The Akwa Ibom State Government has marked a popular metropolitan church in Uyo, Holy Ghost Ambassadors Ministry International, for demolition.
Nyeneime Andy, the senior pastor of the church, has been very outspoken against the alleged plan by the State Governor, Udom Emmanuel, to foist a successor on the oil-rich state in 2023.
Mr Andy was also invited by Nigeria’s secret police, the SSS, for questioning on Wednesday over his comments on politics in the state, a close associate of the pastor told PREMIUM TIMES.
The Akwa Ibom State Government, through its agent, the Uyo Capital City Development Authority (UCCDA), marked the church building on Wednesday for demolition.
The church has also been served a notice to that effect.
Eshiet Freddy, head of Town Planning Department, UCCDA, in the notice, said the church building did not meet the planning standards for approval.
Mr Freddy said the structure negates minimum requirements in terms of space standard, building line and area distribution.
“It is worth to note that you are occupying/constructing an illegal structure without prior approval from the authority. The said illegal structure constitutes an offence and contravenes provisions of Town and Country Planning Law Cap. 133, Laws of Akwa Ibom State.
“In view of the above, you are hereby given seven (7) days’ notice within which to remove the said illegal development and reinstate the land to its original state,” Mr Freddy said in the notice.
The city development authority said the government would be forced to demolish the building if the church fails to comply with the order.
The two-storey building, which was started in 2012, has been serving as a worship centre for many years.
Mr Andy, in a recent press briefing, condemned an alleged plan by the governor to impose a successor in 2023.
“In 2023, it will be a government of the people, for the people and by the people. We will not allow one person to choose a governor for a state of over 6 million people,” Mr Andy had said.
UCCDA has also issued similar demolition notices to Dunamis International Gospel Centre, Uyo, and Refuge International School, owned by another popular metropolitan church, God’s House of Refuge.
PREMIUM TIMES could not immediately reach the authorities of the churches for comments as at the time of filing this report.
‘Fathers of faith’
Akwa Ibom has a predominant Christian population. Church leaders in the state play an influential role in the politics and governance in the state, especially in the election of new leaders.
Governor Emmanuel, himself a church deacon, holds regular meetings with select church leaders, otherwise called “fathers of faith”, where he briefs them about his administration’s policies and actions, including his succession plan.Holy Ghost Ambassadors Ministry International
A retired prelate of the Methodist Church of Nigeria, Sunday Mbang, 85, and a popular Pentecostal preacher, Uma Ukpai, are among the few constant faces in such meetings.
Until the recent division among the church leaders, the fathers of faith had in the past expressed their resolve to support Mr Emmanuel’s succession plan.
Mr Emmanuel in May raised some questions for consideration on the quality of who should succeed him.
“Do you want a leader whose approach to testing his popularity would be to drive in a long convoy to Ibom Plaza and throw money at the hapless people, watching them scramble for the money and the people would say that’s ‘Ano owo Mkpo! (one who is good at giving)’ Is that the kind of a successor you want? Is that the kind of empowerment our people deserve?
“Or do you desire a successor with a known e-mail address that the international business community recognises?”
Among the people said to be nursing governorship ambition in the state within the Peoples Democratic Party are Bassey Albert, a serving senator; Udom Inoyo, a former vice chairman of Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited; and Effiong Bob, a former senator.