Over 200 Anglican priests and five thousand worshipers of the Diocese on the Niger, Anglican Communion, yesterday defied the heavy presence of security agencies and marched in a long convoy to St Simon, Bishop Crowther Memorial Church, BCM, inside Bishop’ Crowther Primary School, owned by the Diocese, to worship and thank God for Nigeria’s 58th independence celebration with the Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, camped in the church premises.
It should be recalled that the worshipers were prevented entry into the premises by security agents on Sunday.
The Anglican faithful, who defied heavy presence of the Police, Army, the Nigerian Security and Civil Defense Corps, operatives of the Anambra State Vigilante, AVS, and Operation Clean and Healthy Anambra State, OCHA Brigade, who barricaded the entrance gate of the church, succeeded in entering the church for their service.
As early as 7.30 am yesterday, the security agencies in Anambra State had taken over the premises and the surroundings of the church like they did on Sunday when they prevented Anglican worshipers and their visitors from worshiping there.
Vanguard on arrival at about 8.15 am at the scene sited the Onitsha Police Area Commander, Mr Yahaya Abubakar; Commander of Operation Udoka Onitsha, Mr Uche Eze and Divisional Police Officer, DPO, in charge of Central Police Station, CPS, Onitsha, Mr. Ikechukwu Egbochukwu directing the security agents to maintain peace at the scene.
However, soldiers from Onitsha Military Cantonment shortly on arrival at the scene, left before the arrival of Anglican priests and worshipers.
Led by the Sub Dean, All Saints Cathedral Onitsha, Ven. Obiora Uzochukwu and other senior priests in the Diocese, the Anglican priests and the worshipers arrived the church at exactly 10.05am, chanting different religious songs and marched into the church compound without any hindrance from any of the security agents who were overwhelmed by the number of worshipers in protest-like movement.
Addressing the worshipers and the IDPs, Ven. Josiah Ofoegbu told the people that “we came here to celebrate Nigeria’s 58 years of independence with you. We also want to tell you that the altar of Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther is inside this compound. We still have the stone where he stood to address the early missionaries of the Anglican church here. We own this land and we are not contesting it with anybody. It is intruders that contest what do not belong to them. We have come to take what belongs to us. We want to assure you that you will be comfortable the period you will stay here.”
Also speaking, Ven. Dave Udezika said God will bless Nigeria and Anambra State and urged the faithful to shout thunderous and Jericho-destroying Amen and they responded.
“Today is independence day, tell God not to leave you out of his favor, that he should be with you and your families and bless you for the remaining part of the year. Our brothers who are hit by the flood, we urge you to take heart, the problem will soon be over and you will go back to your respective homes.”
Delivering the Sermon after reading the Bible Lesson taken from Numbers Chapter 25, verse 1, Ven Ndubisi Obi, said anytime there is lawlessness from the government and the people are derailing, God does not fail to intervene for the faithful.
“As Christians, we pray for peace in Nigeria and in Anambra State, we the Anglicans came here in 1857 and since that time, we have been preaching peace. We believe in live and let live, we cannot be intimidated out of Onitsha where we survived first as a religious body.
“Whether anybody likes it or not, we will stay here. Nobody can take anything that belongs to us, we are not taking anything that does not belong to us. Government should not be misguided to cause trouble where there is no trouble.”
The proceeds of the offerings from the thanksgiving service were handed over to the co-coordinator of the IDP camp, simply identified as Honorable, for the up-keep of the victims of flood.