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Catholic Bishop Rejects Award From Ebonyi Governor Umahi, Wants Charges Against Illegally Detained Priest, Ngwuta, Dropped

The Catholic Bishop of Abakaliki Diocese, Most Rev. Peter Chukwu has rejected Governor David Umahi’s nomination for the maiden state honours award 2022 as Commander, Ebonyi Hall of Fame (CEHF).

Chukwu who was appointed as bishop on July 6, 2021, by Pope Francis to replace his predecessor, Most Rev Michael Okoro, who retired as bishop on account of age, was consecrated and installed as Catholic Bishop of Abakaliki on August 6, 2022.

Rejecting the award in a letter to Governor Umahi which he personally signed, Nwachukwu in the letter dated December 16, 2022, Bishop Chukwu advised the governor to bestow the award on his predecessor, Most Rev. Michael Nnachi Okoro, for his long and meritorious service to God and humanity.

He advised Governor Umahi that instead of giving him an award, “I would prefer you set in motion, actions that would facilitate the termination of murder and sundry charges against my priest, Rev. Fr. Timothy Ngwuta.”

The letter sighted on Wednesday evening, and addressed to Governor David Nweze Umahi, was titled: “RE: Notification of your selection for the Maiden State of Honours AWARD 2022 as Commander, Ebonyi Hall of Fame (CEHF).”

It reads in part: “Compliments of the season and may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and forever. Amen.

“I write to acknowledge the receipt of your letter notifying me that I have been selected for the Maiden State of Honours Award 2022 as Commander, Ebonyi Hall of FAME. I am pleasantly surprised that I was selected for such a prestigious honour by your government.

“I wish to sincerely thank you for your thoughtful consideration in selecting me for the Maiden State of Honours Award. I am grateful to you and your government for deeming me fit for the award.

“Your Excellency, I wish to respectfully decline this award. I am barely one year in office. I am still struggling to fit into the high demands of the ecclesiastical office of the Bishop.

“So, I feel that I have not achieved much as to deserve an award. If I may suggest, I would rather wish that this award be bestowed on my predecessor, Most Rev. Michael Nnachi Okoro, for his long and meritorious service to God and humanity. Rather than give me an award, I would prefer you set in motion, actions that would facilitate the termination of murder and sundry charges against my priest, Rev. Fr. Timothy Ngwuta.”

“Accept, Your Excellency, the assurances of my highest esteem and regards as you pilot the affairs of the State. Be assured of my constant prayers for you, your government and the good people of our dear State,” it adds.

Meanwhile, Governor Umahi’s nomination letter, which he also personally signed, marked GOV/EBS/OM/3.42/V/350, and addressed to the bishop was titled: “Notification of your selection for the maiden state honours award 2022 as Commander, Ebonyi Hall Of fame (CEHF).”

The letter reads, “I am pleased to inform you that you have been selected by the Government of Ebonyi State for the conferment of State Honours Award as Commander, Ebonyi Hall of Fame (CEHF), pursuant to Ebonyi State Honours Law No 008 of 2022. This Award of Honour is in recognition of your illustrious service to Ebonyi State and humanity.

“Your esteemed presence is therefore requested at the special event scheduled to hold as follows: Date: Thursday 22nd December, 2022. Venue: State Ecumenical Centre, Abakaliki. Time: 7pm dot.”Image

Catholic Bishop Rejects Award From Ebonyi Governor Umahi, Wants Charges Against Illegally Detained Priest, Ngwuta, Dropped

The state government and the Catholic Diocese of Abakaliki have traded words over the arrest and incarceration of Reverend Timothy Ngwuta, in Abakaliki.

SaharaReporters had earlier reported that Ngwuta had been illegally detained by security operatives in Ebonyi since 2021.

This comes amid the lingering communal crisis between Ezza-Effium and Effium people of the Ohuakwu Local Government Area of the state since January 2021, which had resulted in the death of innocent persons and the destruction of property worth millions of naira.

A source had said the priest was arrested and framed for being responsible for a crisis that had been ongoing for a while.

According to him, Ngwuta was arrested while paying a visit to some of his parishioners who had now been displaced from their homes as a result of the crisis.

“It was during one of these visits he was arrested and has since been detained without trial, nothing, an ordained Reverend Father for that matter,” the source said.

He had noted that Ngwuta’s arrest had a political undertone as he called on the state governor to immediately order the release of the priest.

Also, Parishioners of Saint Bernard’s Catholic Parish, Ugueze Effium, Ohaukwu Local Government Area had called on Umahi to release their parish priest from detention.

In April 2022, the Catholic Church, Diocese of Abakaliki in a statement signed by Fr. Matthew Uzoma Opoke, Chancellor, Catholic Diocese of Abakaliki, said all efforts to secure the release of Ngwuta on bail had been hampered by the Executive Order preventing any court in the state from entertaining matters relating to Effium crisis.

Reacting, the state government through the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Cletus Ofoke, cautioned the Catholic Church, asking it to desist from saying that the priest was incarcerated in prison as a result of an Executive Order.

Ofoke said, “There is nothing like Executive Order on the Effium crisis; there is nothing to that effect. Of course, the government can never issue an order stopping the court from doing its legitimate duty. It is aimed at tarnishing somebody’s image and maligning the government. There is nothing like that.”

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