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Nigeria State Government “Threatens” Evangelical Church

BosNewsLife News

19 December 2006

NIGERIA (BosNewsLife) — There was concern Tuesday, December 19, that members of an evangelical church in Nigeria ‘s volatile Kano State would not be able to return to their building after local authorities offered a small compensation of about $6,000 in local currency for the seizure of their premises.

In a statement the ‘HEKAN’ or Combined Churches of Christ church in the Rogo Local Government Area said officials made clear that non acceptance of the compensation offer would mean the church “faces losing everything.”

The HEKAN congregation was reportedly forced to meet in the open after their church building was destroyed during religious violence of May 2004. Subsequent efforts to renovate the building were met by intimidation by Muslim militants.

The church building was previously a beer parlor purchased in 2000 and renovated by HEKAN after the church had been told to move from its original premises by the local government, said Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) a major Christian rights group. Authorities had offered compensation for the move, but this money had not been forthcoming.

PASTOR SUMMONED

In January 2006 the church’s pastor was summoned by the district head in the middle of the night, who reportedly offered $6,000 for the land. The pastor refused, but last month local authorities began to construct an Islamic school on the site.

Church officials said Tuesday, December 19; they have been forced to accept the money as the building of the Islamic school is well underway, CSW said. The HEKAN church has been one of a number of churches to face either land seizure or building demolition during violence in the Shari’ah, or Muslim Law, states of central and northern Nigeria in recent years.

“It is unacceptable that Christians in Kano State are being treated as second-class citizens in respect of their right to ownership of land and property,” said CSW Advocacy Director, Tina Lambert. “This is a clear violation of the country’s federal constitution, which stipulates the right of any Nigerian to own land in any part of the country. We call upon the Federal government to uphold this constitutional provision and urge the governing authorities of Kano to ensure a just settlement to this unfortunate incident.”