BY TONY EDIKE
ENUGU— The Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministries, MFM, a popular church in Enugu was, yesterday, demolished by Enugu State Government.
The large worship centre, located at the foot of the ZikAvenueBridge in EnuguState capital, was demolished after it was said to be sitting illegally on two plots of about 2,000 square metres.
The pastors and members of the church, who were said to have been praying for God’s intervention in the matter since the government declared its intention to demolish the building last year, watched helplessly as four bulldozers reduced the one-storey structure to rubble.
They rushed into the building and moved the church property to one side of the auditorium, pleading with the officials of Enugu Capital Territory Development Authority, ECTDA, who were supervising the demolition, to spare the property.
Law enforcement agents, comprising men of the Police Mobile Force and the Nigerian Security and Civil Defense Corps, NSCDC, prevented some youths of the church from stopping ECTDA officials from demolishing the structure. No arrests were made.
Enugu government had declared the building illegal, saying it was built along the Asata stream, allegedly violating the state’s town planning laws.
However, the church had dragged the state government to court and obtained an injunction restraining government from demolishing the building.
But while the matter was in court, government allocated another land to the church with a directive to the church leaders to relocate without delay.
The alternative allocation was situated at Emeka Ebilla Avenue off Agbani Road, but the church was said to be reluctant in relocating the popular worship centre, insisting that government must pay compensation to enable it erect another building at the new location.
Government, however, declined and reportedly gave the church some months to vacate the building, which was thereafter marked for demolition.
Why we can’t relocate— Pastor
A pastor of the church, Kennedy Udogaranya, said that the church and officials of the state’s Ministry of Lands had engaged in dialogue over the issue, but they were surprised to see government officials with bulldozers yesterday.
He said that the church could not gain access to the new land allocated to them because of the dispute between Ngwo and Amechi people over the land.
He explained that the church had informed the government of the difficulties in relocating to the place and officially requested for time to enable the two communities settle their differences over ownership of the land.
The pastor said that the haste with which the government demolished the building had given the impression that government had other motives for the demolition.
Udogaranya said even though government had given them an alternative location, they should not be evicted in a hurry as the church would not conduct services on an undeveloped plot.
A statement by the Commissioner for Enugu Capital Territory Development Authority, Mr. Ikechukwu Ugwuegede, yesterday, said government demolished the structure because “it was illegal and unapproved as an application for approval was considered and rejected in March 2012.”
He said that the reasons for the rejection of the application included “overbuilding of the property, with more than 100 percent built upon, encroaching into stream and road reserves, construction outside the purpose of the property as the area was designated for commercial development and not for institutional use.
“There was evidence of structural instability. There was evidence of failure of some of the reinforced concrete elements at the northern end of the basement area of the structure.”
“No responsible government will stand and permit a predictable catastrophe to befall its people .”
He said government had already identified other structures “which must be brought down to prevent any unsafe condition or illegal structure from remaining.”