From Jude Chinedu, Enugu
Members of the Adoration Ministry on Sunday morning embarked on a massive protest against the Catholic Bishop of Enugu Diocese, Calistus Onaga for ordering the closure of the ministry.
Onaga had banned Catholics from attending the Adoration Ministry following Mbaka’s recent outburst against Labour party Presidential Candidate, Mr Peter Obi.
Mbaka had accepted the decision of the church on Saturday announcing that the ministry’s programmes including Sunday services have been stopped till further notice.
Despite the announcement, thousands of adoration faithful who were not pleased with the development thronged the worship centre on Sunday morning demanding the removal of the Catholic Bishop over his role in the closure of the ministry.
The protesters who were chanting anti Onaga songs also attacked the Bishop verbally insisting that he must go.
It was also learnt that security agencies have been mobilized to guard the residence of the Bishop to forestall a repeat of last year’s attack on his residence by Mbaka’s followers over a similar incident.
Meanwhile an Enugu based human right activist, Olu Omotayo has condemned the closure of the adoration centre by the Catholic Church describing the action as unconstitutional.
In a statement on Sunday, he said that the closure of the centre was an attack on the constitutional right of freedom of religion, of worship and of association which members of the Adoration Ministry are entitled to.
Omotayo who is the President of Civil Rights Realisation and Advancement Network (CRRAN) called on Bishop Onoga to retrace his steps and reopen the worship center.
“We condemn without equivocation the closure of the Adoration Prayer Center, Enugu, which has over the years served as a place of succour for millions of Christians both Catholics and non Catholic.
“The decision of the Enugu Catholic Diocese, though targeted at the Presiding Priest Rev. Fr. Ejike Mbaka, for his remarks against Mr. Peter Obi, is a grave violation of the Right to Freedom of Worship and Religion of millions of faithful who converge at the center for prayers on a daily basis.
“It would be recalled that the right to Freedom of worship is gradually being eroded by religious bodies in Nigeria considering the incident in Abuja when Sheikh Khalid the Imam of Apo Juma’at mosque was removed because of his harsh statement against the President Buhari led Federal Government.
“The events unfolding in Enugu, where justification is being found to justify the ban by Bishop on Catholics worshipping at Adoration ground because of Fr Mbakas’ statement against Peter Obi, is not only unconstitutional, it’s an attack on the Rule of Law, Freedom of worship and Religion and taking the country back to the medieval time.
“It would be recalled that during the Abuja incident on the removal of Sheikh Khalid nobody cited Quranic injunctions that Muslims should respect and obey leaders in authority in order to justify the unlawful removal of the Imam but the removal was roundly condemned by all including Muslims and Christians, so the Enugu incident should be roundly condemned.
“It would also be recalled that Father Mbaka was only admonished and Adoration services suspended for weeks some months ago because he criticized the Federal Government, which we all condemned.
“We submit that for anybody to hide under Canon law and close down where millions of faithfuls worship because the Presiding Priest made harsh statement against Peter Obi is not only a grave violation of Freedom of speech and association of the priest but a grave violation of the freedom of worship and religion of millions of faithfuls, both Catholics and non Catholics who worship daily at the center.
“We hope that the Enugu Diocese of the Catholic Church will retrace its steps from this dangerous incursion into politics and allow people to worship where they like.
“It is unconstitutional to close down a place of worship in Nigeria under any guise whatsoever because of remarks against any person even if it is the president of the Federation. The Court of Appeal in Arthur Nwankwos’ case stated that the rights guaranteed to the citizens of this country under the Constitution should be jealously guarded.”