The Seventh Day Adventist Church on Saturday sealed off its Abia North Conference at Umuoriehi, in Umuahia North Local Government Area, over a leadership crisis rocking the headquarters.
The church leaders sent the worshippers out of the church premises and locked the gate with a padlock immediately after Saturday’s service.
They displayed placards with different inscriptions at the gate, such as “Sealed,” “End of an era,” and “We pray for a new era of unity, peace, mission-mindedness and genuine spirituality,” among others.
Speaking with reporters, Godson Chukwuocha, leader of the Umuahia/Ubakala/Umunneochi Zone, said they were ending the leadership crisis that had lingered at the church headquarters for the past four years.
Mr Chukwuocha said the members were assembled from the 17 districts that make up the conference.
He said the church decided to pass “a vote of no confidence” in Pastor Enyinnaya Uguru with his executive and asked them to leave office because their tenure had expired.
Mr Chukwuocha said Mr 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 in February, but the union, which is 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 September 21 and September 23, but they refused,” he said.
Also, Iroabuchi Alozie, the secretary of the zone, said the church has a policy document that stipulates a four-year tenure.
According to him, today (Saturday) is 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 in this crisis, and we cannot continue like this. We want to stop it now,” said Mr Alozie, the Umuahia District’s secretary.
The district leader, Adventist Women Ministry, Priscilla Ogidi, said the women had pleaded with Mr 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.”
Eberechi Uwaoma, the assistant secretary of the youth wing in the district, said the church hierarchy was aware of the crisis and had ordered Mr Uguru and his executive to vacate, but they didn’t.
Mr Uguru or any of his executives could not be reached for comment despite attempts by reporters, as they were said to have left their residences in the church premises before the service.