Community Leaders Battle Priest Over Alleged Imposition, Defamation - Asdeen vibez

Community Leaders Battle Priest Over Alleged Imposition, Defamation

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Some parishioners and community leaders of Umunomo in Ahiazu Mbaise Council Area of Imo State have moved against their parish priest, Fr. David Iheanacho, over alleged false accusation, defamation and conduct likely to cause breach of peace.
They also accused Iheanacho of allegedly manipulating and using the Police to harass and intimidate members of the community.
The community, which has been enmeshed in a leadership tussle for the President of the Catholic Women Organisation (CWO), has the Parish Priest and the community fighting on opposing sides. Stakeholders in the community consequently wrote to Iheanacho, conveying a communiqué reached by major stakeholders in the community over the crisis between their wives, mothers and Fr. David Iheanacho.
They accused Iheanacho of imposing Mrs. Augustina Ogoke on the and that he has been ‘castigating Umunomo community even from the pulpit because of one woman’.
“We cannot afford to sit down and watch your continuous humiliation of our women”, the letter read in part. Iheanacho responded to the communiqué dismissing it as largely driven by ignorance. He maintained that the community has no case against Mrs. Ogoke but mere envy and lies. He added: “You are most uncharitable by trying to tear down this woman of modest means. You make Umunomo appear like the most primitive and wicked community in Mbaise.”
The crisis, however, came to a head when Fr. Iheanacho did not show up for the funeral mass of a late parishioner, Florence Eze because the deceased was said not to have been cleared by Mrs. Ogoke whom alone the Reverend Father recognizes as CWO leader. This angered some mourners, two of who sought to confront Mrs. Ogoke, who works at a nearby school, Wisdom Nursery/ Primary School, but Mrs. Ogoke was not in the office at the time they showed up.
On hearing of the development, Fr. Iheanacho in a newspaper publication accused some of the community leaders, who were around to attend the funeral service, being sponsors of kidnappers and hoodlums, who with officials of a women’s group, conspired to kidnap Mrs Ogoke, and attack and injure children of the school.
Following the alleged attempt to kidnap her, Mrs Ogoke initiated a police action against some of the leaders whom, she alleged were armed to the teeth. The leaders subsequently detained by the police are: Nze Donatus Onuoha (80), Mr. Godfrey Anyanwu (75), Engr. Celestine Oleka (75), Mr. Jude Thaddeus Ibe (60) and Mr. Alfred Ibe – most of whom are serving or former parish workers.
In their rejoinder, the community leaders of Umunomo wondered why somebody who is supposed to be a spiritual leader and not part of the management or administration of the said school, should dissipate so much energy in trying to such level accusations against innocent and prominent sons of the community on an issue owners of the school have exonerated the community leaders.
The rejoinder described Fr. Iheanacho as a ‘celebrated liar’. The five elders have consequently dragged Fr. Iheanacho, Mrs Ogoke and others to the Federal High Court, Owerri Judicial Division.
In separate suits: FHC/OW/ CS/114/2016; FHC/OW/ CS/115/2016; FHC/OW/ CS/116/2016; FHC/OW/ CS/117/2016 and FHC/OW/ CS/118/2016 the elders are demanding damages for breaching their fundamental rights to a cumulative tune of N25million and urging the court to restrain the Commissioner of Police from harassing them based on this false and malicious accusation.
In an affidavit in support of their motions, the community leaders expressed concern over the seeming threats to their lives as allegedly voiced by Ogoke and Fr. Iheanacho and the apparent plot to frame them with a crime inconsistent with their characters.
They averred thus: “On 4th June, 2016, Mrs Ogoke barged into a meeting of some leaders of Umunomo and there said she will make sure that all of us die in Police detention.
On the 5th of June, 2016, Fr. Iheanacho while on the pulpit said that all the criminals involved in the incident in the school will die in police cell.”
While Fr. Iheanacho had maintained that the community lead ers are the criminals who attacked the school, the Head Teacher of the school, Okonkwo Mary Ann in her report to the Ahiara Diocesan Education Board agreed that there were some disturbances in the school but that no pupil or teacher was attacked. She maintained that no parent has reported any injured or missing child a week after the incident.
The Head Teacher summed up her report thus: “In conclusion, I did not see any hoodlum armed to the teeth in Wisdom Nursery/Primary School, Ihitteafoukwu that day.”
The Head Teacher made her report to the Board in apparent defiance of the orders of Fr. David Iheanacho, who had threatened to demand her removal from the school if she failed to report the said ‘attack’ on the children and teachers of Wisdom Nursery/Primary School, to the Police.
In his alleged letter to the Head Teacher dated May 19, 2016, Fr. Iheanacho threatened to sack Wisdom Nursery/Primary School from his church premises if the Head Teacher failed to make the report to the police as requested.
Fr. Iheanacho threatened further: “Where these demands are not met, I will petition the state and federal ministries of education asking for the closure of Wisdom Nursery/Primary School, Ihitteafoukwu for the crime of child endangerment. I will report to the government of the day that you are running an illegal school in my parish that endangers the lives of little children.”
In his published reaction to the incident, Fr. Iheanacho explained that the deceased Florence Eze did not get a funeral mass officiated by the Church because her family did not settle her indebtedness to the Church.
He noted that the relatives of the deceased were prevailed upon to seek a refund of the money they already deposited in the parish by officials of Umunomo Women’s Progressive Union making it impossible for the parish to officiate the burial of the deceased.
On why there was no report of the said attack on the children of Wisdom Nursery/Primary School to the Police, the priest averred that there was apparently a cover up, as the affected children were mostly from Umunomo community whose parents decided not to press charges.
When contacted, Mrs Augustina Ogoke declined to comment, and instead referred our correspondent to her lawyer.

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