Landlords at Gideon village in Ibafo community, Ogun State have staged a peaceful protest at the Christ Embassy's campground in Asese community, Obafemi-Owode council area of the state over allegations of "land-grabbing, trespass and oppression by the church's representatives".
Chirst Embassy, also known as LoveWorld Incorporated or Believers' Loveworld, is a megachurch founded by Pastor Chris Oyakhilome.
The protesters came out on Sunday in large numbers armed with placards with different inscriptions
such as "Oyakhilome leave our land alone", "Land grabbing is a sin, stop harassing us", "Christ Embassy, don't cause religious crisis in Ibafo" and many others called on both the state and federal governments to as a matter of urgency and importance intervene in the matter to nip in the bud the brewing land crisis, which could lead to violence in a matter of days.'
According to the protesters, an alleged attempt by Christ Embassy Church to illegally and forcefully seize their landed properties was followed by provocation on Thursday, May 5, 2022 when the church’s representatives stormed the site of an ongoing building works belonging to CityCode Mortgage Bank Limited, with two policemen and more than 60 thugs.
The thugs allegedly wielded all sorts of dangerous weapons, wounding and whisking many workers on site away.
The action informed the residents' mass protest.
The protesters said, trouble, however, started when assailants stormed the company’s worksite, started shooting sporadically, descended on workers and anybody in sight, beating and using harmful objects on them and forcefully dragging them into vehicles they came with, saying that the commotion and shooting sent panic throughout the community, prompting some of the landlords and residents to resolve that the constant harassment must be stopped.
Speaking with SaharaReporters during the protest, some of the landlords who simply identified themselves as Azeez Salami, Emmanuel Ndubuisi Osuwa and Matthew Adedayo Eyinade, condemned the action of the church.
They alleged that in trying to forcefully take their land, the church had twice pulled down the CityCode’s fences in 2019 and again with swamp boogie in October 2021 and to date, the church has vehemently refused to rebuild the fences or paid compensation.
According to them, their fathers sold the land to CityCode in 2004 and there had been no dispute about that until Christ Embassy came to inform them that they were having a dispute with the Redeemed church and that after their settlement, they were assigned a swathe of land and wondered why Christ Embassy will still come and being to grab and trespass their fathers land illegally and in a crude manner.
Alhaji Momoh, who expressed displeasure, stated that “These churches, Redeemed and Christ Embassy, are trying to provoke us, believing we are helpless and nothing will happen. I am a retired civil servant and I know what it took me and how many years to build my house. We are free with CityCode, which was magnanimous enough to stay because from the record we have, they have the C of O in this area. We are not supposed to have any issue with any church, apart from CityCode.
"There are some among them who will buy land in the name of the church, but they actually share the lands among themselves to resell and make so much money. I have seen that in Redeemed very clearly. Government should rise and checkmate these people because this can lead to a crisis. We all have titles to our properties, I know not less than ten landlords here with their valid C of O, I have seen them, so what are they talking about?”
Speaking in the same vein, another landlord in the community who identified himself as Alhaji Momoh, alleged that the churches in the area are bent on setting the area on fire by their actions, believing nothing will happen.
He called on the state and federal governments to come to their aid and investigate the matter in order to avoid any breakdown of law and order in the area.
Addressing the protesters on behalf of the Christ Embassy Church, an official of the church and Chief Security Officer (CSO), Ighodalo Ozazuwa, told the protesters that they would be attended to but noted that the community had said a lot of things against the interest of the church.
"I won't respond. The matter is in court and it's being handled," he said.