In what will come across as a really dramatic development, the many followers of the Spiritual Director, Adoration Ministry Enugu Nigeria (AMEN), Rev Father Ejike Mbaka, on Sunday defied a directive of the Catholic Bishop of Enugu Diocese, Most Rev Callistus Onaga, to stop attending Mbaka's church.
SaharaReporters earlier reported that Bishop Onaga on Saturday in a pastoral injunction on attendance to Catholic Adoration Ministry Chaplaincy Enugu, enjoined all Catholics to stop visiting the ministry till further notice.
It reported that the bishop advised the Catholic faithful to also pray for Mbaka.
Onaga had "in the light of the happenings in the Catholic Adoration Ministry Chaplaincy Enugu; capable of undermining the Catholic faith and teachings; and after several fraternal corrections and admonitions to Fr. Camillus Ejike Mbaka, the Chaplain of the Ministry; and after having given him pastoral directives and guidelines for the Ministry Chaplaincy, which he persistently violated; and in fulfilment of my pastoral duties as the Chief Shepherd with the obligation to promote and safeguard the Catholic faith and morals in Enugu Diocese, I hereby prohibit all Catholics (clergy, religious and lay faithful) henceforth from attending all religious and liturgical activities of the Catholic Adoration Ministry until the due canonical process initiated by the Diocese is concluded.
"My decision is based on the fact that some of the teachings and utterances of Fr. Camillus Ejike Mbaka at the Catholic Adoration Ministry are not consistent with the teachings and faith of the Catholic Church."
However, in defiance of the Prohibition, hundreds of Mbaka's admirers thronged the Adoration ground in protest against the bishop's directive.
Most of the followers who were with green leaves matched round the Adoration ground.
In a viral video, they could be heard calling for the removal of Bishop Onaga.
One of them said, "It is Bishop Onaga that should be suspended and not Fr Ejike Mbaka."
Protest in Enugu over Bishop Calistus Onaga's directive to Catholics not to attend Catholic Adoration Ministry presided over by Catholic Priest Ejike Mbaka. Onaga had in a June 17th letter banned Catholics from relating with Mbaka for describing @PeterObi as a "stingy Man". pic.twitter.com/h3hEh3M07Z— Káyọ̀dé Ògúndámisí 🇳🇬 (@ogundamisi) June 19, 2022
Meanwhile, a human rights organisation, Civil Rights Realisation and Advancement Network (CRRAN) has described the suspension order of the bishop as illegal and "a grave attack on the constitutional right of freedom of religion, worship and association."
A statement issued on Sunday by its President, Comrade Olu Omotayo, called on Enugu Catholic Diocese to retrace its steps from this dangerous incursion into politics and allow people to worship where they like.
The statement is titled, "Closure Of Adoration Worshipping Center Is A Grave Attack On The Constitutional Right Of Freedom Of Religion, Worship And Association Of Millions Of Nigerians Worshipping Thereat."
It reads in part, "We condemn without equivocation the closure of Adoration Prayer Center, Enugu, which has over the years served as a place of succour for millions of Christians both Catholics and non-Catholics. The decision of the Enugu Catholic Diocese though targeted at the Presiding Priest Rev Fr C. Ejike Mbaka, for his remarks against Mr. Peter Obi, is a grave violation of the Right to Freedom of Worship and Religion of millions of faithful who converge at the center for prayers on a daily basis.
"It would be recalled that the right to freedom of worship is gradually being eroded by religious bodies in Nigeria considering the incident in Abuja when Sheikh Khalid the Imam of Apo Juma’at mosque was removed because of his harsh statement against the President Buhari-led Federal Government.
"The events unfolding in Enugu, where justification is being found to justify the ban by Bishop on Catholics worshipping at Adoration ground because of Fr Mbaka's statement against Peter Obi, is not only unconstitutional, it's an attack on the Rule of Law, Freedom of Worship and Religion and taking the country back to the medieval time.
"It would be recalled that during the Abuja incident on the removal of Sheikh Khalid nobody cited Quranic injunctions that Muslims should respect and obey leaders in authority in order to justify the unlawful removal of the Imam but the removal was roundly condemned by all including Muslims and Christians, so the Enugu incident should be roundly condemned.
"It would also be recalled that Father Mbaka was only admonished and Adoration services suspended for weeks some months ago because he criticized the Federal Government, which we all condemned."
It added, "We submit that for anybody to hide under Canon law and close down where millions of faithful worship because the Presiding Priest made a harsh statement against Peter Obi is not only a grave violation of Freedom of speech and association of the priest but a grave violation of the freedom of worship and religion of millions of faithful, both Catholics and non-Catholics who worship daily at the center.
"We hope that the Enugu Diocese of the Catholic Church will retrace its steps from this dangerous incursion into politics and allow people to worship where they like.
"It is unconstitutional to close down a place of worship in Nigeria under any guise whatsoever because of remarks against any person even if it is the president of the Federation. The Court of Appeal in Arthur Nwankwo's case stated that the rights guaranteed the citizens of this country under the Constitution should be jealously guarded."