…5 wounded, 4 cars burnt, 10 arrested
Hell was let loose at the Assemblies of God Church national headquarters in Enugu Wednesday as the two warring factions engaged in a bloody clash that lasted for several hours.
The clash followed the invasion of the church by the Rev. Chidi Okoroafor-led faction in a bid to forcefully take over the national secretariat of the church which had been under the control of the embattled General Superintendent, Rev. Prof. Paul Emeka and his loyalists.
Although several policemen were drafted to the church to arrest the situation, no fewer than five persons were seriously wounded while four cars were burnt in a free for all that ensued between members of the two factions in the church.
The State Police Command confirmed the arrest of ten members of the private security outfit of the church, known as Royal Rangers, allegedly armed with dangerous weapons which they freely used during the fight.
An eyewitness said that some members of the church loyal to the Assistant General Superintendent, Rev Chidi Okoroafor had tried to “forcefully” take over the national secretariat of the church at Independence layout, Enugu but were resisted by security men guarding the church premises.
But one of the members loyal to Okoroafor, who gave her name as Pastor Favour claimed that the members had gone to the secretariat for prayer over the problems in the church.
The group said to have the support of the immediate past General Superintendent, Rev. Osueke, had for some time now opposed the incumbent General Superintendent of the Church, Prof Paul Emeka, leading to the factionalization of the church among the two leaders.
The anti-Emeka group had during a purported meeting in Okpoto, Ebonyi state recently elected Okoroafor as its General Superintendent.
The Okpoto meeting took place more than one week after thousands of the members gathered in Enugu and reelected Rev Emeka for another term of four years and slammed indefinite suspension on some members including Okoroafor for allegedly ridiculing the church.
Prof Emeka had continued to occupy the national secretariat of the church, as several courts handling the leadership tussles had given him a legal backing to remain in his position as General Superintendent amidst tensions in the renowned Pentecostal church.
Violence broke out when members of the Okoroafor faction Wednesday morning stormed the national secretariat in several buses and attempted to gain entry into the national secretariat but were prevented from doing so by supporters of Emeka.
A free for all ensued between both parties who reportedly used every object in sight to harm their opponents. Majority of the rampaging ‘church members’ were said to have been imported from outside the state.
The eye witness said that the timely intervention of the police saved what probably could have gone as “bloodbath”, stressing that “both camps were ready to die over the property”.
Journalists, who visited the area around 2.00pm Wednesday, met several policemen who came in seven patrol vehicles and cordoned off the area, even as the policemen had hectic time trying to prevent further escalation of hostilities.
It was discovered that supporters loyal to Emeka took strategic positions inside the secretariat complex, while some others who apparently did not come on time were seen outside. Broken bottles, pieces of wood and carcasses of the burnt cars littered the church premises.
An attempt to speak to Rev Okoroafor on the development Wednesday proved abortive as a call put across by our correspondent to his mobile phone line was received by one of his supporters who simply said “Daddy is in a meeting and not available to talk to you now”.
But Rev Emeka, deplored the action of Okoroafor, alleging that he (Okoroafor) “gathered Bakassi boys in five buses as well as many others to forcefully take over the national secretariat of the
“It is sad. He should know how to respect court orders and he should know that the church is in crisis and that force is not the solution to the problem. He should submit himself to wise counsel and stop using thugs to harass the church. The boys arrested have confessed that he (allegedly) paid them to cause trouble”, he said.
Contacted, Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Ebere Amaraizu said at least eight members of the Royal Rangers had been arrested for allegedly possessing dangerous weapons.
He added that the police was drafted to the area to forestall further breach of peace and called on the warring factions to abide by the resolutions of the court.
He warned that the police would not fold her arms and watch them derail the peace of the state.