The members of the Cathedral Church of Christ, Anglican Communion, in Akwete Community in Ukwa East LGA of Abia State, have protested that their Bishop has two wives and lives with them at the Bishop's court.
The Anglican Church in Akwete and the protesting members
All is not well with the Christ Church Cathedral [Anglican Communion], Akwete, Ukwa Diocese, Abia State. The diocese is enmeshed in crisis as members are at loggerheads with the bishop, Rt. Rev. Samuel Kelechi Eze.
In fact, the members have banned Eze from conducting church services and presiding over the affairs of the church. They are also pushing for him to vacate the Bishop’s House, his official residence.
Bone of contention
Among other allegations, the bishop is accused of being a polygamist; diocese members say he has two wives who live with him in the Bishop’s Court. Other allegations against Eze include maladministration of the diocese as well as not taking proper care of the priests working under him.
The attention of the Primate of the Anglican Church in Nigeria, Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh, has been drawn to the crisis. Indeed, the situation has got to the head when the Laity of Ukwa Diocese organized a protest against the bishop.
In a petition to the Primate, some members of the diocese urged him to intervene in the matter. In the petition, dated October 17, 2017 and entitled, ‘Urgent need to intervene and save the Cathedral Church of Christ, Akwete from certain doom’, the aggrieved members, in addition to accusing Eze of practicing polygamy, alleged that he dissolved the Church Committee duly elected and set up a 7-member caretaker committee; that he runs the Cathedral finances with a priest who had been transferred out of the Cathedral for eight years and that the bishop demoted and transferred the church’s resident Canon.
Besides the petition, a three-man delegation from the diocese, led by an elder and the 18th President General of the Joint Council of Knights, Anglican Communion, Chief Okere Eruba, visited the Primate in connection with the allegations.
Eze, however, denied all the claims against him. According to him, all the claims were trash, borne out of tribalism and selfish desires. He wondered how a bishop would marry two wives. The bishop said that the matter was being handled by the Primate and warned that the issue could lead to “serious litigation”. He accused the Archbishop Ikechi Nwosu of the Province of Aba of being behind his travails.
Eze, who replied to a text message sent to him by Sunday Vanguard, said he was out of the country and would talk more when he returned. “How can a bishop marry two wives?”, he asked rhetorically.
His text read: “This is a matter that the head of our church, the Primate, is handling and one that could lead to serious litigation. Everything they’re talking is trash, borne out of tribalism and selfish desires and masterminded by the archbishop. How can a bishop marry two wives? I am out of the country now but will soon be back. I will like to have a word with you when I am back. God bless you. Bishop Eze”.
Responding to the petition, the Primate mandated the Aba Provincial Bishops, under the leadership of Archbishop Nwosu, to investigate the allegations against Eze. Seven bishops from the Province joined the archbishop in the panel. They were said to have sat four times during which they interviewed Eze, the Ukwa Diocesan Board, aggrieved diocese members.
In a report to the Primate, the panel was said to have alleged, among other things, that Eze was “not quite willing to give us adequate information needed; the bishop and his wife have no cordial relationship and team work; there are administrative lapses between the bishop and his wife; there is weakness in financial accountability and probity; there is lack of grip in women’s ministries; Bishop Eze did not define his relationship with Gladys Chinazaekpere Nwosu; the bishop is not completely in control of the diocese”.
In a White Paper issued on the report, Primate Okoh, according to sources, upheld the recommendations and Eze was, among other things, asked “to be humble enough to own up to the depth of the relationship between him and Miss Gladys Chinazaekpere Nwosu, admit his fault and genuinely repent and reconcile with God; that the bishop should apologize and seek to be with the people of the Cathedral and other aggrieved parties if any; the bishop should sever such relationships with Miss Gladys or any other woman that may arouse any form of suspicion whatsoever; that the accounts of the Cathedral are to henceforth be operated in line with the Diocesan Constitution”.
Meanwhile, the Laity of Ukwa Diocese and some members of the diocese are not happy that the Primate has not been able to carry out the recommendations he allegedly upheld since January, alleging that nothing has changed in the running of the diocese. To further show their grievance, they held a protest in Akwete, urging Okoh to remove the bishop.
During the protest, they displayed various placards, some with inscriptions such as, ‘Primate, Holy Bible must always be upheld, otherwise we are hypocrites of the gospel’, ‘Rt. Rev. Samuel Kelechi Eze is keeping two women under his roof as wives’, ‘Bishop Eze of Ukwa Diocese has broken his canonical oath and he should be removed”. The coming days will determine the future of Ukwa Diocese.