[BONIFACE OKORO, Umuahia]
Abia Governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu has resolved the lingering dispute between the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria and the Okagwe Community in Ohafia Local Government Area of the state over the citing of the proposed Hope Waddel University.
For about 15 years, the people of Okagwe, a Community have been locked in a major crisis with the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria, owners of the proposed institution, over issues surrounding the siting of the university in the community. This outbreak of the dispute stalled the development of the University site.
Fully aware of the negative economic effects and attendant losses that are synonymous with losing the University to some other states, Ikpeazu decided to personally wade into the matter.
The Oracle Today, gathered that at the Governor’s 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 and reportedly made several undertakings both in his personal capacity and as Governor, to assuage the pains of the Community, all in a bid to ensure that peace reigned.
It was learnt that on Friday night, at the Governor’s Lodge Aba, the Ikpeazu again presided over the final settlement of the dispute and signing of a peace agreement between the two feuding parties which has now put to an end, the long drawn crisis that had stalled the development of the University.
The Governor described the university as the catalyst of development for the community and for the benefit of the state and charged the parties to work harmoniously henceforth.
He further urged them to avoid anything that would 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 to build the university.
He equally told the community leaders to see the Church as their partners who have brought them positive development that would change the trajectory of their community forever.
The Governor restated his commitment to building a new secondary school for the community, as well as to personally ensure that the some compensation was 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 was 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 Kalu Ugba, played a very prominent role in the resolution of the matter.
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and a former Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association, Aba Branch, Uche S Awa, who is a member of the Church also took part in the meeting.