The Anglican Church came to Nkwerre in 1913 through Nkwerre traders and travelers who came in contact with Opobo and Bonny people. By 1914, Nkwerre had three family Churches thus: Chief Anyiam’s Church which was built at the present Nkwerre Central School; Mrs Dorcas Ejifor’s church which was patronized by Chief Echefu Ejiofor and was built at Abanihu- the present site of Umulolo village hall Amaegbu; and lastly the Amaorji Church which was built near Eke Nkwerre market, close to the shrine of Aji Mmiri. The Church came in 1917 by Ikeji Achigbu and Agugua of Amaorji who traded in Opobo and Bonny.
At this time, Mr. Gbanigo an NDP teacher assisted the Church. When in 1918 Osisiogu Achigbu of Amaorji village took over the leadership of the Church. He applied to Chief Anyiam of Umunaga for better site for the church. Chief Anyiam granted his plea and gave him the Mbara Nwikpa the present St. Paul’s Church Nkwerre. It was at the instance of Chief Anyiam that the village congregations joined St. Paul’s Church Nkwerre. It was about this time Rev Jame’s Ibeneme arrived at Nkwerre with his Central School.
The presence of Rev Ibeneme gave teeth to the unification of the village Churches and a Church teacher Mr Moses Ibeto of Nnewi was posted as the first Church Teacher. Missionary expansion took off from Ubulu – 1913, Amaokpara 1913 -1914, Ogberuru -1914, Awo Idemiri 1914, Otulu -1914, Owerre Nkworji -1916, Amaigbo -1916, Omuma- 1916, Nnempi-1916. From Nkwerre, Missionary expansion took off to Umudi -1918, Amike -1919, Abba -1919, Mgbidi -1919, Amandugba – 1921 but through Ihiala Awo-Omamma 1923, Ihiteowerre 1924, Okpro -1924, Amaifeke -1924, Amadara – 1925, Nnenasa-Okwudor – 1936, but through the early Missionaries who were on their way to Egbu. From 1939 to 1946 Owerri District became an Archdeaconry.
C.M.S Missionary enterprise grew from there to what became Owerri Diocese in – 1946 -1959. In 1978 -1982 there was a strong demand by the Christians leaders in Okigwe/Orlu Archdeaconry for the creation of a new Diocese out of Owerri Diocese. Chief R. I U zoma was the architect and led the Movement. The Rt. Rev.B.C Nwankiti agreed that a new Diocese would be created but not in 1978. In 1979 the delegation came with greater zeal. Bishop Nwankiti’s idea of splitting the Diocese into four Archdeaconries instead of dissuading the team made their demand appear with vigorous stance.
On 23rd of February, 1980, the Lord Bishop of Owerri Diocese in a meeting declared that I quote “I want to make it clear that I am not in principle, against the splitting of Owerri Diocese. NO Bishop will block the legitimate wishes of the people of God in his care. But any Bishop who does not enable the people to identify their priorities is an irresponsible Bishop…”
By 1981, the Bishop set up an advisory committee on the creation of Diocese in Owerri. The committee of 24 people was headed by Chief R.I. Uzoma. The committee later submitted its report. To satisfy the provincial recommendation of 1982 on creation of Diocese, Okigwe/Orlu Christian Association raised fund from Okigwe and Orlu Archdeaconries to build a Bishopcourt at Nkwerre. The house was completed in June 1983 and in the Obowo Synod in July 1983 the Diocesan Synod recommended that the application of Okigwe/Orlu be forwarded to the standing Committee of Church of Nigeria.
With the expectation that a new Diocese will be created in 1984, the Silver Jubilee year, a war of calumny misrepresentation, in mistrust, gossip, allegations and counter allegation took over the Clergy house of Alvan Ikoku College of Education where we had our most qualified materials and Clergy .The outcome of the nasty and ugly situation was that at the creation of the Diocese in 1984, Rt. Rev. Samuel Nwokorie Ebo albinitio Bishop of Jos was translated to take over the spiritual oversight of Okigwe Orlu. The Rt. Rev.Samuel Nwokorie Ebo on return from Jos laid a very formidable foundation for the Diocese of Okigwe Orlu through a five Archdeaconry structure that marked the beginning of his administration. He initiated programmes in education, health and SME’s. The Clergy and laity Directorate were established. Bishop Ebo displayed a wonderful skill in personality evangelism. Names like Sir Chief R,I. Uzoma, Sir John Anyaehie Mr Anyiam, Sir Frank Ikpa, Sir S.B.N. Emejuru, Sir Samuel Oguekusi, Godwin Ozowara, Chief Obi (Mechanic), Agubata, Otiwu, and Ohakwe, Chief Igboasoiyi, Chief Ugbede, chief Mrs. Akwiwu, Mrs.Oguekusi, Dr. E. E .Emezie, Chief Dennis Okorogu Chief Sir Dr. Ezeka Okafor, now Chief Eze Onyejekwe, Chief Emma Akwiwu and Chief Obasi, Chief Emma Nwoha, Chief B.I.D Ezeogu, Chief T. T. C Mbakwe, Sir Dr. Walter Ofonagoro. People like Sir John Nwachukwu, Lay Synod Secretary and others were to fashion the vision of Bishop S.C.N. Ebo. Note that I have not mentioned the whole names. Late Ven John Oparaocha, late Ven Dan Ezirim, Ven V.A.C. Iwuagwu, Ven . H. Akaniro,Rev. Canon Dr. E.E. Obilo Ven Madukakolam, Rev. Canon Nweke, The Ven B.C.I . Okoro, with clergy men like Rev. Godson Ukanwa, Rev Christian Ebisike, Rev. David Onuoha and later Rev. Benjamin Okeke were there as their chaplains.
In 1994 the Diocese of Okigwe Orlu that came out of Owerri brought into being two new Dioceses of Okigwe North and Okigwe South with Rt. Rev. A.I.S. Nwaizuzu as Bishop of Okigwe North, Headquarters at Okigwe and Rt. Rev B.C.I. Okoro as Bishop of Okigwe South with Headquarters at Ezeoke. In June 1999 the Rt. Rev Bennett Okoro was translated to Orlu following the retirement of Rt. Rev.Samuel Ebo from active Episcopal oversight of Orlu Diocese, having been nominated and duly elected by the Episcopal Synod of the Church of Nigeria to give Orlu Diocese its post natal nurture and stability having first given birth to Okigwe North, South and Ideato Dioceses.
As regards industrial and commercial establishments, the vision of Mission Committee (VOMC) competently headed by H.R.H Sir (Eze) Joseph Nzegwu had been on the ground as their governing board, the VOMC acts as umbrella sheltering the projects; as a catalyst energizing them and as a skeletal framework variously pinnately nerving them for effective functioning. Thus there is WAFER (Communion Bread) Industry; and there are also small scale Agricultural projects such as fish farming, high oil yielding, palm plantation, fruit orchards, market gardening, livestock farming etc.
In addition to the Diocesan Industries and Agricultural projects controlled by the VOMC, there are other Industrial / Commercial Establishments exclusively run by the Diocesan women’s Ministry, admirably by the Archbishop’s wife, Nneoma Dora Okoro (JP). The industries / projects include: textile/ weaving, soap / detergent, manufacture, table water industry, toilet tissue industry, etc.
As at now, after relinquishing a number of Health Institutions located in the Dioceses to such Dioceses, the parent Diocese of Orlu is left with one bouncing Mission Hospital and Maternity located at Uburu Ekwe.
The widest stride so far taken by the on-going visionary Episcopacy /Arch Episcopacy is in the area of Spiritual Growth. The spiritual awakening envisage by the founding fathers of the parent Diocese has been deeply enkindled in the people (the indigenes of the Diocese), and has been manifesting itself in many shapes or forms. Such shapes /forms include free will donations in cash and materials, to the Church of God, by individuals and by groups. In this respect, the ultra-modern Cathedral Church of SS Peter and John The Divine, Nkwerre, costing billions of naira, and single handedly built by Sir Chief J.R. Anyaehie and perpetually bequeathed to the Diocese, deserves a special mention. Here and there in the Diocese, parsonage buildings, Bishop’s Guest Houses, and even Church buildings, erected by individuals and committed groups (such as order of St. Christopher) have been donated to the church. Vehicles (cars and buses) have been purchased by individuals at staggering costs, and donated to the Priests or to Churches and Parishes, to ameliorate operational difficulties and transport problems. Parcels of land have been donated to the Church by individuals or groups, for sitting church projects and for agricultural land use by the Diocese. An example here is the parcel of land for the Diocesan Church centre. Still there have been donations to the Diocese and the church of God, by individuals and groups in form of handsome cash and various types of infra-structural facilities and utilities. The deeply esteemed and spiritual motivated donors and benefactors of the Diocesan are, indeed, so numerous that listing or naming them against the details of their “kind deeds” alone will form a very big book. The Diocese of Orlu, appreciates their goodwill, upholding them in prayers, and asking God to reward them and replenish their resources abundantly, Amen.
SOME KEY OFFICERS OF THE DIOCESE
The two prelates that have so far piloted the ship of leadership in the Diocese have already been named in the foregoing paragraph(s) and their exemplary Episcopacies / Arch-Episcopacy described. The founding fathers of the Diocese have also been mentioned. In addition to the prelates and the founding fathers, the Diocese had the advantage and the blessings of the services of renowned key officers that have immensely made worthy contributions in fashing an ideal Diocese THE PARENT DIOCESE OF ORLU.
Three provosts and two deans have had their turns in effectively administering the Diocese. In a chronological order they are: Very Rev. (now Most Rev.) B.C.I. Okoro; Very Rev C.O. Maduakolam of the blessed memory; Very Rev. (now Rtd Rt. Rev) G. C. Echefu, Very Rev. B.C. Okeke, Very Rev Emma Aguoru the present DEAN, Two very senior priests acted a Vicars-General in the pioneer Episcopacy. They are the Ven. G.N. Nweke and Very Rev. (now Rtd Rt. Rev G.C. Echefu.
The Clerical synod Secretaries that have served the Diocese are: The Rev. Canon (Rtd Ven) D.C. Ogamba (1984-1992, the Rev. Canon (now Rtd Ven.) S.O. Onuoha 1993), the Rev Canon Dr. (now Ven. Dr.) Abraham C. Okorie (1994-1999), the Ven. Francis N. Chukwukere, (1999-2009), and the Ven. Maxwell Mgbemere, Ph.D, the incumbent Clerical Synod Secretary /Archdeacon Theologian.
Three Lay Synod Secretaries have so far served the Diocese. They are Sir Chief S.B.N. Emejuru (1984-1987), Sir John A. Nwachukwu (1987 – 2002); and Sir Billy Gershon Ukwuoma the incumbent officer.
Four Education Secretaries have served the Diocese since its inception in 1984. They are Sir Chief Sampson Emejuru (1984 – 1987); Sir John A. Nwachukwu (1987 – 2002); Sir Chief Timothy Iheanacho (2002 – 2005); and Sir Billy Gershon Ukwuoma the incumbent officer.
Three Financial secretaries / Diocesan Accountants and four Diocesan Treasurers have served the financial department of the Diocese since its inception in 1984. The pioneer Financial Secretary was Sir Abraham Uzoho, who handed over to Mr. Emma Ogbonna, who in turn signed off to the present / incumbent officer Sir John Iheanacho (JP). The earliest Diocesan Treasurer was Sir Josiah Okeke of the blessed memory from whom Sir Josiah Agunanne took over. Sir Samuel Anuebunwa took over from Sir Josiah Agunanne and handed to Mrs. Okwuchi Ohiri, the incumbent officer, after a meritorious service of over thirteen years.
Not actually mentioned in the strict order of protocol, but as an umbrella under whose legal protection the entire Diocese lies, is the leadership of the legal department of the Diocese. The pioneer chancellor was Sir Chief Emma Akwiwu (SAN) who, after a very long and meritorious service, handed over to his deputy, Sir Chief Goddy Anunihu a legal luminary and a High Court Judge. Hon. Justice Anunihu, the present chancellor, is being assisted by His Worship, Lady Eziada G.I. Chukwunyere, also a legal luminary, and other renowned legal officers.