By Vincent Ujumadu & Nwabueze Okonkwo
ONITSHA—Thelingering crisis between the people of Nkwelle Ezunanka and Anglican faithful at Ebenezer’s Anglican church, Oze in Oyi council area of Anambra State took a different dimension yesterday as the faithful took to the major streets in Onitsha to protest alleged demolition of their church building by unknown persons last Monday.
During the peaceful protest which brought both human and vehicular movements to a standstill, the demonstrators, which comprised Anglican faithful drawn from all the parishes across the Diocese on the Niger, carried placards with various inscriptions.
Chanting different songs and brandishing the placards, the protesters threatened to boycott the second term election of President Goodluck Jonathan, if he failed to call Governor Willie Obiano to order to address what they described as systematic religious war against the Anglican Communion in the state.
During the protest, the angry church members blocked the roads leading to the commercial city of Onitsha, occupied the roads for several hours brandishing placards with several inscriptions, including “Rebuild our church now”, “Governor Obiano, intervene in this matter and arrest the perpetrators of this evil act”, among others.
Speaking on behalf of the Diocese on the Niger, Rev Egbuonu accused the state government of conspiracy of silence.
He said the school compound housing the demolished church building was among the schools handed over to the church by the former governor of the state, Mr. Peter Obi, adding that the statement credited to the President General of the community that the church was taking over the school by force was not true.
Rev. Egbuonu further accused Governor Willie Obiano of allowing himself to be used as machinery of religious war in the state.
He said: “We have watched with keen interests the appointments made so far by the state government and we understand that in every 30 appointments, 25 are Roman Catholics, while both Anglican and other Pentecostal churches share the remaining.
“For instance, in this school, of the 30 teachers posted by the state government, 25 are all Roman Catholic faithful.
“We are calling on the state government to come and rebuild our church; we are also crying to the federal government, to President Jonathan to intervene in this matter or else, we will not vote for Jonathan during the 2015 Presidential election because Anglicans form almost half of the voters in the country.
“We are saying this because we know that the government of Anambra State of the day is a machinery of religious bias.
“This is a church project that has gulped over N30 million and these monies were contributed by widows, orphans and less privilege, only for some people to connive with some agents of the devil to pull it down from top to the foundation level.”
The Chancellor of the Diocese on the Niger, Mr. Nnamdi Ibegbu SAN, condemned the action and threatened that the Diocese shall seek legal action against those who demolished the church building.
Ibegbu said the issue of the true owners of the premises housing the demolished church building will now be determined by a competent court of jurisdiction and appealed to Anglican faithful in the state to remain calm as legal steps would be taken to address the issue.
A member of the demolished Ebenezer Anglican church, Oyolu, Oze-3-3, Mr. Emma Ibeneme said they were still in shock when they woke up on Tuesday morning to discover that their church building which was already roofed, had been reduced to rubbles by some people suspected to be agents of the community.
However, the President-General of Nkwelle Ezeunanka, Elder Chris Eluemuno denied that the community was involved in the demolition of the church building, adding that matter was already being handled by law enforcement agents.
In his own statement, the Chief Security Officer of Nkwelle-Ezunaka, Chief Ambrose Odie insisted that although the Anglican church applied to the then school headmaster in 1990 to allow them use the school premises for their church activities, it did not mean that granting their application had automatically made them owners of the premises.