From Stanley Uzoaru, Owerri
Although Igbo tradition is explicit on inheritance, the family of late Athanasius Akuchie of Umulede, Umuonyeali-Ugo in Ihitte Mbieri, Owerri North Local Government, Imo State, is sharply divided over who inherits their father’s compound. The once happy family of six siblings; three males and three females, is up in arms against itself.
The females are all married.
The eldest in the family and first son, Eugene, left the shores of Nigeria in 1978 in search of greener pastures. His return was only in 2013 during their mother’s funeral and afterwards, he went back to his base.
Trouble started when the second son, Jonathan, who is chairman, Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), Owerri, claimed, no portion of land was given to him by the family. So, he decided to build a house at the back of their late father’s building inside the family compound.
He actually started the foundation but four of his siblings kicked.
They insisted that the portion belonged to their eldest brother, Eugene. But Jonathan enjoys the backing of the first daughter of the family, Catherine.
He maintained that since his younger brother, Fidelis was given a portion of land where he built a house he too should be allowed to build at the back of their father’s building. He argued that since the rest of his siblings left the compound, he has been the one living there and taking care of the place.
The situation was aggravated when Eugene wrote to his brothers that he was returning home with his family but no place to shelter them. He sent some money home to renovate their father’s building for him and his family to live.
But Jonathan refused. He insisted he too has a right to live in his father’s house since nobody provided him with land to build on. On July 21, 2022, Fidelis started renovating the building.
Jonathan was infuriated on getting wind of what his younger brother did to the house in his absence. He reported the matter to the police.
He told police in his statement: “Fidelis, my younger brother has rendered me homeless and destroyed all my properties in my residence.
For so many years, I have been living in my father’s house in my village.
“Fidelis came with thugs and removed the roof of the building and destroyed the doors and ceilings. They stole my N1,250,000 while I was away to work.
“At night, it rained heavily. The rain destroyed all my documents, drugs, furniture, foams, shoes, clothes, electronics, both my wife’s and children’s belongings. I also saw that he destroyed the windscreen and body of my car, even my uncompleted building.”
Jonathan told Daily Sun that his younger brother’s action was causing him so much pain and psychological trauma, adding that his wife and two children were taking shelter with relatives “while I hangout anywhere I see around to lay my head.”
Catherine berated Eugene and Fidelis for taking such action. Fidelis spoke to Daily Sun the day he addressed elders of their community, admitting that he removed the roof of the house but not with bad intentions.
According to him, their elder brother who is the rightful owner of the building asked him to remove it and put a better one in place in preparation for his return with his family from overseas.
He alleged: “Joe has refused to vacate the Ala Isi Obi (our father’s main building) which traditionally belongs to Eugene as the first son even when he and I have been given Ala Obi as custom demands from Eugene the first son.
“I built my own house and vacated the Isi Ala Obi. Joe also built his own house but refused to vacate the Isi Ala Obi. Instead, he left skeletal properties there, because he does not have a stake in the property. Joe has left the house to dilapidate to an extent that part of it has collapsed.
“Now, Eugene, his elder brother and first son has retired from service and wished to come home for rest. He accordingly informed Joe to remove his remaining property from the Isi Ala Obi to enable him renovate the building in preparation to his home coming. This was put in writing and dated 17/10/2021 and copied me after many oral discussions between the three of us.
“As the days approached for his return, Joe refused to shift grounds.
Eugene approached our village meeting requesting them to prevail on Joe to do the needful. When he did not respond to the request through the kinsmen, Eugene approached our maternal people in a letter dated March 28, 2022.
“Despite all the entreaties, Joe started the erection of a duplex at the back of the Isi Ala Obi. When information about that got to Eugene, he released some funds to start the renovation of the building. Consequently on July 21, I started pulling down the roof which has caved in with a view to replacing same immediately.”
Their younger sister, Mrs Stella Eze, said: “Our parents wherever they are now would be crying. This is not what they expected from Jonathan.
I don’t support his action in any way.”
From his base abroad, Eugene in a telephone chat told Daily Sun: “I’m still the first son of Athanasius. I have done what I should do as the first son by giving each of them their Ala Obi. Now I want to come back but have no place. That’s why I sent money to my brother to renovate the Isi Ala Obi for me.
“Igbo tradition demands that I as the first son should occupy my father’s compound. Why is he (Jonathan) being greedy after he had built his own house? I mandated my junior brother to renovate the house because nobody is even living there anymore.”
President general, Ihitte Mbieri autonomous community, Chief Chima Ahanotu, said: “Nobody would see such a thing and clap. It’s a very bad move especially considering that the person you’re doing it to is your biological brother. I condemn it in its totality.”