Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Alleged breach of trust: Land donors seek N100m restitution

The cordial relationship existing between the people of Umuokparaku kindred, Umuokpara-Nsu in Ehime Mbano Local Government Area of Imo State, owners of Ala Uzo Ikpa land and the management of Mbara Ozioma Foundation, MOF, may degenerate into an irreconcilable proportion, unless the stakeholders meet and take urgent steps to redeem the situation.
landThis followed the issuance of a quit notice and demand for damages to the Board of Trustees, BOT of MOF by the donors over an alleged breach of contractual agreement. The alleged breach arose from the alleged lack of implementation of the cardinal covenants contained in the document releasing the landed property to the MOF.
The Umuokparaku land owners had in the year 2000 donated a parcel of land measuring approximately 1.204 hectres to MOF whose Chairman is a Roman Catholic Priest, Rev. Dr. Jude Ozioma Nwachukwu, for building  a skills acquisition centre to be run under the auspices of the Catholic Church.
The cordial relationship between the parties degenerated in December 2013 when the community discovered that the land which they donated to the Foundation has allegedly been turned into a private family enterprises by Rev Fr. Ozioma Nwachukwu and his elder brother, Anthony Nwachukwu. The Nwachukwus, according to the community, claimed in an online publication that the land was sold outright to them.
Breach of agreement
What added fuel to the alreading burning flame in this predominantly Catholic community was the reconstitution of MOF’s BOT. An Anglican Bishop, David Onuoha was allegedly appointed a member of the BOT without the knowledge, consent or authority of the Catholic Bishop of Okigwe Diocese, Most Rev. Dr. Solomon Amatu.
The alleged infractions forced the community to write to the MOF through their lawyer, Chris Ajugwe, a legal practitioner based in Onitsha, Anambra State, demanding restitution and payment of N100 million for breach of contract.
In the letter, addressed to Rev. Fr. Nwachukwu, President/Chairman BOT of MOF, the land donors claimed that he deceived them by claiming that the land was being acquired for the purpose of building a skills acquisition center by MOF which he presented as a charitable institution exclusively within the Catholic Church.
The donors said they initially refused to donate their land until the donee presented Rev. Fr. Iheanyi Enwerem, another Catholic priest and a member of the donors’ kindred. According to them, it was at this juncture that they were finally persuaded to part with the land.
The donors further claimed that being devout Catholics, they thought they were doing a religious duty by donating their landed property to a Catholic Foundation. To be sure that the Foundation would actually be run by the Roman Catholic Church, the community stated that certain conditions were spelt outin the Power of Attorney .
Some of these requirements included that the  BOT of MOF shall be constituted to include a nomination by St. Columbus Catholic Parish Priest, Nsu; St. Charles Catholic Parish Priest, Umunumo; three representatives from MOF and two representatives of Umuokparaku community.
They explained that these stipulations were embodied in the agreement dated January 15, 2014 between the two parties and their representatives.
“Regrettably, each time we demanded from you the implementation of the land deal agreements, you would plead with us to be patient as you were either on one sabbatical leave or one
religious retreat or the other. To add salt to injury, you published or caused to be published in May, 2014 on the internet, a false statement that our land was sold to you outright. We were outraged by the latest development because on or about October, 2014, you held a meeting with us at the kindred hall at Umuokparaku where you were confronted with your online claims”.
As the meeting was inconclusive, it was mutually rescheduled for a few weeks time, only for us to learn that you have once again proceeded on your endless sabbatical leave in Austria and now your hide-and-seek game and that of your Foundation with respect to our landed property is up. It is obvious from the proceedings that you and your Foundation are in flagrant and contemptuous breach of contract with respect to our landed property,” the community said.
MOF which was incorporated on February 13, 2011 has Messrs Anthony Nwachukwu, Mahakwe H. Obi, Young Nwaohiri and Mr. Benjamin Onyeji as its trustees. But the community is not comfortable with this composition because “from all intents and purposes, this is contrary to the intentment and spirit of your contract with us with respect to the said land”.
Community’s demands
“It is unfortunate that this has remained so till date in ungodly disregard to the agreement of January 15, 2004. This is the sort of injustice that cries to heaven for vengeance as it at once negates your priestly calling. We therefore demand that you pay us the sum of N100 million being damages for breach of contract,” the community demanded.
“We also demand that you should within two months from the date of getting this letter vacate our landed property by removing all your Foundation’s moveable properties thereon as the land, the building and all other improvements thereon on the land have automatically reverted to us by operation of the law,” they claimed. They warned that failure to comply with the demand, the community will “not hesitate to report to the security agencies to investigate the criminal aspect of your breach of trust and fraudulent misrepresentation and this we shall do without further reference to you”.
The donors contended that even though they signed receipts for N20,000 per plot of land being Ihe Nkutu Aka N’obi (a  token for our economic trees), it does not amount to outright alienation of the landed property and cannot detract from the Power of Attorney of 2000 and the addendum thereto of 2004.
MOF’s counsel disputes claims
Counsel to the donee, Mahakwe Obi in a tacit reply, stated that the letter portrayed the chairman of the BOT of the Foundation, Rev. Dr. Ozioma Nwachukwu as an organisation or person who could not keep to the terms of agreement with the Umuokparaku people. “This is complete misrepresentation of the true position. Although the Chairman of theBOT has been coordinating the activities of the body, he has never failed in his meetings and other commitments concerning the Umuokparaku community,” he declared.
Insisting that there was no time the BOT did not reflect the interest of all, especially the Catholics, he claimed that it is not only Umuokparaku that granted irrevocable Power of Attorney to the Foundation for building of its projects. “It is important for you to note that the Foundation acquired every piece of land in the site through Irrevocable Power of Attorney, coupled with valuable consideration and therefore erroneous for you to be informed that you granted the lease with receipts and relevant documents which we can furnish you with when necessary,” he said.
The Foundation further noted that it has never engaged any other religious congregation to manage its day-to-day activities, as alleged, adding that its programmes are presently being formulated to give it strong footing.
It noted that it was Rev. Fr. Iheanyi Enwerem who advised that the BOT of the Foundation should reflect the interest of the different groups that are to benefit from the projects. According to him, it was based on this advice that the current BOT members were selected to reflect the following: Howels League Association, Catholic Diocese of Okigwe, Anglican Diocese of Okigwe South, Nsu Villages, Umunumo, Nzerem and Agbaja Villages.
The Foundation’s lawyer said: “It is unfortunate that the land donors made reference to only a portion of the purported agreement of January 15, 2014 without referring to the addendum to the agreement. The Foundation insisted that the alleged claim by the donors of internet publication that they sold their land to the foundation is completely embarrassing to the Foundation. He wants a meeting to be convened to clarify most of the unfounded claims and falsehood contained in the letter.
Name of our village delected from signpost
But when contacted, a representative of the land owners, Mr. Celestine Iwundu stated that they would have no option than head to court if all avenues for peaceful resolution of the impasse fail.
“As I am talking to you now, the Nwachukwus had deleted the name of our community, Umuokparaku – Umuokpara Nsu from the sign post of the skills acquisition centre and replaced it with Umuokiri – Umunomu which is the Rev. Fr. Ozioma Nwachukwu’s kindred. “How can you site a project in our land in Nsu autonomous community and claim the land belongs to another community”? he asked rhetorically.

No comments:

Post a Comment