SAPELE—THE crisis rocking the Saint John Anglican Communion, Sapele Diocese in Delta State, took a new twist yesterday when a group of soldiers drafted to provide security at the ongoing Synod injured five worshippers, four women and a youth, protesting the presiding Bishop, Rev B. A. Erifeta’s presence.
For many months, members of the diocese have been at loggerheads with their bishop, whom they want transferred, but the authorities have not acceded to their request.
Yesterday, protesting members of the congregation barricaded the premises of the church to prevent the Synod from holding, but soldiers invited to maintain the peace beat them.
Those injured were Beatrice Akpomudje, Christiana Umukoro and Clara Ofuafor. The youth reportedly had his head battered.
A source said other worshippers rushed two of the critically injured to the Central Hospital in Sapele.
As at 2.48p.m., Bishop Erifeta and other loyal members of the congregation and clergy were inside the church, while those opposed to his leadership were laying siege outside.
The leader of Operation Delta Safe in the area, Lt Idris, who visited the scene, denied deploying soldiers to the church, saying he would investigate the matter.
He withdrew his men from the area before leaving church, but advised the protesting worshippers not to take laws into their hands.
Divisional Police Officer in the area, CSP Musa, also visited and offered a similar advice to the angry protesters.
Indications that there would be trouble during the synod became evident when the opposing worshippers barricaded the main entrance to the church and aborted a pre-synod vigil presided over by the bishop last weekend.
They carried placards demanding the removal of the Bishop from the diocese. Police officers invited by the leadership of their church returned to their station when they saw the situation.
The Bishop and other members of the clergy later held a prayer session at a nearby primary school.