Governor Okezie Ikpeazu’s deftness and expertise in peace, diplomacy and crisis management were in focus last night as the crisis between the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria and the Okagwe Community in Ohafia Local Government Area over the siting of the Hope Waddell University in the Community was finally resolved.
For about 15 years, the people of Okagwe, a Community in Ohafia LGA have been locked in a major crisis with the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria over some issues surrounding the siting of the proposed Hope Waddell University, owned by the Church, in the community.
This crisis has stalled the development of the University for these number of years.
Fully aware of the negative economic effects and attendant losses that are synonymous with losing the University to some other state, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu decided to personally wade into the matter and at his instance, an initial meeting was held last week at the Governor’s Lodge Aba between the topmost echelon of the church led by the Prelate and Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria, His Eminence, Nzie Nsi Eke and the representatives of the Okagwe Community led by their Paramount Chief, Ezeogo Achi Uka Okoji.
The Governor personally moderated the proceedings of the meeting and heard from both sides. He made several undertakings both in his personal capacity and as Governor, especially to assuage the pains of the Community, all in a bid to ensure that peace reigns.
Last night at the Governor’s Lodge Aba, the Governor again presided over the final settlement of the dispute and signing of the peace agreement between the parties which has now put to an end, the long drawn crisis that had stalled the development of the University which the Governor described as the biggest catalyst of development for the Community and for the benefit of our state.
The Governor challenged the parties to work harmoniously henceforth and avoid anything that will cause any form of distraction. He tasked the church to see the Community as key stakeholders in the project having willingly given up100 hectares of their ancestral land to them for the University. He also told the Community leaders to see the church as their partners who have brought them positive development that will change the trajectory of their community forever.
The Governor restated his commitment to building a new Secondary School for the Community as well as personally ensuring that the some compensation is given to the Community.
When the Community Leaders raised the issue of a lingering court case and one of their sons who died in the course of the crisis and who is yet to be buried, Governor Ikpeazu undertook to speak to the parties in court and if need be, to ask the State Attorney General to request the Court to allow him arbitrate in the matter. He also promised to personally contribute to the expenses for the burial of the dead person and see how his dependants can get some level of assistance.
The high point of the meeting was the signing of the document that signals the end of the crisis and the beginning of a new era of peace, harmony and cooperation between the Okagwe Community and the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria.
The Governor stated that his intervention was deliberate because he understood clearly what that University would mean to the Community in the nearest future.
The Deputy Chief of Staff to the Governor, Chief Olugu K. Ugba played a very prominent role in the resolution of this matter.
Senior Advocate of Nigeria and a former Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association, Aba Branch, Uche S Awa, SAN who is a member of the Church also took part in the meeting.
Sir Onyebuchi Ememanka
Chief Press Secretary to the Governor.
29th April, 2022.