Vanguard (Lagos)

16 December 2012

Nigeria: Presbyterian Church Crisis - Two Ministers Arrested, Many Injured in Ebonyi

Abakaliki — IT was indeed a show of shame, weekend, as members and ministers of Ebonyi State chapter of Reformed Presbyterian Church and Presbyterian Church of Nigeria, PCN, clashed at Amagbo Eziedda in Afikpo South local government area over issues relating to the use of a church compound.

The incident, which led to the arrest of two Minsters, Reverend Ase. A. Ase and Chime, and injuring of several members of Reformed Presbyterian Church, Edda, saw the police shooting teargas canisters into the church to disperse those it regarded as intruders in the house of God.

Vanguard gathered that immediately the Reformed Presbyterian Church members commenced their church activities in a compound belonging to late Reverend Aso-Orji, the members and Ministers of Presbyterian Church of Nigeria, PCN, came into the premises with four buses to disrupt the service and takeover the church site.

Narrating the ordeal of members and ministers of Reformed Presbyterian Church, Eziedda Parish, Chairman of Board of the Church, Elder Nnachi Chukwu, alleged that the principal clerk of Presbyterian Church of Nigeria, Reverend Ekueme, connived with Afikpo South Divisional Police, Owutu headquarters, to unleash mayhem on members of the Reformed Presbyterian Church who were worshipping on the day.

He alleged that the police in a bid to drive members of the Reformed Presbyterian Church out of the disputed church compound, shot teargas into the venue.

Consequently, he said members of RPCN sustained various degrees of injuries, thereby enabling Ministers of the Presbyterian Church to gain access into the church hall and takeover the place.

He said: "As the service progressed, two buses having the emblem of Presbyterian Church and the occupant therein were all members of Presbyterian Church. I opened the door for them; they entered and sat quietly in the congregation. Later, two vehicles came into the church premises, a bus and smaller car; the occupants were all Presbyterian Church members.

"As the service was going on, the ministers led by the Principal Clerk of Presbyterian Church, and the DPO Owutu police headquarters, Afikpo south, forced their way into the church, went straight to the altar and wanted to take over the microphone from reverend Ase A. Ase who refused and was later arrested by the police.

"The police officers who came to the venue of the church started beating the reverend on the altar and then other pastors that tried to prevent them from wounding the reverend were also beaten. The police beat and dragged the reverend and as they were doing that they started shooting canisters into the church while the old men and women that were inside the church were helpless; they started dragging the reverend minsters and put them in the police vehicle; then to the police station and detained them.

"Also, when we ran away from the church, the police barricaded the entrance to the church building and then ordered the Presbyterians to go in and have their worship and thanksgiving. When we wanted to protest they started firing teargas indiscriminately into the villages; that made the young men and small children to start suffering from the effect of the teargas. After their service, the Presbyterians broke all the keys to the church door and replaced them with new ones and locked the church building."

He noted that the timely intervention of elders of the community led to the release of the detained Ministers, adding that the matter had been charged to court for further hearing.

Chukwu called on the state government to immediately intervene in the matter, saying such development was capable of igniting religious crisis in the state.

According to him, the prompt intervention of the government is necessary as there are indications that that the Presbyterians were scheming to destabilize all religious activities of members of Reformed Presbyterian Church in the whole of Afikpo South local government area of the state.

Contacted, Ebonyi State Police Public Relations Officer, Deputy Superintendent Police, DSP, Sylvester Igbo, said he was yet to be communicated on the incident, assuring that the command would not delay to investigate and bring the perpetrators to book.

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