The Nigerian Diocese of Zaria reports the Kaduna state government has ordered the church to vacate its cathedral within seven days, so the 110 year old structure may be pulled down to expand a local market.
In a statement printed on its website on 20 Sept 2019, the diocese reported that a quit notice had been issued by the Kaduna State Urban Planning Development Agency (KASUPDA) stating the state was going to demolish St George’s Anglican Cathedral.
The notice for the eminent domain action stated the decision to take the church had been made by order of the Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, adding that compensation had already been paid to the church for the property.
According to the diocese, when the Rev. John Hayab, who also serves as the Kaduna chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) received the notice, he contacted the KASUPDA. He was told: “Reference to the governor’s directive on the issue of Market development which compensation has been duly paid. However, you are hereby directed to vacate your resident within seven days from now, failure to comply will leave the Agency with no option than to evict you at your own expense, from 19th to 24th September, 2019”.
CAN noted there were no signatures of the order, merely the names of the clerks who had prepared the document. The organization’s spokesman noted: “We are alarm and apprehensive about this, if it is true that it is a directive from the governor, but we doubt it very much if the governor issued the directive”.
He added: “This is because in February 2016, the state government made moves to relocate the Church to pave way for the expansion of the market, but later realised that the Church has all valid documents and that even some parts of the market fall on the Church’s land”.
The diocese noted that it proper title to the land and had received no compensation in return for its taking. They questioned the motives behind the land grab noting the cathedral had permitted the neighboring Sabo Market to use some its land. “Has that make it a crime to be kind-hearted and accommodating?”
“We therefore asked if the KAPSUDA officials are playing a script or are they being used by some unidentified enemies simply to provoke religious crises?”
“How could the governor issue a 7-day quit notice for an issue that has been resolved in year 2016? We are optimistic that this could be the manipulation of some unscrupulous entity to cause chaos in Kaduna State,” the diocesan statement said.
In a letter to the state government, the Bishop of Zaria, the Rt Rev’d Abiodun Ogunyemi said: “We are shocked with the development but we have all our documents which we bought the land and as it is, part of the market belongs to the Church which has been in existence for over a hundred years without any problem from any past administration in the State”
“We are praying that justice will take its cause on the matter because as a Church, we followed all the legal and genuine procedures in obtaining the land and out of our magnanimous deposition, we allowed part of the land to be occupied by the market, knowing fully well that our documents are genuine.”