There was uproar at Afero village on Lekki-Epe Expressway, Lagos, southwest Nigeria, as officials of the Lagos State Government demolished a sprawling church, the Pure Fire Miracles Ministries International (PFMI) in a controversial manner.
Lagos Task Force men, accompanied by officials from the Ministry for Physical Planning and Urban Development (MPPUD), stormed the church to enforce an eviction ordered by the government.
The ministry demolished the building over allegation that there was no approval for the construction of the building.
The church structures, which officials of the church said had gulped over N100 million, were erected on a 10-acre land and comprised six auditoriums, offices, residential buildings and buildings for other uses.
The church was having its annual convention with worshippers from 12 foreign countries in attendant. The more than 10,000 worshippers that included old and pregnant women, children and men, were said to a have been at a loss on why the building was demolished when the church was holding its convention.
The bulldozers from the taskforce moved in immediately and three of the buildings were brought down before the traditional ruler of Epe, Oba Kamorudeen Ishola Animashaun, Chairman of Epe Local Government and other prominent citizens in the community intervened to stop the exercise.
Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Mr. Toyin Ayinde, alleged that there was no approval for the church building and that notices had been served on the church to vacate the land, claiming that the land fell within the proposed Lekki International Airport and, therefore, could not have been approved for such development.
“We have served them quit notices since 2011 and another one was served on them in November, which they didn’t comply with, said Ayinde, adding that the church officials were being economical with truth.
The church disputed the claims by government that it had no approval, while a document from the legal adviser to the church’s pastor, Enoch Idowu Aminu, Messrs Ibrahim A. Shittu and Co., of Probono Chamber, showed that the land was purchased from Ikujenya Okanlawon Ikuforiji Chieftaincy Family, with the address at 3, Ikujenya Street, Bado Oke, Epe, Lagos State, on 21 May, 2010.
The purchase, according to the cleric, was embarked upon as a result of the information contained in the Lagos State of Nigeria Official Gazette, No. 29, Volume No 27, September 1, 1994.
In page 274 of the gazette, it has as follows: Description- Afero Village: “All that parcel of land in Afero in Eti-Osa Local Government of Lagos State of Nigeria containing approximately area of 28.52 hectares, the boundaries of which are described below,” stated the bearings, length of metres and the co-ordinate measurements, among others, indicated that the land was excised and properly belonged to the original owner(s).
“Besides, we applied for regularisation of land title through Law Title International, the appointed Consultant to the Lagos State Government on Land Regularisation, on which there was no objection.
This was confirmed in the official receipt of payment, dated 23 November, 2011, in the sum of N1.64 million. The church claimed that the government lied by saying that the property fell within the proposed airport as other buildings in the same vicinity were not demolished.
Reacting to the demolition, the worshippers found it disheartening that the demolition was executed amid threats and intimidations by government officials
Pastors Johnson Samuel Ani from Burkina Faso, Tamomo Jose, from Benin Republic, David Amevoi from Ghana, Richmondson Shekesesay, from Sierra Leone, Mawu from Manuzikpi, Togo, all felt that the manner of the demolition was not properly handled.
Ten years old Camerounian girl, Miracle Bosco, was shocked when the building was pulled down, saying, “why is it that police came and destroy the house of God? I am sad because all the money our parents spent here has become a waste. Please, help us to beg the Governor to stop this demolition. God is not happy and I am not happy.”
Chief Isaac Shigbata, a Nigerian born pastor, residing, denounced the manner at which security agents invaded the church without any consideration for the safety of the people.
“What happened on that fateful day was not of any credit to any government. Laws were made for man and not the other way round.
No matter what may be the situation, the timing was not only bad, but rather, the action was capable of breaching security. And not at this time that Nigeria, as a country is battling religious extremism in some parts of the country’.
According to Pastor David Bangali from Liberia, “Nigeria is a country that many African countries are looking unto for guidance, especially, Lagos State. But activities of security agents last week was not palatable at all.”