Armed police officers in 10 trucks arrived Qua Iboe Church, at 112 Ikot Ekpene Road, early in the morning on Sunday and barricaded the church entrance, preventing worshippers from entering the premises.
One woman with her two children who wanted to get to the church was seen stepping down from Keke (a commercial tricycle). She and her children walked back and then disappeared into a nearby street, apparently frightened by the presence of the police officers.
Later in the day, around 10 a.m., some of the church members began gathering by the roadside, while the police continued with the barricade.
We learnt that the police action is due to a lingering factional crisis in the church.
“The police have padlocked the main gate of the church, they don’t allow anybody to enter the church,” a security guard in the church told us in the morning.
“The policemen came here as early as 6 a.m., and locked the gate after ordering people who were sweeping the church to leave,” he said.
“Our church is not a police station, they should not be doing this! They should leave the place and go back to their station!” Samuel Magnus, the church youth leader, said angrily on the phone while preparing to leave home for the church.
Onofiok Ettang, the chairman of the church council, was unaware of the police presence in his church when we called him in the morning; he was still at home, preparing to leave for the church.
“I’ll be going there now to ascertain what’s going on,” Mr Ettang said.
“The major problem in the church is that the United Evangelical Church wants to take over the church from Qua Iboe (Church), and they are using all means to do that,” he said.
The Qua Iboe Church
Qua Iboe Church was founded around 1887 by an Irish missionary, Samuel Bill, who served in Ibeno, in the present-day Akwa Ibom State.