James Sowole in Akure
Christians leaders under the aegis of the Niger Delta Christian Leaders Forum (NDCLF) were thursday shut out of the International Event Centre (the Dome) in Akure, Ondo State, by the state government.
The action of the state government therefore disturbed the group which THISDAY gathered came from different states in the Niger Delta region from holding their annual prayer summit in the state.
The group members, which also include the Bible Society of Nigeria (BSN), consequently protested the alleged disappointment and recklessness of government officials who deprive them from using the halls.
When THISDAY visited the venue of the meeting, the leaders felt aggrieved, chanting abusive words at the state government for denying them assess into the hall.
Though the state had been hosting the 2nd National Council on Niger Delta (NCND) meeting since last week Thursday and which ended yesterday night with a dinner party.
The Christian leaders said delegates, who had gained entry into the hall for the three hours prayers, were ordered out by the state government officials and locked the entrances of the hall.
Most of the participants who spoke with THISDAY expressed disappointment and regret that a Christian Governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN), could treat fellow Christians in such manner.
Pastor Benaiah Moses, a church Overseer from Edo State, lamented that â€œthis is quite unfortunate. Imagine they sent us out after they had assured us of using the venue, giving an excuse that the place is reserved for dinner.
â€œCan this ever happen with other religions? I donâ€™t see any reason why they wouldnâ€™t allow us to use the hall this morning, or in the least, give us an alternative.â€
They said the story could have been different if a Christian governor had treated Muslims with such contempt after following due process to secure the venue.
The delegates were pacified by the leadership of the association and mobilised to the front of the dome to pray under the scorching sun.
However, the NDCLF National President and former CAN chieftain, Bishop Ayo Oritsejafor, said the refusal did not irk the association and there was no disappointment since prayer could be offered anywhere.
Oritsejafor, who was represented by the General Secretary, Bishop Dr. Eddy Bebor, stressed that they were resolute to seek Godâ€™s intervention for lasting solutions to problems facing the Niger Delta.
Bebor, who pacified the aggrieved and embittered delegates, explained that Oristjafor was unavoidably absent, noted that the Christians stake in the region is to seek God who has solutions to all challenges.
Similarly, the state NDCLF Chairman, Dr. Samuel Obakulujo, dispelled the insinuations that participants were disdained by the state government, declaring that they were only obeying the instruction of God to pray anywhere.
â€œFederal government programme overruled our programme; we have achieved our aim which is prayer and that has been done as we pray for Nigeria, Ondo and the entire states in the Niger Delta region,â€ he said.
When contacted, the state Commissioner for Information, Mr. Yemi Olowolabi, said he was not aware of the programme.