Struggle for soul of Assemblies of God
The Assemblies of God Church, Nigeria, one of the foremost and highly respected churches in the country, is on trial. In the last two years and still counting, a leadership tussle that erupted has split the church into two factions, with one being led by Rev. (Prof) Paul Emeka and the other by Rev Dr. Chidi Okoroafor. However, one outcome that has followed the breakup is the restiveness of the members of the factions.
From various attempts to grab the National Secretariat of the Church, located on Ozubulu Street, Independence Layout, Enugu, currently occupied by embattled General Superintendent, Rev. Emeka, which had always resulted in a free for all, bloodbath and destruction of property, to various summons by the Police and other religious bodies, the struggle for the soul of the church is now in the court of law.
At the last count, about six cases bordering on various allegations, concerning the two factions of the church still lie undetermined in different courts in the country. This number is aside the ones already adjudicated upon, some of which have gone on appeal. In all, however, one case that has dominated the public space of recent is the purported takeover of the alleged prosecution of Rev. Emeka, by office of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), over a forgery case, instituted against him by the Rev. Okoroafor-led group.
Investigation by The Guardian shows that the matter, which had been at the Upper Area Court, Abuja, presided over by Justice Umar Yusuf Kargarko borders on the professorial certificate allegedly issued by the authorities of the University of Derby, Derbyshire, England, on August 24, 2005.
According to the faction that brought the suit before the court, Emeka presented the certificate to the General Council of the Church in 2010, which facilitated his election, as the General Superintendent of the Church for a four- year term. They insisted that his election would not have been possible without the additional qualification, explaining that inquiries from the concerned University indicated that Paul Emeka was never its student.
Although the Upper Area Court is expected to continue hearing on the matter from September 19, especially on the oral application by Mrs. Charles Okorie, who claimed the AGF’s intention to take over the prosecution, those familiar with the crisis in the church see the development, as another chapter in the bizarre trajectory power crisis that began in 2014. Some courts had before now ruled on the crisis with new allegations being churned out from time to time, apparently to consolidate the divisions.
A member of the church, Chikezie Okafor told The Guardian that the certificate forgery was not the case the members were fed with in 2014, when the crisis started.
He said: “We were told that Emeka embezzled church funds, sold church property and refused moves to get him to account for some of his actions. This had given rise to the ‘suspension’ and ‘excommunication’ and subsequent ‘appointment’ of Okoroafor, who was then Assistant, as ‘Acting Superintendent.’
“Truth of the matter is that, ever since the AG Nigeria crisis started in 2014, the traducers have been changing their wild allegations every other month,” he recalled. “The original sin of Rev. Emeka was that he was high-handed, took Church to Court, committed some nebulous constitutional breaches and sacked senior personnel of Evangel University, owned by the Church. But some months later, when their baseless allegations were deflated, they moved on to the next level. That was when allegations of fraud, selling of the Church’s property in London for over N200m surfaced.
“Again, that allegation was proved to be a figment of their imagination. Not yet done, and in an unbridled desire to achieve their single-minded objective, which is to remove Rev. Emeka from office by any means, and hijack the property of the Church for their personal gain, the macabre dancers brought yet another laughable allegation. This time around, that Rev. Emeka forged his professorial certificate.
“I think it was an after-thought from dark minds that have been frustrated on all fronts in their Gestapo-style and ungodly ambition to hijack power. For the records, professorial, doctorate or Master’s degree certificates were never a pre-condition or pre-qualification to become the General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God, Nigeria.
“From the Church’s constitution, the most important qualification was the Bible school training and long service in the Lord’s vineyard. Although the desperados have a mission, only a court of competent jurisdiction can declare a certificate fake, not the accusers. The mater has lingered because what they thought was a small matter was no longer small. The body that announced the purported action against Rev. Emeka was not properly constituted. The allegations they preferred against him were also proved to be false.
“The AG Nigeria is governed by two major instruments: The Bible and the AG, Nigerian Constitution. These two documents have held the church together for the past 80 years of the ministry. The Executive Committee is the highest authority of AG Nigeria. It has 16 statutory members elected from the geo-political zones of the country, with two foreign missionaries. When they meet with Unit heads, it is called the General Committee (GC) meeting. The GS is supposed to be the chairman of the EC and convener of its meetings. When they met to announce the purported suspension of Rev. Emeka, they were not properly constituted, as some people, who were not statutory members, participated in the meeting and all the actions they took fell short of the constitutional requirements.
“The so-called General Committee did not have up to 20 unit heads out of about 105 unit heads. In other words, it didn’t have a quorum. In the roll call, according to the video, majority of the Districts were absent. Observers were used as voting members. This was in addition to the fact that the process was wrong. The GS is the only one authorised by the constitution to call for a General Committee. The Ambassadors of the Kingdom filled the hall. The Ambassadors were to participate only if their Districts delegated them to come. But being Ambassadors did not automatically qualify them to be there and do business. Rather, they were supposed to be there as a party having a case with the GS.”
But another member, Chinedum Ugwu, who said he has been a member of the church in the last 45 years, said the problem arose because of “Emeka’s over bearing attitude.” He stated that, it could have been peacefully resolved, “if he had not taken the Executive Committee members and Ambassadors of the Kingdom constituted by his predecessor, Dr. Charles Osueke for a ride.”
He said: “You may call it desperation, you may call it quest for power, but what I want to tell you is that we all must come to God in truth and holiness. The church may have overlooked every shortcoming of our former General Superintendent, but it decided to fight when the chip was down on the fact that an individual assumed a high position for himself.
“If he said he did not steal money or sold property, let him tell us how he acquired his Professorship. He cannot claim to be representing God, when he is dirty. Anyone, who serves God, must do so with everything in him. We are only asking the court of law to determine who is right here and when that is done, we can go home and rest.”
Asked whether the pronouncement of the court would bring to an end the leadership tussle in the church, he replied: “The authentic faction of the church is the one led by Rev Chidi Okoroafor. All we are trying to do is ensure that there are no ambiguities, as well as, stop some persons from using the name of the church to rip off others.
“Part of what we want to stop is the attempt by certain persons to make pronouncements, which they attribute to the Assemblies of God Church. You were here, when Emeka pronounced a respected Chief of Benin Kingdom Patron, even when such does not exist in our laws and constitution. That is the kind of thing we want to contain.”
It was the Ambassadors of the Kingdom and a number of Executive Council members, who met on Thursday, March 6, 2014 to announce the suspension and dismissal of Rev. Emeka, as General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God, Nigeria and appointed Rev. Chidi Okorafor, as the new General Superintendent.
The action was allegedly based on a petition written by the Ambassadors against Rev. Emeka and after passing judgment on him, they also went to the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) to remove his name from the Trustees, as well as obtain a new certificate of incorporation.
Efforts At Restoring Peace To The Church
Feeling that his fundamental rights have been trampled on, Emeka had proceeded to the Enugu High Court, asking it to review the development and reinstate him in office. So, on November 24, 2014, the court nullified the removal and dismissal, declaring as null and void, the purported meeting held on March 6, 2014 and presided over by the retired General Superintendent of the Church, Rev. Charles Osueke, where he (Rev. Emeka) was allegedly suspended from office, even as it ordered those occupying offices illegally on account of the suspension to vacate without further delay.
Similarly, on June 22, 2015, the Supreme Court refused to grant an injunction seeking to stop Rev. Emeka from parading himself as the General Superintendent of the Church. It was the case that started at the High Court, which climaxed at the Supreme Court, with both factions waiting anxiously. It was the Okoroafor group that sought the court injunction.
Several other interventions had come from church organisations, leaders and the Police, all of which have been rebuffed. The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) set up a reconciliation committee on June 9, 2015. The body was set up sequel to a letter written to CAN by the Inspector General Police.
The CAN President had set up a high level Committee comprising eminent
Church leaders and representatives from the various CAN Church blocs to meet with the two factional leaders and their representatives. This Committee was complemented with the presence of a retired Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
The Committee sat for four days on December 16, 2014 in Lagos; January 27, 2015 in Abuja; March 11, 2015 in Abuja and May 25, 2015 in Abuja with the two main groups involved in the crisis.
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