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Pastor Lazarus Mouka loses over N100 million over church closure

The locked church premises

The locked church premises

This is not the best of times for the Pastor Lazarus Mouka led Charismatic Revival Church popularly known as Lord’s Chosen over the shutdown of its headquarters on Ijesha, Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, Lagos on Sunday, October 6, 2013. The reason is not unconnected with the fact that since its closure, the ministry has lost an average of N100 million from three services.

Since its closure, the ministry could not host its over 500,000 worshipers who thronged the one kilometer auditorium headquarters.

ENCOMIUM Weekly’s check on Wednesday, October 9, 2013, revealed that the ministry holds three services weekly, Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays which is always jam-packed. Offerings, tithes and special donations per service, especially on Sundays are within the range of N50 million (if an average member pay N100 as offering excluding tithes and donations which run into several millions considering the calibre of people who worship there, the result is N50 million). Also, sales of tapes, magazines, anointing oil and water on the platform of the church runs into several millions. All these were adversely affected by the closure as the three services were  interrupted.

According to our source, the fiery preacher who is currently out of the country on mission work was not too happy with the sad tale.

ENCOMIUM Weekly’s gathered that Lagos State Government shut down the headquarters of the Lord’s Chosen and Charismatic Revival Church, Ijesha, Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, over environmental nuisance.

Officials of the Ministry of the Environment shut down the church on Sunday morning and prevented the worshippers from having their Sunday service usually attended by thousands of faithful.

Investigations revealed that the church does not have solid waste disposal facility. It burns its wastes inside the church premises, thereby exposing the lives of its worshippers to serious health hazards.

A substantial part of the sprawling church lies on the Odo Asimawu canal drainage channel, thereby impeding the flow of storm water.

The church also built its toilets on the canal, thereby discharging all its human waste into the canal.

In order to prevent an outbreak of epidemic, the state government had to seal the entire church premises.

The government accused the church of defacing and degrading the environment and refusing to abate the nuisance even after it had been served abatement notice to upgrade the environment.

Commissioner for the Environment, Mr. Tunji Bello said the church had committed lots of environmental abuses which it must stop before the massive edifice could be re-opened by the government as such illegality could not be tolerated any longer.

According to him, the church did not have proper waste management system, adding that it burnt its refuse inside the church, an action which ran fowl of the environmental and sanitation law of the state.

“The church does not have proper sanitary system and they discharge their wastes into the canal. Most of their members trade on the expressway, and we don’t want that,” he stated.

Bello added that the church would only be re-opened if it constructed new toilets as well as bagged its solid waste as well as managed such waste properly, saying that the church must build a sewage septic tank for the treatment of waste water.

“The conditions for reopening the church must include: complete sanitization of the entire church environment, putting in place proper solid waste facility, stoppage of refuse burning, removal of all structures on drainage channel, building of new toilet facilities, evacuation of solid waste dumped inside the canal and so on,” he said.

Bello assured that the state government would not shirk its responsibility of protecting Lagos environment and ensure that its residents were protected from environmental abuse.

The commissioner stated that the church must also ensure that none of its members trade on the expressway, while the church must remove illegal attachments built on drainage channel alignment in the area.

He said any structure to be erected by the church must be about 50 metres away from the drainage channel and ensure that the environment was kept clean, after which the government would re-open the church.

On Thursday, October 10, 2013 we contacted the PRO of the Ministry of Environment, Fola Adeyemi, who also confirmed the shut down.

However, on Friday, October 11, 2013, after keeping mum for several days, the church stated its own side of the story. The statement by their Director of Public Relations, Louis Chidi, stated that, “Our attention has been drawn to the news being circulated that our church has been closed by the Lagos State Ministry of the Environment. We wish to state the fact for the interest of our members and the general public.

“First, the church has not been closed by any government. The church and all its activities are running as usual.

“The fact is that officials of the Lagos State Government from the Office of Drainage Services in the Ministry of the Environment gave notice about a particular facility that did not observe the required set back from the canal.

“They therefore asked that the facility should not be used until necessary amendment is made. We have since complied and the facility reverted to the former status. Please, take note that the church did not stop functioning because of this as there are many other facilities within the church premises.

“The second observation raised was the issue of street market that sprang up at the bus stop. We also want to state that the church never encouraged street trading within the estate or along its road because on many occasions it has caused traffic obstruction to those coming into the church premises.

“The church authority has also repeatedly warned those traders to stop desecrating the holy ground and several other efforts made to stop the illegal market were to no avail as most of them claimed to be paying rent and taxes to the ‘authority.

“Meanwhile, officials of the task force section of the ministry have already dispersed the street traders.

“We wish to state emphatically that The Lord’s Chosen Church is a law-abiding ministry and will remain so in all her activities by the grace of God. The church was never closed, and above all, the cordial relationship existing between the state government and the church remains intact.

“We will continue to support and pray for the government of the state, her citizens and indeed the entire country,” he stated.

 – TADE ASIFAT and FEMI OYEWALE

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