A pastor of a branch of the Assemblies of God Church in Gura Riyom, Jos South, Reverend Abel Davou was, on Sunday May 7th, attacked by members of his congregation. His attack was the remote ramification of the leadership battle at the national level that had lingered for a couple of years.
The legal wrangle had been between the General Church Council, led by General Superintendent, Chidi Okoroafor, and the suspended General Superintendent of the church, Reverend Professor Paul Emeka. It started when Emeka refused to accept his suspension as the General Superintendent. He, as a result, sued the General Council over his wrongful suspension. While the legal battle lasted, Reverend Davou’s church, with a population of about two hundred, remained firmly in support of the Emeka’s faction. Emeka won at the Federal High Court, but the Church Council appealed the ruling and subsequently won. Emeka, refusing to accept the ruling, proceeded to the Supreme Court but, again, lost on February 24th. Even though there is the general feeling that Emeka’s loyalist knew they had lost the case, Reverend Davou said they weren’t aware of that,; their lawyers kept telling them that there was yet to be a ruling of the Supreme Court.
The church order that followed the victory of the General Council of the Supreme Court, a copy of which was issued to commissioners of police in thirteen states, where the church has a presence, had directed that all those who supported Emeka’s faction should desist from using the churches until there is reconciliation at the bottom of the church hierarchy. This is because, from the ruling, the churches are properties of the General Council and not Emeka. But Reverend Davou was arrested and detained for five days, alongside other church leaders, for using the District Headquarters of the church for a meeting, despite the court order. It was at that point that the Reverend saw, clearly, that he and his laity cannot continue to flout the court order, especially since even the Bible directs that Christians should respect the rule of law of nations. As a result, it became necessary for Davou to tell his congregation the truth. But the congregation refused to accept his explanation, claiming that he was a traitor who had accepted a bribe from the Church Council, in order to switch his allegiance. As a result, his congregation, on Sunday 30th April, resolved that he shouldn’t be allowed to come into the church anymore. It was the reason why, the following Sunday, the police came to ensure there was no breakdown of law and order. The members gathered outside and worshipped, while police stayed to ensure no one opened the church. Since Reverend Davou could not be allowed to lead the worship, the service continued without him. Instead, younger boys he had trained, led the service while he stayed inside the pastor’s house, which stood facing the church. By the time the service ended, the police left. It was at that time that the crowd, which, by then had been infiltrated by hoodlums, started banging at the gate, urging the pastor to pack his belongings and leave. Women went into the kitchen and brought out utensils, claiming they belonged to the church and the pastor cannot use them. Boys hurled stones at glass windows, breaking them. When the pastor could not come out, others, with the aid of a ladder, climbed the roof top and started pulling out shingles. At that point, we tried to take photos of the boys on the rooftop. That was when the angry youths turned against us, seizing the camera we were using to take the pictures. We were saved by the intervention of a few God-fearing people.
The church members had claimed that, in addition to his “betrayal” of the church members, he “went after” married female members of the church and had, in the past, defrauded the church of its finances on several occasions. At that point, the chaos had grown so dire that it was not possible to reach the pastor for his comments on the allegations. But another member later told News Tower that the allegations were made up to find enough excuses to hang the pastor.