The Seventh Day Adventist Church has sealed off its Abia North Conference at Umuoriehi, in Umuahia North Local Government Area, over leadership crisis rocking the headquarters.
The church leaders sent the worshippers out of the church premises and locked the gate with a padlock.
They displayed placards with different inscriptions at the gate, such as “Sealed,” “End of an era,” “We pray for a new era of unity, peace, mission mindedness and genuine spirituality,” among others.
Speaking with newsmen, Mr Godson Chukwuocha, Leader, Umuahia/Ubakala/Umunneochi Zone, said they were putting an end to the leadership crisis that had lingered at the church headquartres for the past four years.
Chukwuocha said that the members were assembled from the 17 districts that make up the Conference.
He said that the church decided to pass “a vote of no confidence” on Pastor Enyinnaya Uguru with his executive and asked them to leave office because their tenure had expired.
Chukwuocha said that Uguru and his executive had been occupying the position for the past 12 years and had refused to leave, as against the church policy of four-year tenure.
He explained that their tenure expired since February, but the Union, which is the superior to the Conference, extended it to August after the plea by Uguru and his executive.
“The Union again extended it and expected them to organise another election and hand over to a new executive between Sept. 21 and Sept. 23, but they refused,” he said.
Also, Mr Iroabuchi Alozie, the Secretary, Umuahia/Ubakala/Umunneochi Zone, said that the church has a policy document that stipulates a four-year tenure.
According to him, Saturday was supposed to have been the swearing-in of the new executive.
“But because we are men and women of integrity, we will not watch impunity continue in the Church of God.
“This is the fourth year we are into this crisis and we cannot continue like this.We want to stop it now,” said Alozie, who is also the Secretary, Umuahia District.
The District Leader, Adventist Women Ministry, Mrs Priscilla Ogidi, said the women had pleaded with Uguru and his executive to leave the office for peace to reign but they refused.
A pastor in Umuahia District, Festus Uzochukwu, expressed displeasure over the leadership crisis, saying “this is God’s church and there’s no battle anybody can fight for God.”
He said that the people decided to come out to put an end to it.
Mr Eberechi Uwaoma, the Assistant Secretary of the youth wing in the district, said that the church hierarchy was aware of the crisis and had ordered Uguru and his executive to vacate but they didn’t.
“We are not locking our members out, rather we want Pastor Uguru and his team to keep off so that we can have our new leadership, people that can lead with the fear of God,” he said.
Uguru or any of his executive could not be reached for comment in spite attempts by the News Agency of Nigeria as they were said to have left their residences in the church premises before the service.