First Baptist Church Garki crisis takes fresh twist

The constitutional crisis rocking the First Baptist Church, Garki, Abuja, is worsening and stalling peace moves, with the immediate past pastor of the church and current President of the Nigerian Baptist Convention, Rev. Israel Akanji, accusing some members of the church, he described as “wolves” as the root cause.

Speaking in Ibadan, at the first anniversary of his presidency of the Convention, Rev. Akanji blamed the problem on church members whom, he said wanted to take control after his departure in August 2021.

In a video footage, that has gone viral Rev. Akanji condemned taking any church dispute to a civil court for settlement, saying that it was against the practice of the Convention to so do. 

In a swift reaction however, the spokesperson of the group that headed to court, Ambassador Akin Oyateru, said that Rev. Akanji himself was being economical with the truth and that he has conveniently glossed over his subterranean scheming that frustrated internal settlement of the dispute.

He posited that the serial scheming had left the group with no other option than to seek redress in the civil court.

The spokesperson said what Rev Akanji deliberately failed to tell his audience was that the dispute taken to court was essentially the determination of what the Church Constitution stipulated as modalities for choosing a successor Pastor. He asks: “how does that amount to taking over the Church as Rev Akanji alleged?”

He reiterated that the court case was instituted because of non-adherence to the provisions of the Constitution approved by the Church-in -Conference way back in 1998.

He said this Constitution and a prepared Financial Manual for use of the First Baptist Church Garki were handed over to Rev Akanji on his arrival in the Church in 1999.

He added that he was required to go over the Constitution prelude to registering the Church with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).

He noted that unfolding events have shown who indeed had perfected plans to take over, or maybe own, the Church. He referred to the  deposition of the current Church secretary to an affidavit under oath which disclosed the existence of another Constitution used to  register the Church with the CAC in 2012 (13 years from 1999!) apparently at the instance of the Rev. Akanji, a development which was  not disclosed to Church members and indeed unknown to them until that deposition which was done to answer  the summons  received from the court in April 2022.

The current leadership of the church applied to the Corporate Affairs Commission for a certified true copy of the Constitution used to register the Church. 

That certified true copy given to them by the CAC and the 1998 Constitution submitted to Rev Akanji on his arrival in the Church in 1999 are what is now in contest. 

It was, however, observed that the Constitution deposited at the CAC in 2012 lacked definitions of responsibilities of several organs of the Church and in particular did not provide for succession plan of the Church Pastor in case of resignation, termination of appointment, death etc as is normal in such Constitutions of a Baptist Church and even the Constitution of the Nigeria Baptist Convention.

The spokesperson of the group also recalled the failed attempts by Rev Akanji to perpetuate his rule over the Church by seeking to transfer his service to the Convention.

His plan was to run the two positions simultaneously (which of course he actually did for the three months – April to June 2021) and thus paved the way for his seamless return when he would have dismounted the higher horse of the President, Nigeria Baptist Convention in later years.

The spokesperson affirmed that no amount of disinformation and subterfuge can erase the facts in the public domain, and he expressed, too, the optimism that truth will prevail eventually.

He advised that Rev. Akanji should not have, in the euphoria of celebration unwittingly forced the Group to open a pandora box of the time of his leadership as the pastor of the First Baptist Church Garki Abuja.

Meanwhile, on 30 May 2022, an Abuja High Court, at the request of the defence counsel which was not opposed by the counsel to the plaintiffs, directed the two parties to continue in their reconciliation process and bring to court their terms of settlement on July 6, 2022.

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