Drama As Parishioners Padlock Bishop, Others Inside Church Over Alleged Financial Impropriety

The Cathedral Church of Saint Luke, Anglican Diocese, Sapele, Delta State, has been dismembered
by a crisis between worshippers and the presiding Bishop, Rt. Rev B. A.
Erifeta, JP. Since July 2015, some worshippers, who are at loggerheads
with the bishop over alleged financial impropriety, high handedness and
maladministration, have refused to walk the sanctuary to reverence God,
preferring to worship the Almighty in the open air, along Boyo Road in
the town

The hostilities degenerated to the extent that the violent congregation
locked the bishop, other members of the clergy and youths in the
cathedral during a service, last year that it took the breaking of the
keys of the burglary proof and gate for them to get out.

Saint Luke Cathedral, Sapele, is perhaps the only Anglican Church in the
state where the members worship God in such a manner and even
unbelievers are shocked as to why children of God would not bury the
hatchet. The dispute erupted several years ago and efforts to resolve
the conflict amicably have hit the wall. Primate, concerned bishops wade
in Recently, the Bishops of Warri diocese, Rt Rev, Christian E. Ide,
Oleh diocese, Rt Rev U Aruakpor and Erifeta himself went on a
troubleshooting mission to notable members of the diocese, including Sir
Newton Ejiro Omoko (JP), Chief E.K. Gbragada, Chief  Omatseye One of
Warri Kingdom, Sir, Simon Agbaroli and Chief J.I. Efemini a prominent
Chief in Idjerhe Kingdom to let bygones by bygones, but there was no
headway.

A source, however, said the matter was now at the table of the Primate
of the Anglican diocese, who summoned the parties for a meeting, last
Wednesday, but it was aborted because of his engagement. He added:  
“The primate will reschedule the meeting for another day if it has not
been done already.” Our complaint against Erifeta – Aggrieved worshipers
The parishioners   submitted a 67-point allegation against their bishop
ranging from financial impropriety   to stealing and immoral
activities. A member of the Saint Luke Cathedral, Sapele, who accused
Erifeta and his supporters of standing the truth on the head, told NDV:

“The first sign of trouble was in April 2014 when he (Erifeta) allegedly
disbanded the over 100-member choir of the church. Some elders of the
church, some between the ages of 70-90 years went to beg him and he
practically chased them out of his office, vowing to set up his own
choir.

“As we speak, the building   (church)   has been abandoned and taken
over by weeds while inside the auditorium is dirty, a sign of not being
used, over a long while.   We worship outside, along Boyo road, near the
cathedral. You can see that we have erected canopies to conduct their
services every Sunday. “Since we started worshiping outside, we have
witnessed a lot of revival as many of those who left the cathedral on
account of Bishop Blessing Erifeta’s alleged unbearable attitude have
returned with several positive testimonies.”

He added: “You asked why we worship outdoors, the outside worship is to
protest the continued stay of the bishop. Some of the allegations
against the bishop among others were that he denigrated the church when
he turned his staff upside down in the altar and placed curses on
members of the church, mismanagement of church funds, abuse of elders of
the church and all that.

Crumbling pulpit

“Is it not strange that the pulpit of the church collapsed when the
bishop was having bible study with his clergy on 17th Feb 2015, and
recently the pulpit of Our Redeemer Anglican Church Sapele, crashed when
the bishop was studying with his priests on 27th September 2016? He
however promised to fix it,” he said.

He asserted: “Regrettably, the bishop failed to get read the handwriting
on the wall even after     one of the priests, Venerable O.E Okpara,
who preached in the cathedral using the platform of the pulpit after it
was repaired, died weeks later.”

His words: “After this incidence, the members of the church wrote a
petition to the primate elucidating on the above allegations against the
bishop. Members have expressed grave concern and dismay on the
insincerity of the church authority to uphold the truth. The matter has
been to the domain of traditional rulers in the area, Assistant
Inspector General of Police, AIG, Zone 5, Benin City, court, etc.
Supposed prejudice

“The people perceive injustice by the church authorities and this has
made the resolution difficult. It was reported that the panels set up by
the church authority was skewed to give the bishop an advantage and the
people rejected them, insisting that there must be fairness,” he said.

Contrary to the stand of the spokesperson of the church, he said: “All
the Anglican churches in Sapele and environs are unanimous on the
bishop’s removal as they have stopped remitting money to the diocese
until Bishop Erifeta is removed. Currently, all the churches are
witnessing massive development since the stoppage of assessment.”