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Ndi Nze na Ozo protest discrimination over burial of member by Church

The Traditional Council of Ndi Nze na Ozo in Eziama na Azara in Mbaitoli LGA, have written a letter of protest to the Bishop of the Owerri Anglican Diocese, Rt. Revd Dr. Chukwuma Oparah, expressing their dissatisfaction over discrimination against Ndi Nze and Ozo.

The letter, which also copied the Metropolitanand Primate, Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, the Senate Committee Chairman on Arts and Culture, the Commissioner for Chieftaincy and Local Government Affairs Imo State, Commissioner of Police, lmo State and the Christian Association of Nigeria, was as a result, of the refusal of the Church to conduct the burial of a member, of Nze na Ozo that died recently.

The letter of protest reads as follows:

Azara & Eziama
Mbaitoli L.G.A.
Imo State, Nigeria.
08100166374, 08184483014
Motto: Peace & Justice
February 8, 2021.

Rt. Revd Dr. Chukwuma Oparah,
Bishop of the Diocese of Owerri Anglican Communion, No.1 Mission Crescent, Owerri, Imo State, Nigeria.

Dear Lord Bishop,

Petition on the continued refusal of St. Thomas Anglican Church, Eziama Obiato, Mbaitoli LGA to participate in the funeral ceremony of Ndi Nze na Ozo in the community.

The Traditional Council of Ndi Nze na Ozo in Eziama na Azara in Mbaitoli LGA wish to draw your attention to the continued refusal of the Presiding Priests at St.Thomas Anglican Church Eziama Obiato, Mbaitoli LGA to officiate or participate at the burial ceremony of Ndi Nze na Ozo from the area when they go to be with the Lord.

This very disturbing and ugly development first occurred in 2016 when the then Vicar-in-Council led by Venerable Simon Duruji refused to conduct the burial service of Late Chief (Nze) Timothy Alachulam Okoronkwo despite him being a very active financial member during his life time. The reason adduced at the time for their refusal to participate at the burial was that the Diocese at a Synod meeting had resolved not to participate in the burial ceremony of any Nze when they die.

That burial service was eventually conducted by the Priests from St. Stephens Anglican Church Igbobi Fadeyi, Lagos where the late Nze spent most of his years and was actively involved in the activities of the Church.

Just recently, Nze John C. Ibekwe went to be with the Lord. Sadly, we have been reliably informed that at the PCC meeting of St. Thomas Anglican Church, Eziama Obiato, held on January 31, 2021, the Vicar Rev. Canon Basil Ubochiegbulem restated that he had been informed of the Synod decision barring Priests in the Diocese from officiating at the burial service of any Nze when they die.

Our Position
We wish to state unequivocally that we are unaware of any such decision by the Synod of the Diocese barring Priests from presiding at the burial of an Nze when they go to be with the Lord. If any such decision was taken, it is imperative to communicate same and also avail the people with the basis upon which it was reached.

The traditional title of Nze is held in very high esteem by the tradition and custom of Igboland. The Nzes work with the Igwe and help in adjudication and conflict resolution within the Community being custodians of the culture of the people. It is also imperative fo state that there is nothing fetish in the selection process of Ndi Nze no Ozo and their installation procedure is similar to that for Chiefs even though their office is more recognized and elevated in the Igbo tradition given the critical role they play in maintaining peaceful coexistence among the people.

Ndi Nze no Ozo are respected upright members of the community with proven impeccable character and do not violate any rule or doctrine of the Anglican Church in Nigeria. They are not gay, are not required to swear to an oath during selection or installation, and are not mandated to belong to a secret cult.

We are aware that Priests from other Churches within the Diocese officiate at the burial service of Ndi Nze no Ozo. We are therefore at a loss as to why the case of St. Thomas Anglican Church is different. It is preposterous that the Parish would glowingly recognize Ndi Nze na Ozo in their lifetime, accord them all the privileges of membership, accept their offering, tithes, pledges and other donations and then deny them when they die. Why are Ndi Nze no Ozo suddenly being treated differently from Chiefs and other custodians of the Igbo traditional culture and custom in Eziama Obiato? Is this consistent with what obtains in other Dioceses in the Anglican Communion in Nigeria? If not, such double standard which is likely to undermine the Igbo tradition and custom leading to division and disenchantment in the Body of Christ in the Anglican Communion should certainly be discouraged.

Our Prayer
Your Lordship, we humbly request you as our Father in the Lord to direct the Vicar-in-Council at St. Thomas Anglican Church Eziama Obiato to retrace their steps and provide all the support required for the burial of Nze John C. lbekwe who throughout his lifetime was an active member of the Parish.

We crave your indulgence Lord Bishop, to also direct that an official position on the status of Ndi Nze na Ozo in the Diocese be communicated to all the Parishes. This will bring closure to this matter and forestall any likely break-down of law and order. If Ndi Nze no Ozo are not welcomed in the Anglican Communion, it would be expedient for them to know to enable them take appropriate steps during their life time on where and how to worship God.

While we look forward to your fatherly intervention, please be assured of the continued support and cooperation of the Traditional Council of Ndi Nze no Ozo in Eziama & Azara, Mbaitoli Imo State.

Yours in Christ,
For Traditiorial Council of Ndi Nze no Ozo,

Nze Gideon Achinnaole

Nze Emmanuel Okoro

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