The Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministries has barred residents of host communities from passing through its Prayer City in Magboro.
The development has dimmed the hope of residents of the no fewer than 17 communities, whose access road was recently blocked, that the church may reopen the road.
Also, women in trousers, who have other business in the Prayer City, located at Magboro on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Ogun State, have been barred from passing through the camp ground.
The MFM had on Saturday, May 10, blocked the access road to Magboro, Magada, Makogi, Abule Odo and Unity Estate among other communities, a move the residents claimed was not only surprising, but was done without consultation with them.
The Ibafo Police Division had intervened in a planned protest by the residents on May 17, promising that the issues involved would be resolved.
The Divisional Police Officer, Mr. Jimoh Salawu, in appealing to the residents, called for a meeting of the representatives of the Community Development Associations in the area, where he asked the communities to write a letter outlining their demands.
Salawu had promised that the church would attend to the demands of the residents, chief of which was the re-opening of the blocked access road instead of relocating the ‘road’ to a waterlogged area, which has become a nightmare with the increasing rainfall.
Three weeks after the DPO’s intervention, the church barred the residents from passing through its estate, which is the only access road to link the expressway.
Operatives of the new security outfit, which the church engaged, on Saturday informed the residents, especially the motorists among them, that starting from Monday this week, they would no longer be allowed to pass through the camp ground.
While the new security operatives said the order came from the “church management”, one of the old security officers claimed that the house owners in the church estate, where the road passes through, took the decision not to allow the residents of adjoining areas to pass through the camp ground.
“The new guys don’t understand what is going on here. The people living in the estate said they don’t want anyone to pass through this area. That is why they have locked all the gates so that there will only be one road for resident of this estate; not for outsiders,” said the security man, who would not want his name in print.
Meanwhile, the church has started a “strict enforcement” of its law against women putting on trousers and passing through the camp ground.
Some women, who were on their way to the Ecobank in the Prayer City on Monday recounted their experiences in the hands of the security men at the main gate of the camp.
They wondered why the church must “embarrass” women, who were on their way to a “bank and not the church auditorium.”
One of them, who spoke to our correspondent on condition of anonymity on Monday, said, “See the loose trousers that I’m putting on. How does this offend anybody? You can imagine the embarrassment that I was subjected to at the gate on my way here (bank).
“They asked why I must wear trousers to this place, as if I said I was going to the church auditorium. At least, they should have waited till I want to enter the church.”
When contacted, the Assembly pastor of the church, identified simply as Pastor Irabor said, “You are from where? Who sent you? Tell PUNCH I have no comment. God bless you.”
However, the Security Head of the church, who gave his name only as Mr. Lanre, told our correspondent that the road in question was not an access route for the public, adding that security challenges informed the barricade.
“The so-called access road is illegal. It is part of the church property. If we decided to block it, I don’t think that is business of anybody. Can you claim what does not belong to you? They (communities) even went ahead to stage an informal protest. Attacks on public places in the country have made it mandatory for organisations to beef up their security.
“We are not under compulsion to share our property with the communities. Regarding your question on the social benefits the neighbouring residents derive from the church, I can’t comment on that. But there are records of what we have done for them,” he said.
Commenting on the women on trousers, Lanre said the dress was inconsistent with the doctrine of the church.
He said, “Such women will be barred from taking the road on the camp that links to the expressway.”