BY ONYEKA ONWUCHEKWA
LIKE an interminable incubus, the Friday, October 18, 2013 demolition of the Mountain of Fire and Miracles (MFM) South East (1) Headquarters building complex in Enugu by the Enugu State Government, has become a major recurring decimal in the government’s cocktail of avoidable controversies.
The demolition that was carried out in defiance to a restraining order of a court of competent jurisdiction was a callous display of state coercive power. Many members and workers of the church, who were inadvertently present within the premises of the church on Zik Avenue that fateful day, for worshipping, ministration, intercession or evangelical and other purposes, were literarily reduced to human ‘rubbles’ of sadness, blood and tears in the mayhem that ensued.
The thugs hired for the purpose and casual workers of the Ministry of Enugu Capital Territory Development Authority led by its Commissioner, vented their collective spleens on the worshippers and other people found in the premises when the demolition squad came to actualise the Sullivan Chime administration’s order on the Regional Headquarters building complex of the church.
The magnitude of the attendant mayhem and destruction is attested to by the number of casualties who were either treated for one form and severity of injury or the other. The seething shows of angst and bile and the intensity of the wholesale vengeance inflicted on both the members and staff of the church, is indicative of a planned and calculated process of destruction and pain that involved the use of mechanical and brute human force in the exercise.
In order that the illegal demolition process was carried out unhindered, the agents of government comprising both the official and unofficial, descended on the worshippers and staff found within the premises with all manners of weapons like shovel, rods, planks etc. Many of the devoted, who were not aware of the unannounced demolition notice of the state government, scampered out of the premises under the attack and hail of projectiles by the government “delegation”. In the process, many were grievously-wounded with sprains, dislocations, broken skulls etc.
To ensure that the demolition of the Regional Headquarters building complex was a fait accompli, the sprawling complex was irretrievably destroyed, many specially-recruited casual workers were drafted in the follow-up mop-up action to grind the rubbles of the remains of the MFM building into smithereens, as if to prevent the building from “resurrecting”!
While this gross violation of a corporate organisation’s rights was going on, the Mountain of Fire and Miracles (which is a disciplined and law-abiding organisation built on the finest tenets of peace, deference to prescribed authority and non-violence) did not physically resist the demolition of their Regional Headquarters building complex in spite of the initial unprovoked assault and battering, and taunting of the church’s worshippers and workers. Rather, they converged at safe distances around the area of the demolition exercise especially on the River Asata bridge, praying and making supplications to God. True to their diabolic intent and stone-hearted determination to render the MFM worshippers homeless, the agents of the state government carried on as if they were pulling down an illegal structure and not one with all the relevant and legal papers intact and subsisting.
Particularly, the invasion and total devastation of the Regional Headquarters building complex on Zik Avenue (by River Asata bridge), Enugu on Friday, October 18, 2013, may have been programmed to be fatal in consequence and comprehensive in execution, given the modus operandi and excessive force applied by the demolition crew led by the “Honourable” Commissioner of Enugu Capital Territory Development Authority, in cahoots with other top officials of his ministry.
It is trite to repeat here that on the fateful day, the squadron of security men and the posse of earth-moving equipment that included pay loaders, graders etc were deployed with military dispatch and specific instructions and orders to lay waste the MFM building complex and crush any opposition in the process, mercilessly-perceived or active.
It is also significant to note that the casualty figure was not taken into account by the state government in all its botched out-of-court negotiations with the church authorities in Enugu. With the apparent indifference to the good health and welfare of the members and workers of the MFM, who were brutalised and dehumanised by the demolition gang, the state government has continued to gloss over a vital section of its electorate which voted for it in past elections and got assault and battery to the bargain.
The issue of wielding power in trust for the followership is a divine covenant bestowed by God and should not be misused or misapplied to sate or oil personal egos. A station in life, at any given period in a man’s lifetime, is ephemeral and fleeting and should not be turned into a pedestal to oppress, suppress and dehumanise.
Many questions spring up: (a) Why has the government of Barrister Sullivan Iheanacho Chime elected to play possum, unconcerned, unmoved and in a permanent state of silence over the group of Mountain of Fire and Miracles members and workers who were brutalised, dehumanised, battered and humiliated when, in actual fact, they neither hindered nor attacked the agents of government sent to carry out the wilful demolition exercise of Friday, October 18, 2013? (b) Was it necessary for the government to use excessive force and Gestapo tactics against man and structure in the aforementioned exercise, considering the facts on the ground and the pedigree of the MFM as a peaceful religious corporate entity? (c) Almost two months after the carnage visited on the MFM Regional Headquarters building complex and the forcible acquisition of the property in question coupled with the corporeal beatings of the members and staff of the church, the area still lay fallow and undeveloped for any purpose in spite of the rush to demoli
sh the church?
Inspite of he several questions, one answer is paramount: The Chime Administration should make some form of restitution and put this sad saga behind it by building a befitting church edifice for the Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministries, not just as a replacement for the one it illegally demolished on Zik Avenue but as a renewed commitment, by the administration to religious tolerance, peace and co-existence.
It is advised that the violence done to the members and staff of MFM in Enugu should not be swept under the carpet.
but investigated as the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria guarantees the freedom of association and religious affiliation among others to all citizens of Nigeria. These tenets should not be abridged or obeyed in the breach by the Enugu State Government.
ONYEKA ONWUCHEKWA is Public Affairs Analyst in Nsukka, Enugu State