By Jude Atupulazi
A leading member of Nkerehi Community in Orumba South LGA of Anambra State, Barr Basil Igwike, has described as untrue, the claim by some persons in neighbouring Umuchukwu Community about the conduct of a referendum on the change of the original name of the community from Nkerehi to Umuchukwu.
Fides understands that the current crisis among some elements of the two communities was caused by disagreement over the change of name.
The President General of Umuchukwu Town, Comrade Emeka Adinchezor, had earlier told Fides that following the disagreement over the change of name, a referendum was conducted between the two communities during the regime of former Governor Peter Obi by the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters in which, the PG said, Umuchukwu won by an overwhelming majority.
But speaking to Fides, Barr Igwike said there was never a time such happened in Nkerehi Town which the two factions participated.
‘In 2007, when we saw that Mr. Dubem Obaze, the then Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters, was about to change the town’s name, we sued them to court under prohibition which does not require pre action notice.
‘Umuchukwu sent an application for change of name to his office, stating that Nkerehi Progressive Union’s Constitution empowered them to make such application, but they failed to quote the section and refused to attach a copy of the town’s Constitution to justify their application.
We drew the attention of the commissioner to these anomalies but he rebuffed us, insisting that he would carry out the referendum which was for formality sake because he had already written the result in favour of Umuchukwu which we noticed by his conduct.
‘This was the reason we sued him in court. The ruling was against us on 12 December 2007, we quickly filed an appeal and motion for stay of execution pending appeal and served the relevant parties. The motion was slated to be heard on 21st January 2008,’ he said, regretting that the Anambra State Government at the time, claimed that they conducted a referendum on 7th January 2008 and gave the result as 99 percent in favour of Umuchukwu.
‘The date the court in Aguata fixed for the hearing of the motion for stay of execution or injunction, pending appeal, was 24th January 2008, but the Umuchukwu faction claimed that they conducted a referendum on 7th January 2008. Again as at that 2007 when the controversy was raging,
we quickly wrote to the House of Assembly, informing them that the issue of change of name of Nkerehi Town was being challenged in court and appealed to them not to entertain any bill to that effect and the house replied us that they would not interfere with any issue that was in court. That is the position till date,’ Igwike submitted.
‘The truth is that no member of Nkerehi faction participated in the kangaroo referendum. Again when the government issued a gazette in 2008 that purported to have changed the town’s name to Umuchukwu, the substantive law suit against the government of Anambra State in AG/102/2007 had not been disposed of and is still pending in court till date. The said gazette was issued sub judice which we challenged in court by amending our claim in the suit,’ Igwike said.
He contended further that the issue of the gazette was made ultra vires as it was the sole responsibility of the legislative arm as contained under the Local Government Laws of Anambra State 2000 as amended.
He said the court had also given a ruling that both Nkerehi and Umuchukwu factions should be carrying out their functions separately without any interference from the other pending the final determination of the matter in court.
Igwike said the ruling was issued by Justice Anigbogu, siting at High Court, Aguata, in 2012, but that the other faction had been violating the court order.