Palpable tension has gripped the city of Katsina, following the decision of the state government to demolish the 99 year old ECWA Church Headquarters Mission Compound in Mataazu, Mataazu Local Government Area of the state.
Already, the Katsina State Urban and Regional Planning Board has handed down a three day notice to demolish the church which also has a school and staff quarters.
Our correspondent gathered that Katsina state government is preparing to construct a road that will pass through the church compound, but the Christian Association of Nigeria; ECWA President and Tarayyar Masihiyawan Nijeria (Hausa, Fulani and Kanuri Christians), have vowed to resist the action which they described as “pure persecution of Christians.”
A member of ECWA church told journalists in Abuja that the planned demolition is already generating tension that could cause a religious crises.
In a letter titled “Stop Notice” from KURPB signed by one Hussain A. Lawal (Development Control Manager) for General Manager dated January 6 2015, and received by ECWA Trustees, it stated that “You are hereby advised to stop all the development work at Matazu ECWA Church.
“It is believed that you are proceeding with development of the site without the necessary legal requirements of planning permission from Katsina State Urban and Regional Planning Board or in violation of such permission.
“If you are developing the site without planning permission, or in contravention of conditions of such permission granted, you are committing an office. In receipt of this notice, you should stop such development work with immediate effect and present a formal application for planning permission to the Development Control immediately.
“Your application must include three sets of all plans including clear site/location plans and a photocopy of the Certificate of Occupancy or any document of ownership and your current tax clearance certificate. At the time of issuance of this notice, the stage of your development is seven (7) courses of cement construction.
“Failure to act within three (3) days of this notice may result in further action by the Board. This notice will cease to have effect only after the issuance of planning permission by the Katsina State Urban and Regional Planning Board.”
But the indigenous Hausa/Fulani Christians in Matazu LGA have told Governor Ibrahim Shema to revisit the proposal of a road to be constructed through ECWA Mission Compound by Matazu LG.
Speaking on behalf of the group, Dr. Yunusa M. Matazu said, “The proposed road will only succeed in dividing the compund into two as the compund is not a thoroughfare as such leading to nowhere.
“We contributed money and fenced the school and Staff Quarters to prevent theft and sexual harassment facing both staff and students within the compund. Therefore the proposed road will open the compund to unauthorized persons thereby exposing the Staff and Students to security risks.
“We hope Your Excellency will use your good office to intervene on this matter and stop the construction of the road. This will cement the already existing peaceful living atmosphere within the community.”
Reacting to the development, CAN President, Ayo Oritsejafor, who said the planned demolition exercise was all because of the forthcoming general elections, urged Nigerians to rise against such injustice.
“I am very upset about this; it is very unacceptable because this is pure religious persecution. It is all about the forthcoming 2015 general elections. This is democracy, people have freedom to support any candidate of their choice. This must not be allowed in Nigeria.
“There are certain candidates that are heating up the polity and causing problems. There are certain people in the country, especially in the North who cannot vote according to their conscience; they are being compelled to vote in a certain direction.
“That is why CAN believes that some of these people are just deceiving Nigerians when they decide to make Christians their running mates because of elections. This is pretence and cover-up.
“We know their antecedents and their real person. They put on a few clothings so to make them different when everyone knows who they are. This is unacceptable, this is an example of what we have been talking about. This must not be allowed, this must not happen, this must not go on. All Christians should rise up and resist this,” Oritsejafor said.
The President of ECWA, Rev. Jeremiah Gado premised the action of Katsina state government on the fact that “many Hausa people have long been converted to Christianity because of the ECWA Church.”
Also speaking the President of Hausa/Fulani/ Kanuri Christians, General Ishaku Ahmed Dikko (retd) said, “It is pure religious persecution; the compound is owned by us and has been on for over 99 years. They believe that being Christians, we may likely support the government in power and the President (Goodluck Jonathan).
“Although the place has been on for long, we see it as pure religious persecution, going by our relationship with them which has not bee so cordial. It is a big compound built by the Christian missionaries. We have the C of O, but the Katsina State government refused to renew the C of O for another 99 years.
“There is a Boarding and Staff inside the premises, staff quarters and students Hostel. The road they want to construct will pass through the compound and divide it into two but will not lead to anywhere. The decision is a continuation of the marginalization and persecution of Christians in the North.”