Amidst rising criticism of the government and widespread protests to demand an end to police brutality, the Lead Pastor of The Elevation Church, Godman Akinlabi, has urged the church to be steadfast in its role as the conscience of the nation.
Protests against the notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigerian police are rapidly spreading across several states, and Abuja, Nigeria’s federal capital.
The ongoing street protests have been triggered by the latest reports of murders of innocent civilians committed by SARS officers, who have long operated with impunity.
Akinlabi, who was one of the first church leaders to respond to the ongoing protests, said the role of the church is to act as the conscience of the government and the voice of the people as a collaborator for good governance. “My conscience gently nudges me in the right direction. As it does not strangle but does its work in a manner that steers in the right direction, so should the Church in any nation”, he concluded.
On Friday, as protesters stormed the streets across Nigeria in protest, met with tear gas and vicious police crackdown, Godman Akinlabi tweeted, “The peaceful #EndSarsProtests in a few States have been disrupted by officers of @PoliceNG, leading to unwarranted violence and shooting.
The right to peaceful protest should not be denied any citizen. @NigeriaGov @NGRSenate @HouseNGR it is time to end. An end must come to police brutality and human rights violation. Safety of lives and justice must become the order of the day.”
The respected clergy man also responded to questions on criticisms of the amended Companies and Allied matters Act (CAMA) 2020 law by some Christian leaders in Nigeria.
The newly enacted Act introduces measures to ensure efficiency in the registration and regulation of corporate vehicles, reduce the compliance burden of small and medium enterprises (SMEs), enhance transparency and stakeholders’ engagement in corporate vehicles and, overall, promote a more friendly business climate.
However there are certain aspects of the policy that have caused agitation amongst members of the clergy because it empowers government, through its regulatory agencies, to change the leadership and trustees of the church and take over the management of the church in the event of investigated financial irregularities and other infractions. Some Christian leaders have questioned the inclusion of religious centres and charity organisations in the policy.
According to Akinlabi, the most important thing about the policy is the motive of the government. “If the motive is to hold the church accountable and responsible, then it is good, as we have always advocated for self-regulation.
However, if there is any untoward ulterior motive, whether it is to stifle the church or go after vocal clergy who are frontal in highlighting areas of national improvement, then that would be wrong and not a demonstration of good leadership.
“New laws are often fraught with interpretation issues and it is only natural for stakeholders to seek clarity over grey areas. It is also not unusual for laws to attract serious controversies off the blocks, as the governed point out gaps that may potentially erode the sanctity of such laws. It is the responsibility of a sensitive government to listen and then make any necessary amendments to uphold fairness,” he added.