Landlords and residents of the Christ Embassy Unity Estate Community Development Association in the Aseese area of the Obafemi/Owode Local Government Area of Ogun State have condemned the alleged plan of the Believers’ Love World, aka Christ Embassy, to demolish buildings in the community and take over the land.
The residents, while speaking with PUNCH Metro, accused representatives of the church of tricking them into forming an association with the church when some land grabbers allegedly prevented it from constructing a gate at the entrance to the estate, which leads to the church’s campground.
It was learnt that after the alliance between the church and the residents of the estate was cemented, the Christ Embassy Unity Estate Community Development Association was registered and the church, through the support of the residents, constructed the gate. But the church’s representatives were said to have abandoned the association shortly after the construction of the gate.
The residents, while condemning the action of the church’s representatives, said they were surprised that Christ Embassy claimed ownership of the entire community when its representatives, who were in company with armed policemen and some government officials, visited the area to measure and take photographs of the land without prior notice to the association.
The Chairman of the association, Akin Olaoye, said when efforts to get the church’s representatives to explain the reason for their action proved abortive, its members complained to the Ogun State Ministry of Urban and Regional Planning, and was told that the church had obtained a Certificate of Occupancy on the land.
Olaoye stated, “We were known as the Unity Estate before, but some years ago, Christ Embassy started using its campground and wanted to construct a gate at the entrance to our estate but was prevented from doing so by land grabbers.
“Since the estate’s entrance was the only route to the campground, the church’s representatives proposed that we should form an association with it to enable it construct the gate to boost the security of the estate. So, we agreed and formed the Christ Embassy Unity Estate Community Development Association.
“Immediately the construction of the gate was completed, Christ Embassy’s representatives withdrew from us and were no longer attending meetings. A reliable source told us that Christ Embassy has obtained a new C-of-O on the entire area, including our community.
“We became concerned when some officials of the Ogun State Ministry of Urban and Regional Planning accompanied the Christ Embassy representatives with armed policemen and the man who sold the land the church uses as its campground visited the community and started taking pictures of some parts of the estate without carrying the CDA along. We have written to the church to find out what is happening, but it has refused to answer us.
“When we visited the Ministry of Urban and Regional Planning’s office at Wawa, the official, who attended to us, confirmed that Christ Embassy had obtained a C-of-O on the land and that the ministry’s officials visited the community because the church said it wanted to clear the bush in the area.
“The church’s representatives were referring to our area as bush, but the officials are familiar with the area and they visited to ascertain the true state. My argument is that there are some properties here that already have Cs-of-O, so how could the government issue a new C-of-O on plots of land with existing Cs-of-O? From what I know, a C-of-O has to be revoked for another one to be issued.”
An elder in the community, Austine Otevbi, who said the association had petitioned three ministries in the state, added that proper consultation was needed to resolve the brewing crisis.
“We have submitted letters to the ministries of Urban and Regional Planning, Environment, and Cooperatives and Community Development to inform them about what is happening. We have been here for many years and none of us sold land to Christ Embassy. The representatives of the church are just operating without proper consultation,” he stated.
Lukmon Ogooluwa, whose family was said to have sold the land to Christ Embassy, said the church’s land was not part of the estate, adding that the representatives of the church would be at fault if they demolish any property in the estate.
Ogooluwa said, “It was my family that sold land to Christ Embassy, but the representatives of the church are just going about threatening people even when they know that their land is not part of the estate.
“If they go ahead to demolish peoples’ properties, they will be at fault because they don’t have the right to do so.”
When contacted, the Zonal Officer, Community Development Department, Obafemi-Owode Local Government Area, Adebanjo Abolaji, said he has had a meeting with the association’s chairman, adding that efforts were being made to confirm the information that the church had acquired the land at the Urban and Regional Planning ministry.
“The CDA wrote a letter to our ministry and I have been there to meet with the chairman. It seems like it is still a rumour because no notice has been given to them by the government. I have written my report to the ministry and we want to confirm from the ministry if the information that the land has been sold to the church is real,” Abolaji said.
The Project Coordinator, Christ Embassy, Armstrong Oyakhilome, said he was not aware of the Christ Embassy Unity Estate, adding that the Ogun State Government was in a better position talk on the true state of things as far as the land was concerned.
Oyakhilome said, “We are not the Ogun State Government; I think the best institutions to answer you are the Ogun State town planning ministry and the Bureau of Lands and Survey. They will have the correct information. We have never terrorised any community; we have never held any meeting with them; we are dealing with the Ogun State Government. You can also go as far as the governor’s office to get information.
“We acquired that place since 2003. I am in charge of the church’s campground and I have never visited that estate; I don’t know where the estate is. I am not aware of any association; we don’t attend meetings with the members. In fact, they are the ones putting signboards there to legitimise their claims.
“I am the project coordinator and I am not aware of any registration with them. I don’t belong to that estate and I don’t know the residents. There is nothing like Christ Embassy Unity Estate; there is Christ Embassy Crusade Ground. So, for anybody operating illegally on the Christ Embassy Crusade Ground, the government will take action.”