When on February 21, 1971, Pa Alfred Okorie Esobe, a native of Achi, Umuhu Ezechi in Bende Local Government Area of Abia State, fresh from the depredation of the Nigeria civil war, used the little money he had laboured all his life to purchase a plot of land at Igbere quarters in Nbawsi, Isiala Ngwa North Local Government Area, little did he know that years later, the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria of which one of his sons is a well known member and an Elder, would take over the property.
John Kenneth Esobe, a prominent member and a known Elder of the Presbyterian Church in Aba and one of the sons of Pa Esobe would not fathom why the church could take such brazen action of taking over his father’s property without the slightest courtesy of reaching out to him. John who lived on the said property with his siblings before he became of age and relocated to Aba, narrated what happened and how it all happened.
He said, “Our house was at Igbere quarters, Mbawsi where the Presbyterian Church itself was equally located. It was quarters for non natives and Igbere people were greater in number, hence the name Igbere quarters; we also had Aro (Arochukwu) quarters in the area.
“When at a point the non natives decided to sell their portions of land in the area, my father, Alfred Okorie Esobe bought a plot of land there from one Daniel Idimogu from Igbere in Bende Local Government, in 1971.
Until we lived at Mbawsi and relocated to Aba at a later date, nobody came to us to claim that that parcel of land my father bought was Presbyterian Church’s property. “And when my father was erecting structure on the said property, the church did not claim it was her property either.”
Esobe (Jnr) told this newspaper that he was taking aback when sometime in 2018; somebody called to inform him on phone that some people were demolishing their house.
“Initially, I couldn’t believe it, I sent my younger sister to go and find out if it was true since our father had relocated to the village as a result of old age and my sister confirmed it was true. “In the process of demolishing the building, they destroyed all our belongings including certificates. I was baffled how a church of which I am a prominent member will take such action without recourse to me.”
The younger Esobe said as a Christian, he never wanted to drag the church to court, but sort peaceful means of settling the matter. However, when this failed, Esobe said he approached a Non Governmental Organization (NGO), the Human Rights, Justice and Peace Foundation (HRJPF) principally to appeal to the consciences of the leaders of the church to do the right thing and get the matter settled internally.
On July 2, 2019, HRJPF wrote the Prelate/ Moderator of Presbyterian Church, appealing to him to intervene in the matter. “We took the matter to HRJPF,” Esobe informed, and on the strength of their letter, “the Prelate invited us to Calabar where is the Presbyterian Church’s headquarters.
After narrating what happened, the Prelate asked us what we wanted and we told him that since our house had been pulled down without our consent, the church should give us compensation of N3m.
The Prelate promised us he would take over the matter and get back to us.” As nothing came out of that promise, Esobe approached his lawyer, Oluchi Peter who did a letter again to the Prelate/Moderator on the subject matter, part of which read, “We did a letter earlier to the registered trustees of the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria through the principal clerk of the General Assembly of your church.
“The church convened a meeting asking our client to bring evidence of ownership of the said land in dispute, which he did.
Since that time, all attempts to convene another meeting to officially resolve the matter between the parties have proved abortive, as we will always attend and be told that the principal clerk who convened the meeting was absent.” This time around, the Prelate, His Eminence, Nzie Nsi Eke made his promise official. In a reply to the counsel’s letter dated July 5, 2019, he wrote, “I acknowledge receipt of your letter dated July 4, 2019.
Both parties mentioned in your letter are members of my church.I will look into the matter.” But almost one year after this last promise, nothing has been heard from the leadership of the church. And with this, the young Esobe appears to have lost faith in the leadership of the church settling the matter amicably going by its constant falling to keep to her promises.
Esobe narrated what appeared a tale from the Moonlight story by the church over the property. Hear him,
“The Presbyterian Church is claiming it bought the property from one Richardson Esinwoko of Umuelemoha, Mbawsi in the year 2000.
“Funny enough, this man died in 1997, so, the church bought the property from a dead man, a ghost so to say and this is a fact they hid from the Magistrate’s Court. I don’t believe the church should be doing such a thing.”
Reiterating why it may be difficult for the family to let go, Esobe said, “In the course of this matter, I lost my twin brother and my aged father is sick.
He was battling between the death of my twin brother and somebody snapped the demolished house and went and showed him, because it is the only thing he acquired in life, he immediately had stroke.