The Traditional Ruler of Orji autonomous community, in Owerri North Local Government Area of Imo State, His Royal Highness, Eze Innocent Opara, Eze Ugo 2 of Orji, is presently in very deep trouble as leaders and stakeholders in the community, have threatened to initiate legal action against him over what they described as his dubious and questionable role in the alleged outright sale of Nkwo Orji market, contrary to the former lease arrangement.

The President General of the community, Comrade Leo Oguike and Secretary, Tony Osuji, in a release they jointly signed alleged that the Monarch unilaterally, changed the initial terms of the Build, Run and Transfer (BRT) agreement with A.A Allied Agro Company Ltd, that constructed lock up shops in the market after it was demolished in 2018.

The release which is said to have captured the views of all well meaning leaders, and residents of Orji autonomous community who the market serves reads thus, “In 1996/97, Nkwo Orji market was reconstructed by the defunct Owerri Local Government Area. At that time, families that owned lands in Nkwo Orji market, were given compensatory slots, based on the size of their land holdings. Other members of Orji community, paid for 80% of allotted shops which they constructed into lockup shops.

The demolition of Nkworji Market in 2018, birthed an agreement between Orji community (represented by the Traditional Ruler of Orji, HRH, Eze Innocent Opara, Eze Ugo 2 and the then President General, Engr. Richard Opara) and A.A Allied and Agro-Company Ltd., to construct lock-up shops with the clause “BUILD RUN TRANSFER – BRT). The shops were to be returned to Orji community after 6 years, which will elapse in 2024. That agreement also stated that a portion of the market, built as open stalls, numbering 180, was given ‘free of charge’ to Orji community as compensation. 

On 9/11/2022, the portion given to Orji Community was given out to K-VICS Construction Company Ltd., to “BUILD AND SELL” with the caveat that the land belongs to Owerri North LGA, which is not true. The MoU also indicated that a donation of ₦5m was made to Orji community, by K-VICS Construction Company Ltd for the purpose of a Health centre.  A total of 133 shops were constructed, and are currently being sold for ₦7m each. The sale of the market without statutory and commensurate compensation to Orji Community, prompted the Orji Women Organisation Federated (OWO) to protest and lock-up the shops, leading to the arrest of the President of OWO, by men of the Tiger base anti-kidnapping unit of Imo State Police Command headquarters, Owerri…..the case is ongoing. 

We stand on equity and insist that while the Developer should not lose his investment, Orji community should also not lose their ancestral market.  Our position is that a new agreement should replace the MoU with the “Build and Sell^ clause 

The new agreement should be based on “Build Operate and Transfer”, 

Put in simple terms: 

Let the OUTRIGHT SALE clause in the MoU be changed to LEASEHOLD which would conform with the intent clearly stated in the Allocation papers from the Ministry of Trade and Commerce (to wit Public Private Partnership; PPP).

This is our irrevocable position in Orlu Development Union (ODU) and we will insist on it.

We believe that if we change the conditions from outright sale to a leasehold, the community will benefit more in future. 

One  may ask, what about those who have already paid for the shops?; On that note,  we believe that the amount paid for the shops can be converted to rent, if the clause is changed to leasehold. Since the developer has already built-in his profit in fixing the price of the shops, we believe that the simple arithmetic is to convert the total price paid ( as receipted) , to rent, and divide it by the annual rent, to get the number of years that a tenant will stay, before it expires, and revert to Orji community. E.g… if a tenant bought his shop for #7m, and the prevailing rent is #500k per annum,  we can divide #7m by #500k , to get 14 years. That means that in the next 14 years,, Orji community will inherit a total of 133 shops constructed, rather than going home with only 10 shops, as is being offered us. If the 33 shops are shared by 10 villages, it means each village will get 13 shops in the next 14 years. This, we believe, will leave a good legacy for the next generation of Orji people. This way, Nkworji will remain Nkwo Orji, rather than be turned to Nkwo Okigwe or Nkwo Arondizuogu.

We therefore call on all lovers of goodwill in Orji community, all lovers of the sustainability of our ancestral market, to support our Town Union in its bid to prosecute all the fraudulent signatories to the purported MoU. Nkworji shall remain Nkwo Orji, and not Nkwo Arondizuogu.

Other members of the community who spoke to this reporter on the condition of anonymity accused the traditional ruler, HRH, Eze Innocent Opara, of high handedness, intolerance, excessive attachment to pecuniary benefits, involvement in alleged shady land deals and undue interference in the affairs of Nkwo Orji market, with a view to appropriating the funds generated from there without carrying the leadership and members of the community along.

These, they said have made the Monarch who should be revered, to lose the respect and confidence of his subjects and at the same time truncated the relative peace and harmony in the community.

When contacted, the President General of Orji Town Union, Comrade Oguike, said, “Orji people are peaceful and law abiding. We also attach importance to due process and rule of law. That is why we have decided to seek redress in court, instead of taking the law into our hands. We have spoken to the youths and all aggrieved members of the community to remain calm and avoid chaos, no matter the level of provocation and they obliged us”.

It was also alleged that the immediate past Sole Administrator (SOLAD) of Owerri North Local Government Area, Barr Tony Umezuruike (Ariri Eri Mba) the former Commissioner and Management of the Ministry of Commerce in Imo State, the former President of Imo State Market Traders Association ISAMATA, Hon Emmanuel Ezeanochie, who also doubled as the Special Adviser to the Governor on Market Development and his executive, including one David Okoko, in connivance with Eze Innocent Opara, aided and abetted the alleged fraudulent sale of Nkwo Orji market to K-VICKS Construction company Ltd.

This, they reportedly did by giving questionable approvals and appending their signatures to the documents that facilitated the faulty transaction.