TOYIN ADEBAYO, ABUJA
Three pastors in Abuja on Sunday denied their ministries and followers when the operatives of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Ministerial Enforcement Team on lockdown moved in to arrest them for violating the ban on congregational worship in the nation’s capital.
The Pastors were said to have partitioned a mountain at the Federal Housing area of Lugbe District traded words among themselves and even denied stewardship of their large crowd that were worshipping at the hilltop.
The pastors are: Ibitoye Kayode of the Liberty Faith Gospel Church, Joshua Olaniru of Liberty Gate Ministry and Vitalis Udeazi of Dominion Chapel.
Problem started when the Enforcement team on COVID-19 Restrictions stormed the area following a tip off, but found it difficult to identify worshippers and their religious leaders.
After a brief interrogation, the three pastors were indentified from the crowd, even though one of them, Vitalis Udeazi of Dominion Chapel struggled to conceal his identity.
He said none of his members were present at the time the taskforce arrived the mountain top, but this did not go down well with other pastors who protested vehemently that he was one of them.
Luck, however, ran out on him when some members pointed at him as their pastor. He still insisted that they were his prayer members.
For Joshua Olaniru of Liberty Gate Ministry, who argued that he was not among those holding worship session, a resident of the community availed the taskforce of a video clip which showed the cleric holding a worship session, a development which had led to a fight about an hour before the taskforce personnel arrived.
The Chairman of the taskforce, Comrade Ikharo Attah while speaking to the pastors, queried why are you all denying these large groups of worshippers? No one among you agreed that anyone came to worship with them even when they turned out in large numbers. One of you even went ahead to deny being a pastor”.
Meanwhile, another cleric, Pastor Effiong Bassey of the Holiness Revival Ministry Church, Karamajiji was apprehended for holding a church service to mark the 60th birthday of a retired military colonel, P.E Ebong who left the military in 2015.
Attah said while addressing the pastor, “you cannot hold a worship service in defiance of the directives of the Commander in Chief just to mark the 60th birthday of a retired colonel. Even for a serving colonel it is very wrong. You have to come with us and explain it to the magistrate at the mobile court”.
The Clerics were consequently arraigned before a Mobile Court presided over by Magistrate Akonni who found them guilty and fined them N5,000 each in addition to three hours of community service.
The team also shut down the informal sector at the Dutse Alhaji market which was fully in operation on Sunday in contravention of the Administration’s guidelines. Four traders were arrested and arraigned at the Mobile court.