By Barr. Kwamkur Samuel Vondip
We have followed with keen interest the threat by the Kaduna State Urban Planning Development Agency to demolish the St George Anglican Church, Sabon Gari, Zaria.
We acknowledge the fact that the Kaduna State Government has decided to retract its threat to demolish the ancient church building which has been standing for over 110 years in that location for historical value of the Church.
While we commend the Government for taking the bold step to withdraw from the earlier threat to demolish the Cathedral, we are concerned that the only reason for withdrawing such threat is for “historical value”, not for the purpose for which the church was built and the blessings it has brought to the immediate communities and the entire nation.
This is a church that has developed the spiritual and moral values of many people in the ancient city for decades, yet the only reason the government will advance is the historical value of the church! To us the reason suggests lack of respect for the church in Nigeria and a probability of future threats to other churches without that long ‘history of historical value,’ not only in Zaria but the entire Kaduna State.
By the time that church started there, about one hundred and ten years ago, how many structures were in the vicinity to now warrant threat to the existence of the church? If the market came there many years after the existence of the church, should it be the church which first got there that should have its existence threatened? If overriding public interest was the excuse given, is the church equally not serving the public? Is the church serving an individual? The threat issued in the first instance was a provocation which ought not to happen in the first instance.
Nigeria is passing through very critical challenges of insecurity, poverty and high level of joblessness leading to many Nigerians giving up on life to the extend of committing suicide. This is the time that calls for more commitment to God and spiritual values are desirable and all arms and tiers of government are expected to recognize this and promote more commitment to God rather than waging war against religious organizations like this. Don’t we have abundance of land in Zaria Local Government Area to which the so-called market can be relocated?
From recent developments in our nation, we observe that some politicians in power are the ones using their selfish ambitions or immature political decisions to cause political tensions in our land, not the religious leaders as such.
We seize this opportunity to plead with them to desist from provocative political decisions that border on religion that can set the religious groups against one another. We the religious leaders in the country have promised never again to allow any politician or any other group to use their actions or statements to divide us again.
Without religious harmony in Nigeria, there cannot be peace and progress. We urge those in political leadership never to give flimsy excuse of overriding public interest again in this country to order for the relocation of any church or mosque all over the country.
We equally urge some states, especially in the North of the country who refused to give Certificate of Occupancy to churches that had applied for it to stop the discriminatory and unconstitutional policy. Different religious adherents in all states of the Federation should have unhindered opportunity to build their places of worship within the ambit of the law.
Deliberate refusal to issue Certificate of Occupancy in order to destroy such facilities later if built must stop. Those in government are expected to be seen to be promoting religious peace and harmony at all levels.
We commend greatly the Vicar of the church and Bishop of the Anglican Dioceses of Zaria for drawing the attention of Nigerians to the threat.
We sincerely appreciate the Chairman and members of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Kaduna State Chapter for the peaceful approach taken in resolving the matter. We equally commend the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) for the actions taken on this matter.
▪ Vondip is the Director, Legal and Public Affairs, CAN.