Youths of Okpuno Community in Awka South Local Government Area yesterday marched to the Government House, Awka, to protest alleged siting of a filling station in the field of a primary school in Nodu Village of the community by a Catholic Church in the area.
The said project which, according to the protesters, began two months ago, was rejected by the community because of its health threats and possible disaster, given that the same compound accommodates school pupils as well.
According to the people, letters and petitions had been written to relevant authorities, including the Governor’s Office, the Catholic Bishop of Awka Diocese, Anambra State Commissioner of Police, Department of Petroleum Resources, Department of State Service and others, to stop work at the site and caution the sponsors, but nothing was done.
Speaking to the ABS, the General Chairman of Okpuno Community, Mr Chuka Onyachu, alleged that a priest in-residence of the identified church had, after the community had directed that work at the project site be stopped, ignored the community’s petitions, threatening to ‘shoot’ anyone that interrupts work at the site.
An Okpuno town union representative, Mr Anayo Nkemdilim, the General Chairman of Nodu Village, Okpuno, Mr Innocent Onwubiko as well as the youth representative, Mr Williams Obidike, spoke separately on the bone of contention, noting that instead of a filling station, which could cause both health and environmental hazards, the church could erect a micro finance bank, cottage hospital or something else to attract revenue and develop the community.
Addressing the demonstrators, shortly before following them to the site of the project, the Senior Special Assistant to Governor Willie Obiano on Security, Mr Oscar Christopher, commended them for toeing the line of peace and assured that their grievances would be carefully looked into by the state government.
When ABS crew visited the Catholic Church’s presbytery, to speak with the priest in question, it was said that he was not home.
Reached on telephone, the priest, Reverend Father Emmanuel Offormata, disclosed that the property in question belongs to the Catholic Diocese of Awka, adding that after he had met major stakeholders in the community about the matter, they gave their nod, assuring him that they were not opposed to the development of the area.
He alleged that the protests were sponsored by an undisclosed influential person in the community and the project was sited metres away from the school compound and has a wall barricading it from the main school premises.