Attack On Bubendorff Memorial Grammar School Adazi-Nnukwu By Land Grabbers From Obeagu Village, Agulu.
Q. Good day father, there were attacks on some of your students and facilities, can you please brief us how it happened.
Let me first of all thank you all–members of press for the proactive measure and solidarity you’ve shown to us by coming to bring to the fore, what we experienced yesterday.
What happened in the early hours of Tuesday 8th June, 2021 was an unfortunate situation. Nobody every thoughts such would happen but we have seen it. it has happened. We thank God that at the end of the day we are still where we are; alive and kicking.
I was having a briefing with the students in the morning, at about 7:50 am. Suddenly I noticed a stampede outside. Those I saw running were some of the auxiliary teachers. They were shouting alongside some students. Nobody was able to fathom what that means until we all started running towards the direction. I heard them scream “please help, the school is going down!”
It was a total commotion and an unimaginable scene in a serene place like this. You can imagine what it looks like when you have over a thousand students in the compound.
So when I got there with my colleague, Fr. Hillary Okwunalu and some teachers running after us, we were halted from going further on the reason that the attackers had every kind of weapons (guns, machetes, bottles etc) so we stood at the field there looking at them helplessly while they made jest of us, oozing their ‘Indian hemp’ and chanting war songs. Another devastating experience was seeing women numbering over twenty uprooting cassava from the students’ farm. We broke down because considering the rate of our school fees, these are things we use to augment.
The only thing we could do was to make phone calls to anybody we could call, try to raise alarm. We were just there helpless while they were having a free day. It was akin what Thomas Hobbes would call “state of nature… a state that is brutish, nasty; where man is wolf unto fellow man and so on”
So we didn’t know what to do. They made sure that the perimeter fence of the school were razed down. Thereafter, they started yelling, threatening to demolish and burn down our church (the chapel almost completed by Senator Victor Umeh in his effort to provide the school community with a more conducive environment to worship God)… and before our eyes they set up the fire and started knocking down the walls of the Church.
Q. So can you tell us what you think is actually the cause of these attacks?
This school was established in 1959. The first principal was Rev. Fr. D. Mahony. After the establishment of the school, it moved on smoothly until the processes were truncated by the Nigerian Civil War, 1967 – 1970. In 1970, government took over the school. Many years after, some individuals started laying claims on part of the school land. However, with the return of the schools to the mission in 2011 and Bubendorff in 2013, I got posted here. When I assumed office as the school manager, I had to go through a number of documents were before me. So I came to know that the school had been in court with Chief Dan Ogbuefi, Chief Benneth Ezeani, Paulinus Ifeagui, Mr Oniyi and some others from Obeagu village. The court judgment and court case files were clear that the school sued them in 1998 over encroachment, under Dr Willy Eze as Principal. It was Anambra Education Commission against the people of Obeagu village led by Chief Dan Ogbuefi; and judgment of that case delivered in 2007 werein the judge at the High Court in Awka granted all the requests of the 1st plaintiff (the school), and Adazi-Nnuknu the host community who also joined in the suit. The Lower court granted all their reliefs. Obeagu village led by Chief Dan Ogbuefi appealed against the judgment of the High Court. The Appeal Court, Enugu on the 4th day of July 2011, gave their judgment, granted their request against 2nd – 4th respondent ( or co plaintiff) while maintaining the lead judgment of the Lower Court by saying Chief Dan Ogbuefi and all in Obeagu village of Agulu are restrained perpetually from further trespass in the land. It was a win for Anambra State Education Commission.
After studying the whole developments, we took the documents to the church because as at 2013 when I got in, the school was already in the hands of the church for administration. So the chancery of the diocesan secretariat took these documents to independent lawyers and to diocesan legal advisers, and everybody agreed that the matter is a closed fact. Investigations were equally made to know if they went to Supreme Court but they discovered they (Chief Ogbuefi and Obeagu Village people) did not approach the Supreme Court and the time given for anyone who would go to the Supreme Court had elapsed. So that place remained desolated and overgrown by bushes. Recall that the school were in decadent situations at their return. So we started working; getting bulldozers to clear the bushes. After clearing the bushes and training the students on how they could go into farming, one morning we saw the people of Obeagu village storm that place and cultivated the land. At that point, as a catholic priest, I start with pastoral encounter with them; meeting them one-on-one. I was also showing them the substantive court judgments and surprisingly, many of them showed ignorance of what the judgment said which means they were being misled by their so-called leaders on what is not on the paper. In fact, some of them confided in me saying “we did not even know judgment have been delivered on the matter. We thought we are still in count” I told them, judgments have been delivered and we are not in court with anybody, and that if they go there they are trespassers. I can tell you categorically, a good number of them were law abiding and they withdrew. But Chief Dan Ogbuefi, for all intent and purposes I am yet to understand why… The former Agulu P.G., Mr. Paulinus Aniagboso had once summoned me, I showed him these court judgments. He said “are you sure you are having the correct documents?” I said “these are public documents, you can make application to Appeal Court Enugu and you’ll have copies of the same judgment”.
Catholic diocese of Awka have tried to get these people to understand and respect the judgement of the court but they wouldn’t.
At a time everything was calm and we thought they have come to the understanding that this is a matter they could not go into. So we continued doing our projects. We set-up and started building the church which is already roofed as you’d see out there thank God for Senator Sir Victor Umeh who took it up singlehandedly to give the students a place of worship and a place of safety.
It baffles me more that in the present age, somebody could just be formenting trouble when every indices tells him that he is in the wrong. I simply do not understand why!
Again, where does he get those hoodlums that go with him? These are the issues that baffle me as a person. So, I don’t know what he is aiming to realize. Is it that he wants the students to be exposed to danger? With the thoughts of what happened in Chibok and Dapchi, the diocese decided to ensure that the school is fully fenced, but Chief Ogbuefi and his group are saying No.
These are the dangers we’ve been facing and I only hope Chief Dan Ogbuefi, Chief Paulinus Aniagboso and their co-horts could sit-down and reason for the sake of peace. I don’t know why someone who pride himself as an honorable person should be engaging himself in this kind thing; in this age. I don’t understand! And trying to show he is above the law… I wonder why someone would have in his hands the full judgments of both the lower court and the Appeal Court and yet wouldn’t want to respect that. For me, it is a total contempt of the law. Maybe you should go and meet him so he could tell you why he is unleashing terror in this age, against the school.
Q. Considering the nature of this matter, have you been able to report the issues to any relevant authority like the security agencies, for the safety of the students?
We have reported the matter to the various relevant authorities of the government and security agencies. They have severally called him to order. I think it is high time the law which is a respecter of nobody is allowed to prevail.
Apart from the vandalized structures, they also threw crumbs and stones on us and in the process students sustained various degree of injury and they are receiving treatment through the help of our doctor, Evaristus Iloka and resident nurse. Thanks to St Anthony of Padua Parish, East Northport, LI, NY that set a wonderful clinic for us. The students have gotten well, and recovering from the bruises.
From the moment I arrived here, I have received lots of threats. Phone calls from many people; people I know and those I do not know and I have continued to explain to those who care to know about the position of the law. It is not about any sentiment; I am not from Adazi. I come from far-away Owerre Ezukala in Orumba South Local Government. So it is about building a society that we want to live in; it is about the security of our children and it is about doing the right thing.
Q. Okay father, aside the last incident that just happened, have you witnessed such attacks previously ?
It has always been a nefarious activity and some times you’d see them attack in the wee-hours of the night then in the morning you’d see damages here and there, and you’d begin to recover again from the damages and destructions. In each of these cases, we have always reported accordingly.
Let me seize this opportunity to thank God who through divine providence did not allow the full intentions of our attacker to be hatched on our school. I thank my lord bishops: the Bishop of Awka Diocese and our proprietor, Most Rev. Dr. Paulinus Ezeokafor, who though on annual leave at the moment, have shown fatherly concern. I thank immensely the Auxiliary Bishop of Awka Diocese, Most Rev. Dr. Jonas Benson Okoye who was here early enough to witness the situation and for his timely and thoughtful interventions. Our warm appreciations also goes to the Bishop of Ekwulobia Diocese, Most Rev. Dr. Peter Okpalaeke for his visit and for all the moral encouragements. In same vein, I am immensely grateful to all other individuals and cooperate entities who have identified with us since this unfortunate incident such as the Governor of Anambra State, Chief Willie Obiano for the timely redeployment of military personnel to ensure the safety of the students and other measures already initiated to arrest the situation, also Senator Dr. Victor Umeh who in spite not being in the country has continued to speak with us and show concerns. I also thank the D.P.O of Neni Police Division CSP Adadu Uchechuwku for his responsiveness and undelayed intervention. I must thank as well the Chairman of Anaocha L.G.A Hon. Patrick Estate Onyedum; the Attoney General of Anambra state and Comissioner for Justice, Dr. (Mrs.) Uju Nwogu and former Chairman of Anaocha L.G.A, Hon. Ikeobi Ejiofor for their concerns. A big thank you to the National Executive of the alumni association ably led by Chief Dr B.O.B Ugonabo for their solidarity and supports, not forgetting the of PG Adazi-Nnukwu, Chief Frank Madubuike and Adazi-Nnukwu ward 1 and 2 councillors for their moral support too. Finally, I thank members of Bubendorff staff and the students for their cooperation in prayer and good works. Our parents who have heard and showed concern are reassured that we are safe and happy. May the Almighty God bless and continue to protect you all through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen!
Rev. Fr. Theo Ekwem
Manager, BMGS Adazi