An 80-year-old woman, Mrs Eunice Oyobere, has appealed to the Delta State Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, to direct the leadership of Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Olori Street in Ughelli, to demolish and realign a fence that has stopped her and several other neighbours from accessing their houses after denial for over one year.
The appeal was sequel to a ruling by a Delta State High Court in the Ughelli judicial division which upheld the summoning processes by security operatives to determine a case of ‘assault’ on personal liberty and encroachment by the church.
Trial judge, Justice J. A. Edun, in suit number UHC/112/2021 on November 15 ruled that the police had the right to invite the petitioning church over the erection of a fence that obstructed the right of way in a neighbourhood in the cement-producing town that could lead to a breakdown of public peace.
The case pertains to an application brought before the court by the vicar of the church, Rev. Samson Akpovwovwo (the applicant), against the Delta State Police Commissioner and others (the defendants), seeking reliefs according to the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules 2009, for reliefs to validate its construction of blockage of the only access road to the octogenarian’s house, among those of other neighbours, at No. 16c, Olori Street, Ughelli.
The applicant in the case, Vicar Akpovwovwo, had on behalf of the church deposed to an application at the court, seeking reliefs that the blockage of the access road did not breach the peace, nor amounted to non-justification, based on the ground of ‘suspicion to the commission of an offence’.
But led by Dr. Ovuekeraye Oyobere, had on behalf of himself (as the fifth) and others, the respondents said the woman and their neighbours had been subjected to ‘wickedness’ because they had always been compelled to scale through the fence of theirs and adjoining buildings to get to their homes, a situation that had affected their health for over a year since the erection of the vicarage wall.
The sobbing octogenarian, who narrated her ordeal on Saturday in Ughelli, said she had lived in her house, No. 16C, Olori Street, for well over 10 years before the church suddenly blocked the access road leading to her house and several others.
She stated that the act, which was described as ‘wicked’ by other neighbours, had compelled them to scale through the fence of other adjourning buildings to get to their homes, adding that the situation has affected her health.
The court held that the rights of the liberties of the applicants must be held, adding that the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th respondents: the Delta State Police Command, the Area Commander (Ughelli), Inspector Helen Obehi, and the Area (Town) Planning Officer, J.E. Sekobe, had the right to summon the church and its agents on the matter, to avoid a breakdown of law and order.
It is a victory of matter for the Oyoberes and their neighbours, but they are calling on the state governor to wade into the issue of enforcement, considering the heavy-handed manner security operatives had waded in the matter in the past to enforce the building of the fence.
The family said they had separately written, in 2015 and 2020, to the Delta State Ministry of Lands and Urban Development, protesting against the planned and eventual blockage of the access road, ”but no concrete action has been taken by the authorities concerned for over one year”.
A sobbing Mrs Oyobere, therefore, said she was “appealing to our governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, to intervene in this matter. I know he is a God-fearing governor who listens to the plight of his people. We all know that there is a road in this place and the church knows that there is a road in the place.”
An affected neighbour who also resides at No 16B, Olori Street, Moses Ubogu, lamented, “It was the Vicar of the church who took the decision that we should be fenced out. We cannot access our building from the road for over one year.