Compensate Demolished Churches or Face Legal Action, Group Tells A’Ibom Govt

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Seriki Adinoyi in Jos

An international non-governmental organisation, Equity International Initiative (EII), has asked the Akwa Ibom State Government to compensate churches that its task force on COVID-19 demolished or face legal action for alleged breach of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

The Country Director of the organisation, Mr. Chris Iyama gave the ultimatum in a statement yesterday, asking the state government to apologise and compensate all the affected churches within seven days.

Iyama said: “It is sad to say that the COVID-19 Task Forces of Akwa-Ibom, Ogun, Lagos and FCT have gone beyond their limit by taking laws into their hands.

“We are worried about the use of force which has caused the untimely death of innocent citizens of respective states at a time Nigeria is experiencing hardship.”

Iyama said section 38(1) of the 1999 constitution (as amended) guaranteed that every person “shall be entitled to freedom of thought conscience and religion including freedom to change religion or belief and (either in community with others and in public or private) to manifest and propagate his or her belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance.”

Contrary to the provisions of the constitution, the country director said the Akwa-Ibom state government and the COVID-19 Task Force “breached the constitution by attacking worshippers on June 21.

“EII is calling on the state government to refrain from further demonising, embarrassing and shameful acts which grossly violate the right of freedom of worship as enshrined in Section 38(1) of the 1999 constitution.”

On this ground, Iyama said EII “is giving the Akwa-Ibom state government a seven-day ultimatum to publicly apologize and compensate all affected worship centres they have attacked and demolished.

“Failure to comply by our demand, we shall have no choice than to drag the state to court. We remain committed to promoting justice, equity, truth and religious freedom.”

Similarly, the Director, Civil Liberty Organisation (CLO), Mr. Steve Aluko described the action of the Akwa Ibom State Government as an infringement on their fundamental human rights.

He said there “are better ways to react to violation of rules than demolishing worship centres. A large number of Nigerians believe in divine healing and intervention, and must be given their right to express their faith.

“So, we in the Civil Liberty Organisation (CLO) join hands with EII to condemn what the Akwa-Ibom state government has done,” CLO’s director said.