There’s tension in FESTAC Town, Lagos following the demolition of 12 churches by officials of the Federal Housing Authority.
In a sweeping demolition that began Sunday, a market and a car mart also went up as residents count their losses.
One of the affected churches was Gate of Righteousness Evangelical International Church.
Lamenting his frustration, Pastor Joshua Obong, said he started his ministry in the community 18 years ago and wondered why his church was targeted for demolition, Punch reports.
“The officials first came last week and started marking our buildings. After they were done, they left and returned two days later. That was when they gave us a seven-day notice, which expired last Wednesday,” he said.
“On Sunday morning, around 5am, we suddenly saw bulldozers at the First Gate, FESTAC Town. They got to my church at exactly 11am; they demolished all the churches along the road, except the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Communion Chapel and CPM, which they spared. All other churches were brought down.”
Obong noted that there was no other warning prior to the seven-day notice.
He claimed that the government took advantage of the strike by judicial workers, adding that nobody could approach the court for injunctions to stop the demolition.
The Overseer of Christ Gospel Church International, Pastor William Ehiorenren, said a senior government official had advised them to send a lawyer to Abuja to sort out the matter.
He stated, “He promised that they would not touch any church till the lawyer returned. Our lawyer was still in Abuja when they came on Sunday, a day of service, and demolished our churches. The lawyer called all their staff members, but they switched off their phones.
“We heard that they want to re-allocate the land and sell to moneybags and make millions. I have not seen where seven days would be given for people to vacate their property.
“We have been in that area for years and we spent millions of naira in building our churches. They could not even give us time to move, because they had mapped out their evil plan to sell the land to people.”
The cleric accused the government of leaving certain churches because their leaders had political connections.
The Deputy Director, Social Security and Intergovernmental Relations, Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, Lagos State, Pastor Barnabas Otoibhi, said 12 churches were demolished by the government.
He queried why the demolition was carried out without adequate notice and while some of the occupants were asleep.
He said, “The notice they sent to them, they called it final notice, without serving them any previous letter. We asked that they should be given time. We were discussing this when the bulldozers came in on Sunday morning. The first church was pulled down at exactly 5.45am. Aside from the churches, they also cleared those selling cars in that line. Only a few buildings were spared.”
The cleric said a protest was planned for today (Tuesday) to kick against the “shabby manner” in which the churches were treated.
An official of the agency, who did not identify himself, said the government was in the process of restoring FESTAC Town to its original plan.
“Ask those people for their letters of allocation and approved building plans. They don’t have them. So, if you have been staying on somebody’s land illegally for over 15 years, how does the person owe you adequate notice? What notice are they talking about?” he queried, while noting that a press conference would be addressed Wednesday.