COVID-19: Pastors deny ministry, members to evade arrest
Three pastors of some new generation churches on Sunday in Abuja denied their ministries and followers after operatives of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT Ministerial Enforcement Team moved in to arrest them for violating the ban on congregational worship in the territory.
The Pastors who had partitioned a mountain at the Federal Housing area of Lugbe District traded words among themselves and even denied stewardship of the large crowd met worshipping at the hilltop.
The pastors were Ibitoye Kayode of the Liberty Faith Gospel Church, Joshua Olaniru of Liberty Gate Ministry and Vitalis Udeazi of Dominion Chapel.
Trouble 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 identified 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 task force arrived at 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.
Speaking to the pastors, Chairman of the taskforce, Ikharo Attah 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”.
Also 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.
Addressing the pastor, Attah said, “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.