… Bars Monitoring Committee
By Osondu Ahirika
There was mild drama today, Sunday June 21, 2020 at the Christ Embassy Church located adjacent the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly when some able-bodied men prevented the Monitoring Committee for Church reopening from gaining access to the Church premises to ascertain the level of compliance as mandated by the State Government.
The Prince Enobong Uwah-led Monitoring Committee for Uyo Capital City arrived the Church about 11am after visiting other Churches only to run into a stonewall of over 6 able-bodied men who blocked the access gate, which was also locked with a padlock, as they asked the monitoring team to leave insisting that, they would not be allowed entry. All entreaties from Prince Uwah and other members of the team including the state chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Rev. Dr. Ndueso Ekwerre; Dr Stella Udoh and other representatives of security agencies fell on deaf ears.
To avoid a scuffle, Prince Uwah asked the Committee members who were nearly roughened up during the heated argument to depart as the Committee returned to make the report to the appropriate authorities. It will be recalled that Governor Udom Emmanuel as part of agreements with CAN for the reopening of Churches stipulated some guidelines to be followed by Churches to forestall the spread of the Corona Virus pandemic in the State. However, Christ Embassy rejected the guidelines issued by the state government for reopening of churches, describing them as impracticable and unacceptable.
In a media briefing held at the church headquarters in Uyo, the presiding Pastor of the International Worship Centre of Christ Embassy, Pastor Emmanuel Effiong said, CAN’s agreement with the government on the guidelines would not be binding on members of the church, which he disclosed, is not a member of CAN or any of her five affiliate bodies.
The founder of the church, Pastor Chris Oyakhilome had earlier declared that the use of face masks during the worship in Churches as stipulated in the guidelines exposes worshippers to health hazards while describing other guidelines including social distancing, sitting arrangement of not more than 200 among others as a conspiracy and an attempt to gag the church. He dismissed the guidelines as unconstitutional and an infringement on the fundamental right to worship and made it difficult to exercise one’s faith as a Christian.
Part of the Press Statement issued by the Church to declare their stand read, “Our church is a global ministry and we do not believe or advocate unionism, rather we believe in the unity of faith. Today, we state without equivocation that we are not members of CAN or any other association in the country and as such hold the strong belief that we cannot and should not be bounded by whatever decision the association reaches out with the government. While we do not question the right of anybody or churches forming association nor are we against CAN or any association setting up guidelines for their members, it is unacceptable to believe that such guidelines will be binding on non-members of their groups. The use of face masks for the entire duration of congregational worship is an act, which has been scientifically proven to be hazardous to the health as uninterrupted use of face masks over a long period of time may cause a hypoxia-the absence of oxygen to sustain bodily functions. Also, we are expected not to sit more than 200 worshippers during each church service, among others. This is a clear attempt to gag the church.”
Prince Uwah lauded the churches for the level of compliance which he said was encouraging, stressing that, the Monitoring Team was not out to harass churches but to help create awareness on the need to maintain safety standards for the overall interest of the people.
With this development, which Prince Uwah described as embarrassing and unfortunate, Christ Embassy has made good their threat to reject the guidelines as the Church barred the Committee from entering their premises. Meanwhile, other Churches visited by the committee include Qua Oboe Church, Ewet Offot; Assemblies of God Church, Udokang Lane; The Apostolic Church, Akpakpan Assembly; The Apostolic Church, Four Towns Headquarters and Idakeyop Assembly; Grace Family Church, IBB Avenue; Living Faith Church, Ewet Offot; The New Apostolic Church, Four Towns and The Redeemed Christian Church of God, Edet Akpan Avenue among others.