The Catholic Church in Ebonyi is seeking justice for Reverend Father Timothy Ngwuta incarcerated over alleged involvement in the Effium-Ezza Effium fratricidal conflict in the state.
The Church, in a statement signed by Rev. Fr Mathew Uzoma, Chancellor, Catholic Diocese of Abakaliki, said that Ngwuta vehemently denied all charges brought against him before the bishop of the diocese and implored those responsible for the priest’s incarceration to “listen to the voice of right conscience”.
“He was arrested by the police on Dec. 21, 2021 at Mbeke-Ishieke, Ebonyi Local Government Area of the state while assisting a friend retrieve his vehicle which broke down.
“He went to the police to secure a clearance which was granted after settling the entitlements for guarding the vehicle for two weeks.
“A local vigilante accosted him and his team while inflating the tyres of the vehicle and he told them that the entitlement given to the police also covered theirs.
“Another set of vigilante swooped on him and this caused a rift between both groups with Ngwuta arrested and taken to the same police station which earlier gave him clearance,” the statement read.
Ngwuta was subsequently transferred to the state police headquarters and released on Dec. 23, 2021 due to deteriorating health conditions.
“He was re-arrested on March 8, 2022 and three days later, arraigned in court for kidnapping and murder of the five Nelan Construction Company engineers supervising a road project at the crisis area, among other charges.
“We are worried over how an issue of vehicle retrieval outside the conflict area (another LGA) has metamorphosed into such accusations, as Ngwuta had disclosed the identity of the vehicle owner to the police.
“Efforts to secure his bail has been hampered by an executive order preventing any court in the state from entertaining matters relating to the Effium crisis.”
The church said that it would not shield anyone who perpetrated violent acts in the state.