The plan by the Katsina State Urban and Regional Planning Board, KURPB, to stop further works on a branch of the Evangelical Church Winning All, ECWA, in Matazu Local Government Area, is generating ripples among residents, with fears that the situation might degenerate to a religious crisis.
In a letter, dated January 6 2015, entitled “STOP NOTICE” and received by ECWA Trustees, KURPB gave the church a three-day ultimatum to stop all the development work at the ECWA branch in Matazu.
According to the KURPB, ECWA had been proceeding with the development of the church without necessary legal requirements, but said the church might forward proper formal application or risk “further action” by the board.
The letter reads: “You are hereby advised to stop all the development work at Matazu ECWA Church. It is believed that you are proceeding with development of the site without the necessary legal requirements of planning permission from Katsina State Urban and Regional Planning Board or in violation of such permission.
“If you are developing the site without planning permission, or in contravention of conditions of such permission granted, you are committing an office. In receipt of this notice, you should stop such development work with immediate effect and present a formal application for planning permission to the Development Control immediately.
“Your application must include three sets of all plans including clear site/location plans and a photocopy of the Certificate of Occupancy or any document of ownership and your current tax clearance certificate. At the time of issuance of this notice, the stage of your development is seven (7) courses of cement construction.
“Failure to act within three (3) days of this notice may result in further action by the Board. This notice will cease to have effect only after the issuance of planning permission by the Katsina State Urban and Regional Planning Board”.
The church compound is said to play host to a school and staff quarters.
Meanwhile, an indigene, Yunusa Matazu, who spoke on behalf of indigenous Hausa/Fulani Christians in the local government, accused the Katsina State Government of planning to construct a road in place of the church site.
Similarly, a member of ECWA in Abuja informed journalists that the planned demolition is already generating tension that could cause serious crisis if not handled with caution.
In reaction, Christian Association of Nigeria; ECWA President and Tarayyar Masihiyawan Nijeria (Hausa, Fulani and Kanuri Christians), have vowed to resist the action of the state government and its agency.
Also speaking, the President of Hausa/Fulani/ Kanuri Christians, Ishaku Ahmed Dikko, a retired General, said, “It is pure religious persecution; the compound is owned by us and has been on for over 99 years. They believe that being Christians, we may likely support the government in power and the President (Goodluck Jonathan).
“Although the place has been on for long, we see it as pure religious persecution, going by our relationship with them which has not been so cordial. It is a big compound built by the Christian missionaries. We have the C of O, but the Katsina State government refused to renew the C of O for another 99 years.
“There is a Boarding and Staff quarters inside the premises, staff quarters and students Hostel. The road they want to construct will pass through the compound and divide it into two but will not lead to anywhere. The decision is a continuation of the marginalization and persecution of Christians in the North”.
In its reaction, the CAN has described the situation in Matazu as a purely ‘religious persecution’.
The CAN President, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, said, “I am very upset about this; it is very unacceptable because this is pure religious persecution. It is all about the forthcoming 2015 general elections. This is democracy; people have freedom to support any candidate of their choice. This must not be allowed in Nigeria. There are certain candidates that are heating up the polity and causing problems. There are certain people in the country, especially in the North who cannot vote according to their conscience; they are being compelled to vote in a certain direction”.