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Riot at Nigerian diocesan synod

Five injured in clashes with troops at the Diocese of Sapele synod meeting

A clash between soldiers and protesters at a Nigerian diocesan synod meeting has left five people hospitalized, two in serious condition. On 28 July 2016 soldiers guarding an oil pipeline were called to restore order at St John’s Anglican Church in Amukpe in Southern Nigeria’s Edo State in the Niger Delta after protesters barricaded the church before the start of synod calling upon the Rt. Rev. Blessing Erife­ta, Bishop of Sapele, to resign.

The bishop has been at loggerheads with some members of his diocese for several years. In July 2015 members of the diocesan Youth League occupied St Luke’s Cathedral shortly before the start of the diocesan synod, locking out the clergy and congregation for several weeks in protest to the bishop’s administration of the diocese.

They petitioned Archbishop Nicholas Okoh to remove Bishop Erifeta from office, accusing him of “financial recklessness, maladmin­istration, disrespect to elders and embark[ing] on incessant trips abroad with the diocese funds.” However, diocesan secretary Churchill Akure issued a statement last year denying the allegations. Mr. Akure said: “The cathedral has been known for so many bad reports in the past and the bishop did not give them a room to continue in such bad light through regular caution and rebuke. This is what they called insult. They keep resisting correction and are not ready to adjust. I pray God will open their eyes of understanding.”

Last weekend protesters waving placards calling for the bishop to resign surrounded the church as the synod began deliberations, preventing some delegates from entering, and blockading the bishop and other delegates inside the church.

The vicar of St John’s called for assistance and the authorities dispatched a squad of soldiers assigned to protect a nearby oil pipeline to restore order. They broke the siege of the building and in the melee four women and a youth were injured. Police soon restored order, and have promised an investigation into the violence.

Members of the synod and the bishop adjourned to a nearby school to pray while police cleared the area. They then returned to the church and the synod resumed business.

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