However for some younger staff on the entrance of the constructing, nothing offers the edifice away from afar.
In contrast to some church buildings, the Christian Praying Meeting, situated on Ugo Nnabuife Road, one of many sprawling suburbs within the Ajao Property space of Lagos State, didn’t have the standard signposts that welcome guests or passersby to its each day companies. Near the church gate have been a couple of automobiles belonging to a few of the congregants. The church is based by Rev. Chukwuemeka Ezeugo (aka Rev King) who’s at present on dying row.
“Are you right here for the service? We don’t obtain cellphone calls contained in the church,” considered one of them, on sighting our correspondent, who he mistook for a brand new member, requested as he ushered him in. Earlier than our correspondent entered the church premises, one other church member who was inside earshot merely glanced on the newcomer and launched into prayers. He stood out amongst others together with his putting look– a goatee mimicking the appears to be like of the church’s founder and Basic Overseer.
Journey into jail
Rev King, as fondly referred to as by his disciples, was arraigned on the Lagos Excessive Courtroom, Ikeja on September 26, 2006, on six counts of homicide of a member of his church, Ann Uzoh, and the tried homicide of 5 different members. The cleric was stated to have poured petrol on the deceased, 5 others and set them ablaze on July 22, 2006, for allegedly committing fornication. Uzoh was stated to have died on August 2, 2006 from the accidents she sustained from the burns. In a judgement delivered on January 11, 2007, the then trial choose, Justice Olubunmi Oyewole, convicted King and sentenced him to twenty years imprisonment on every of the 5 counts and a dying sentence for homicide.
The cleric challenged the judgement on the Courtroom of Attraction however misplaced after the appellate courtroom upheld the choice of the trial courtroom. Not happy, he approached the Supreme Courtroom. However on February 26, the apex courtroom affirmed the judgements of the Lagos Excessive Courtroom and the Courtroom of Attraction. The gory nature of King’s motion left the general public in shock a lot in order that the late Justice Sylvester Ngwuta of the Supreme Courtroom, who learn the lead judgement on behalf of a five-man bench led by a former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, described the actual fact of the case as one which “might have been lifted from a horror movie.’’
“The prosecution’s case was that the appellant accused six of his folks of immoral behaviour. He referred to as them collectively, beat every of them with many onerous objects and after the beating, he assembled them downstairs, made them kneel and he precipitated petrol to be poured on them and a struck match thrown on them. All of them sustained varied levels of burns. Whereas 5 of them escaped, the sixth of them who later died sustained 65 per cent diploma burns. You possibly can think about her final day within the hospital.
“Appellant denied this incident, saying although he punished them for immoral behaviour, the punishment was totally different from the incident that gave start to this cost. He stated they sustained accidents when a generator exploded. That was his case. However all through the proceedings, this mysterious generator was by no means produced,” the late Ugwuta had stated within the judgement.
The signing of King’s dying warrant continues to be pending.
Disciples wrestle to maintain ministry going
The church’s fenced premises are like an open auditorium devoid of a tiled ground from the backend. The constructing was apparently beneath building earlier than the venture was halted. Contained in the auditorium is an altar with numerous seat sizes for ministers and senior officers. However lots of the seats weren’t occupied when Sunday PUNCH visited on Sunday, September 26. Under the altar have been plastic chairs neatly organized to accommodate not less than 500 congregants. Nevertheless, lower than 1 / 4 of the seats have been crammed, indicating a low turnout of worshippers for service.
The turnout additionally instructed that the cleric’s travail might need robbed the church of spectacular attendance as his followers visibly try to maintain the ministry going. It’s not misplaced to state that the church would have been structurally upgraded had the clergyman not been convicted for homicide.
Our correspondent noticed that the present scenario fell in need of what Sunday PUNCH noticed some years in the past throughout considered one of Rev King and his church members’ excursions of Lagos streets on evangelism. That day, the cleric and his church worshippers have been the cynosure of all eyes on the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway close to Ile Epo Bus Cease within the Agbado Oke-Odo Native Council Growth Space. They occupied state-of-the-art automobiles with a couple of open-top vehicles of their convoy and heaving drumming and singing saying their mission. Congregants wore white T-shirts with an embossed picture of the cleric and the heavy-bearded clergyman sat majestically in a black-coloured automotive and waved gaily at passers-by who tried to get a glimpse of him. The worshippers danced, sang and exuded boundless pleasure. Nevertheless, one of many congregants instructed our correspondent on situation of anonymity that they’d a much bigger turnout earlier than the jailing of Rev King, expressing hope that the scenario would enhance.
Like many public buildings, the church supplied cleaning soap and water for handwashing in tandem with COVID-19 protocols. The church members have been additionally well-spaced. Thus it was straightforward for them to take off their face masks whereas seated within the auditorium.
There was nothing unusual concerning the sitting association; women and men weren’t separated. The choir stand was near the altar within the higher left nook of the auditorium. The choristers have been straightforward to establish of their shiny black and white robes made from silk. Lots of the youngsters, female and male, wore white long-sleeved shirts and a pair of brown trousers, indicating their membership of an organisation inside the church.
A lot of the congregants sang and danced to Christians songs, principally sung in Igbo, for about an hour whereas a couple of of them sat nonetheless in a meditative kind. Nevertheless, a few of the church members danced in a grand model. Certainly one of them, a younger man with dreadlocks, darted from his seat to the altar as if in a trance. He hopped in direction of the altar, strode backwards and momentarily moved in circles. He later took off his jacket and danced in a method typical of reggae lovers.
Little question, regardless of his conviction for homicide and tried homicide, Rev King nonetheless instructions respect and is very revered by his followers who strongly consider in his ideologies and teachings. In February 26, this 12 months, his followers positioned ads in a newspaper to have a good time his birthday, describing him as, “Daddy G. O., His Holiness, The Most Honourable, Dr, Rev King,” amongst others.
Curiously, the church nonetheless conducts baptism for converts and members who’ve but to be totally accepted into the church, as introduced by a feminine employee most likely in her mid-40s.
“There shall be baptism on Monday, September 27, 2021; time is 4pm. These which are certified to be baptised ought to convene on the church premises by 2pm for his or her screening. Reward God! We will have our G. O.’s providing on Sunday, the third day of October 2021. Be ready. Reward God! Reward God!! Daddy G.O. shall reside perpetually in Jesus title,” the lady stated as she walked from the altar to her seat.
Instantly after, one of many church officers made an altar name, a Christian follow encouraging worshippers to make religious dedication to Jesus Christ publicly.
There was solemnity when an official walked in direction of the altar. Clearly, the congregants have been conscious of his mission as he introduced a prayer session which lasted about 10 minutes. Thereafter, the worshippers instantly knelt down and unfold their fingers in symbolic anticipation of ‘religious presents’ when he disclosed he was to present them the G.O’s benediction.
He learn out the benediction to which the congregants energetically responded to every sentence with a chorused amen at common intervals.
The benediction learn partially, “Thou shall get to your vacation spot in peace. The Lord God Almighty – the God of our G. O., His Eminence, the Most Honourable, Dr Rev King – shall at all times ship you…. Could the Holy Ghost of the Almighty God, which is above all issues, be with you all, lead you thru all of your success, shield you all, information you all in all of your going out and your coming in, provide you with peace, pleasure, love, understanding, greatness, fruitfulness, endowment of blessings now and at all times, by Jesus Christ of Nazareth our Lord and saviour. Amen! The Lord be with all. Go in peace, I like you all.’’
The identical scenario performed out in January 2020 throughout a go to to the church. That Sunday, the worshippers stretched out their fingers and shouted ‘Amen’ as an official learn out what he described because the G. O’s benediction to them. The turnout for Sunday service was not totally different from the final one besides that those that got here late have been made to stay exterior for some time earlier than they have been allowed in. The usage of mobiles within the auditorium was strictly enforced.
It was, nonetheless, not clear how the church leaders obtained the G.O. messages supposed for the congregants. However a senior official within the Nigerian Correctional Providers who spoke on situation of anonymity to Sunday PUNCH stated it was inside the suitable of any inmate to obtain guests. Maybe, the church leaders pay their embattled G.O common visits to get messages from him to his church members.
The official additionally acknowledged that Rev King had been moved from a correctional centre in Lagos.
He stated, “He has been moved from Lagos correctional centre. Any inmate who has been sentenced will be moved to any correctional centre.’’
Shortly earlier than the top of the service final Sunday, an announcement was made for some church members to attend behind. Instantly the service ended, the church gate was shut whereas our correspondent additionally stayed in. However as our correspondent pretended to have acquired an emergency name he wanted to reply, one of many staff manning the gate, believing the urgency of the false name, barely opened the gate and beckoned on him to depart.
Legal professionals’ view on the matter
Talking on the event, a lawyer, Mr Tunde Esan, stated the previous governors of the state have been guilty for not signing the dying warrant of the cleric or granting him pardon, because the legislation permits, greater than a decade after he was condemned to dying.
“Since 1999 until date, has any governor right here (in Lagos) signed an execution warrant? The reply isn’t any, from (Asiwaju Bola) Tinubu to (Babatunde) Fashola to (Akinwunmi) Ambode to the present governor (Babajide) Sanwo-Olu. No one has signed an execution warrant.
“On whose doorstep do you place the blame, if a governor refuses to signal an government warrant? Are they (dying row inmates) entitled to state pardon? Once more, that could be a ethical query that falls on the desk of the governor, if he thinks they’re or will not be. It’s now not a authorized query as a result of the reality about it’s that the legal guidelines give him the suitable to grant a state pardon. Whether or not he needs to do this or doesn’t need to try this falls on the desk of the governor to do this,” Esan stated.
He added, “Whether or not the person (Rev King) instructions respect from the jail, what’s anyone going to do about that? One might have a look at it that as a condemned prisoner, there needs to be a restrict to the interplay he enjoys with different inmates but when that isn’t executed, whose drawback is that? That turns into the issue of the correctional companies centre when he’s saved. One might simply go on and on about folks not doing what they’re meant to do.”
However one other lawyer, President Aigbokhan, argued that the convict might be granted a pardon by the federal government, including that doing so wouldn’t deny the sufferer and people injured by the cleric’s motion as they can’t supersede the state’s choice.
Aigbokhan stated, “I feel it (dying sentence) will be transformed to life imprisonment. It’s on the discretion of the federal government, state or federal. If he (King) instructions that stage of respect, he will be given a pardon. He needs to be granted pardon primarily based on his following. He will be pardoned. There isn’t any offence that isn’t pardonable. Having been sentenced, it might even be transformed to 10 years, 20 years and life group service. An offence in opposition to the lifeless or the injured is an offence in opposition to the state. It’s the state’s choice that may supersede.’’
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