.Say, “We will resist him spiritually, legally and physically”
Over a hundred pastors gathered Thursday at the Lifeline Assembly Church, Owerri, which is also the Imo state Secretariat of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), in protest of what they described as arbitrary demolition of churches without due notice or process by the Governor Rochas Okorocha led administration in the state.
Addressing newsmen, the Imo state PFN Chairman, Bishop Maxwell Korie stated that since the inception of Governor Rochas Okorocha’s administration, Pentecostal churches have been demolished with such callousness and impunity as have never been witnessed in the history of Imo state.
According to Bishop Korie, in May alone, 23 Pentecostal churches were destroyed in one day and others have since been added to the long list of demolished Pentecostal churches in Imo state.
The PFN chairman added that the matter was further aggravated by the fact that the churches were given only three days notice before they were demolished.
Said he, “When the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) chairman for the state called the Chief of Staff to the Governor, Eze Madumere on the matter, he reassured him that no such demolition would take place, but unfortunately, that was a ploy to deceive the Church.”
Continuing Korie noted, “We recognize the fact that the government has a duty to build roads, while individuals have the right to shelter and habitation. We are also aware that investment in human capital is the greatest investment of any government, we are therefore shocked that the government of Rochas Okorocha could allow his supposed obligations to override the fundamental human rights of residents of the state.”
Korie gave instances reflecting the arbitrariness of the government: Bishop Steve Gbazie has a church located in a land around Nekede road duly purchased with Certificate of Occupancy and relevant documents and has paid its property rate up to date to 2012. Without notice the church was demolished last Monday, and the church overseer was not even allowed to redeem any property from the church. This was three days after an ‘Alhaji’ told the overseer that the church was marked for demolition in three days.
Similarly, Korie narrated that three days ago two Lebanese had come to the church premises to inform some members of the Lifeline Assembly that the church was marked to be demolished in two days. A day after, Korie observed that Governor Rochas Okorocha himself supervised the marking out of the church for demolition, without any notice or recourse to the pastor of the church.
The visibly agitated Bishop Korie said, “What we are witnessing in Imo state is a government that is involved in absolute absurdity and illegality, without any qualms in trampling on the rights of citizens of the state. We are prepared to spiritually, legally and physically resist the actions of Governor Rochas Okorocha.”
The leadership of PFN while stating that they would not be drawn into believing the rumour of the purported Islamization of the state by Okorocha for political ends, urged Governor Okorocha not to give them reason to begin to give thought to the said rumour.
Korie further noted that efforts to reach the governor had proved abortive as letters and requests for audience with him were all ignored.
However, as the pastors marched in protest to the Imo Government House, the Governor was compelled to give them audience. Addressing the cleric, Okorocha inferred that both government and the churches would have to shift grounds and reach a comfortable compromise. He explained that as development partners, there was need for the government and the PFN to chart points of beneficial collaboration in the development of the state.
The PFN had earlier commended the governor for his infrastructural developmental strides but advised that such developmental efforts must come with a human face.