimed that her life is currently being threatened following the sudden crises that erupted over the ownership of land where Our Lady’s Catholic Church is situated.

Though the Onitsha Archdiocese did not deny the fact that the land belongs to Mrs. Onuora, however, the ministry insisted that the church had already been dedicated to God and therefore ceases to belong to her.

What started like a joke snowballed into serious war, which led to the burning down of the parish priest’s building by angry youths reportedly hired by mrs Onuora.

Relatively, the youth of Our Lady Catholic Church have already buckled up to launch reprisal attack over the alleged attack on the parish priest, Rev. Fr. Martin Onukuba by hoodlums are said to be working on the instruction of Madam Onuora’s family.

Following the ugly incident, the entire compound, including the church and other surrounding buildings have been taken over by policemen from the Police Zonal Headquarters, Zone 9 Umuahia to maintain peace and order.

According to Sunday Sun, Madam Juliana Onuora in 1985, built Our Lady’s Catholic Church Nkpor, which was dedicated by the then Archbishop Francis Arinze, now a Cardinal in thanksgiving and fulfilment of her promise to God that she would build a befitting Basilica to God if she comes back to Nigeria alive from West Germany where she went for medical treatment.

After the completion of the church edifice by Madam Onuora, it was dedicated to God by the then Archbishop Arinze and that was according to Madam Onuora to serve as a chapel where her staff and management would be worshiping instead of trekking several miles to worship outside the business empire.

She maintained that during and after the completion of Our Lady Catholic Church which she said she named after her business, “Our Lady Group” which is into bakery, animal husbandry and other businesses, she never at any moment negotiated with the church to give any part of her massive land to the church for whatever reason.

Madam Onuorah and her daughter are saying the Church can only worship and leave the property, as there is nothing in the compound that belongs to them from the beginning and therefore they cannot begin to lay claims to the land where the church was built.

In the petition she sent to the Catholic Pontiff in Rome, she said her life was in danger and she needed only the intervention of the Pontiff for the Catholic Archbishop of Onitsha, Most Reverend Valerian Okeke to order his priests to stop bullying and harassing her and her daughter and destroying her property as well as arresting her workers.

She further appealed to the Inspector General of police to ensure his men are not used to cause high blood pressure and heart attack for her as her wealth used for charity and philanthropy should not be the cause of her death.

“I built this place because I am in good terms with the priests and bishops. How can I instigate my workers to set my property ablaze and it is even a taboo to burn a church. I don’t know why the church is fighting me over my property. I built the church in fulfillment of my promise to God. I never knew that my magnanimity would turn against me. They arrested some of my workers, closed my bakery and the Catholic Church has been chasing my only daughter around, pulled down my perimeter fencing and threatened to also burn me alive here. Let God reward all of us accordingly.

“I leant that my Archbishop came here yesterday but he never visited me and the priests are right here under my nose but they have never come here. My son, I am gradually dying in sorrow. And for this, let me state clearly that the church is for worship of God. They should come and worship God and go but leave my property alone. I am not interested in the proceeds they get. I even give the little I have to support the work of God but what I cannot tolerate is fighting me over my own ‘sweat’ and that is why I am calling on the world, the government, activists to hear my cry. I don’t have anything to fight the church and I don’t want anything to happen to my only daughter,” she lamented.

She called on Pope Francis, President Goodluck Jonathan, the Inspector General of Police, the National Assembly as well as the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, (CBCN) to intervene in the matter and save her and her business as well as her family members from further attacks.

In a quick reaction, the Catholic Archdiocese of Onitsha, through the Director Social Communication, Rev Fr. Pius Ukor refuted all the allegations leveled against it by Madam Onuora, her daughter and workers, saying that they are untrue and baseless.

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