Members of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Agape Assembly, were on Sunday, thrown into confusion after the executive of the M.K.O. Abiola Gardens Estate in the Alausa area of Ikeja, Lagos State, allegedly used chains and padlocks to lock the gate and the main entrance to the church to prevent members from gaining entry.
As if that was not embarrassing enough, members of the executive were said to have deposited truck loads of sand and granite in strategic locations on the premises of the church’s land to prevent vehicles from gaining entry.
It was learnt that the development followed efforts by the executive to get the church to relocate from the estate hall.
Members of the church were also seen conducting the service in the compound after efforts to enter the hall proved abortive.
The church’s administrator, Ayo Abbey, said two women were on the premises when tipper lorries started depositing sand and granite to block the entrance. “When we came back from the Redemption Camp around 3am on Saturday, I saw two women inside the church compound and tipper lorries dumping sand on the premises. It was later that they used chains and padlocks to lock the church when everybody had left,” he stated.
The pastor in charge of the church, Olusesan Oyebode, said the estate’s executive acted in that manner to frustrate the activities of the church, adding that the police were contacted to intervene.
He stated, “We were surprised when we came to church on Sunday morning for the thanksgiving service, but met our gate and the church’s entrance locked with brand new chains and padlocks. The executive also went as far as dumping granite and sand in front of the gate to prevent vehicles from gaining entry into the premises.
“About 200 members were stranded because no one could come into the church. We managed to open the pedestrian gate and we had to conduct our service in the compound in the midst of the sand and granite. We have gone to the police station with the church’s lawyer to make a report and we got a permission that enabled us to gain access to the hall.
“The RCCG has been occupying the estate hall as a tenant since the inception of the estate in 1999, but there have been issues and the latest was that because the executive was desperate to get the church out of that location, about two years ago, we wrote to the governor that just as the Muslims had a place of worship in the estate, the Christian community required a place of worship.
“The governor referred our petition to the Nigeria Interreligious Council, which is an arm of the Ministry of Home Affairs, Lagos State, and after a series of meetings, the Lagos State Development and Property Corporation allocated a plot of land in another location in the estate to the church through the Christian Association of Nigeria.”
Despite the LSDPC allocating a plot of land to the church, Oyebode alleged that the estate executive frustrated the efforts to take possession of the land.
He said, “When the land was allocated for N10.5m, we could not pay because the estate executive members used their influence to prevent us from taking possession. When we were asked what we wanted, I told the executive to give us a maximum of two years to put a new structure on the land that the government gave us.
“But they appropriated the land to themselves and want us to leave the estate’s hall and refused to collect the rent from the church. So, where do they want us to go? We want the government to compel them to release the land to us, because we applied for it and the LSDPC allocated the land to the Christian community in the estate.”
When contacted, the President, M.K.O. Abiola Gardens Estate, Adetokunbo Shittu, said, “I don’t have anything to say about that, maybe you will come and see the executive or the Board of Trustees. I don’t have anything to say for now.”
The state Police Public Relations Officer, Bala Elkana, said, “This matter has been on for two years between the estate and the church, so it is a kind of landlord-tenant relationship, which is purely a civil matter. So, the role of the police is mainly to advise and mediate to find a way for them to resolve the issue without a breakdown of law and order in the estate and not to interfere in their contractual rights.
“Both the estate management and the church leadership approached the police and we advised them that it was a civil case that could be settled in court and that it was a contractual issue that both parties could settle amicably.”