“Then answered I them and said unto them, “The God of heaven, He will prosper us. Therefore we His servants will arise and build; but ye have no portion, nor right, nor memorial in Jerusalem.”
Just like plans to move the Israeli Capital from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Nigeria joined the rank of nations that relocated their capitals when she moved her capital city from Lagos to Abuja. The move initiated in 1975 was announced by the Nigerian Head of State on February 3 1976 at a time when he coincidentally was in a running battle with the late Archbishop Benson Idahosa of Church of God Mission International (CGMI). The newly built CGMI Faith Miracle Centre auditorium opposite the airport in Benin was to be bulldozed after a Federal Military Government Decree declared it ‘illegally situated’ and Idahosa had declared that the building will not go down. A few days afterwards, the Head of State was felled by coupists. The CGMI Auditorium remained standing (till date) while the plans to move to Abuja continued. Subsequent governments contributed their quota to the relocation and on December 12 1991, the seat of Power finally moved and there began a massive exodus to the ‘New Jerusalem’.
As the populace moved to Abuja, the Gospel of Christ also made its way there and facilities like Nicon Noga Hilton Hotel, Agura Hotel, Sheraton Hotel and Towers and the Abuja Township Stadium among several others were on hand to meet the needs of various Christian groups, Fellowships and Churches at a cost. The competition for the use of, as well as the cost of rented facilities soon brought the need for these establishments to own facilities especially in the Area 1 (Old Federal Secretariat) section mapped out for use by Churches. The Lutheran Church, The Apostolic Church, Anglican Church and COCIN (Church of Christ in Nations) were allotted spaces. Also, CGMI, The Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Living Faith Church (LFC) and Dunamis International Gospel Centre (DIGC) were among the first Pentecostal ministries to be allotted spaces. Most of the ‘mainline’ churches had gotten allocations in the central part of the City and the Pentecostals seemed bound to play on the fringes.
The sight of the Ecumenical Church under construction since 1989 became an embarrassment by the late 90s to Christendom in Nigeria. Here was the Capital City developing faster than any other city on the African continent yet hotels were regularly filled with worshippers while this Temple remained desolate. Strong in my memory with much nostalgia are several spiritually charged events attended at the Sheraton Conference Hall while few metres away at Papillon, Luigi and Mirabelle restaurant entrances, women of easy virtue laid in wait. In the meantime however, Idahosa had taken up the gauntlet and by 1996, he had not only grown a bishopric of his ministry but in addition built a Word of Faith (Secondary) School whose foundation was laid on 5th December 1996 with the Minister of the FCT present. The School is collocated with the Church at Area 1, Abuja. Bishop Oyedepo followed suit in the steps of his mentor and a few metres across the road from CGMI, LFC built a 2000 capacity auditorium at about the same time. Archbishop John Praise of the Dominion Chapel International Churches located their headquarters a short distance from LFC. Having built a large structure down the road (Now Provincial Headquarters, FCT Province 4), the RCCG in her characteristic manner had begun to sprinkle hundreds of parishes around the nooks and crannies of the Capital including many of the upper-class hotels and event centres. This was sequel to the Lekki ’98 event that announced the then 46 year old Church to the global stage.
Dunamis International Gospel Centre (DIGC) did not appear suddenly. In May 1996, Dr. Paul Enenche, a young medical doctor along with his ‘nursing mother’ wife, Dr. Becky had set time apart to seek the face of God concerning the next step of their lives and this has been discussed in our ‘Joshua Generation’ series. Eventually, they both put away their medical certificates against strong advice from Dr. Becky’s father who at that time was already a Professor of Medicine and their lecturer as students of the University of Jos. By November of 1996, they relocated to Abuja and their first service was held at the Abuja Centre for Arts and Culture. They moved shortly after to Sheraton Hotel and Towers up till mid 1997 before proceeding to their present site which is exactly opposite CGMI and just before the Lutheran Church (at the time just a stone throw from LFC). My first encounter with Pastor Enenche and DIGC was in 1998 at the launch of his first two books. Bishop Oyedepo was present to dedicate the books and a year later at the dedication of Faith Tabernacle by Oyedepo; the 50,000 capacity world’s largest Church auditorium, Pastor Enenche was also present.
By 1999, LFC then pastored by Dele Bamgboye had moved away from the Old Secretariat to her new Church site on the other side of Durumi and just after the Catholic Secretariat. In a period of 6 months, LFC had then constructed a 5,000 capacity auditorium which was soon filled many times over despite the addition of overflow facilities. It is worthy of note that before the advent of Churches into Area 1, it was largely a dumpsite, a mechanic village, a haven for men of the underworld and a hideout for hoodlums, thieves, prostitutes, and drug peddlers. The presence of Churches soon took care of that malaise and the area soon earned the sobriquet ‘Church Hill’ because of the many churches scattered all over the area. Church Hill got the name because of the hilly terrain. Dunamis stands tall, the first Church on the street on approach from The Old Secretariat.
Darkness abhors Light. The displacement of agents of darkness from Church Hill did not come easy. One day, an Usher in Dunamis was stabbed on his way to a church service and Pastor Enenche stepped out with a few ministers and cursed the perpetrators of the dastardly act.
In a matter of days, a fight ensued among the hoodlums causing them to kill themselves. They were soon rounded up by the Police and their dominance of the area ended. To aid the Police in securing the area, Dunamis gifted a patrol vehicle to them and when that became rickety, they gave a second one. During one of her services, a bird fell from the sky and landed in one of the Dunamis Overflow Sections. Shockingly and in the presence of worshippers, the bird transformed into a human being -a lady. The lady was ministered to, brought to the fore of the Church and led to Christ. She was asked to come the following day and according to eye witnesses, she looked a lot better than she did he previous day. The news soon spread by witnesses at the scene and this in turn led to a massive influx of multitudes to Dunamis and consequently, the growth of the Church. The Federal Government had tarred the roads from the Expressway to the Old Federal Secretariat and stopped just before the “Church Hill”. Dunamis took on the responsibility and tarred the Church Hill road, installed streetlights and donated at least 5 transformers to the community.’
‘In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehendeth it not’.
In May 1999, President Obasanjo held his inauguration thanksgiving at the First Baptist Church, Garki, which was still under construction. Obasanjo’s presidency brought a seeming urgency to the establishment and construction of Churches all over the capital. Pastors Ina and Sarah Omakwu both of ECWA origin who had returned to Nigeria from the USA in 1993 found the Family Worship Centre with 47 members and soon began to construct one of the most beautiful churches in the Nigerian capital. This was completed and dedicated by Pastor Ina in Wuye in the year 2003, shortly before he passed on. By 2002, Foursquare Gospel Church Asokoro was established and also deemed it fit to build a beautiful edifice for The Lord which was soon completed. At this point, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) organised to ensure the speedy completion of the Ecumenical Church now known as the National Church of Nigeria: the primary christian place of worship in Nigeria. In just over a year, the Church was completed and the dedication service on October 2, 2005 was presided over by the Most Reverend Peter Jasper Akinola, the then Anglican Primate of Nigeria.
The Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministries (MFM) also put up a 4,000 capacity auditorium at Utako. By 2004, Dayo Olutayo left the LFC at Durumi and established the Good Tidings Bible Church International which also soon moved to Utako. The architecturally crafted and cosy 4,000 capacity Utako Church project started in 2007 and by 2012, it was dedicated by then CAN President, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor. The Dayo Olutayo led ministry plays a big role in feeding the poor and helping the less privileged irrespective of religion in a scheme called “Lifegate Care Centres” established in several places around the Capital with the aim of feeding of the poor. The ministry also hosts a quarterly reach-out event tagged “Kingdom Welfare Day”. This day is typically set apart for the provision of clothing and other necessary materials for the poor in the city. The Church has also established a Primary and Secondary School. House on the Rock moved into Abuja in 1999 and in her characteristic manner, she set up in hotels to ensure ambience for her worshippers. In June 2007, she commenced her ‘Citadel and Towers’, a beautiful structure at the City Gate, Abuja. The building christened ‘The Transformation Centre’ is described as a Capital City Community Development Centre where several initiatives to benefit the City will proceed from.
Commonwealth of Zion Assembly (COZA) is one of the most popular Churches in The FCT. Established in Ilorin in 1999 from very humble beginnings as ‘Divine Delights’, the Church made her advent into the Nigerian Capital in 2008, led by Pastors Biodun and Modele Fatoyinbo. COZA in Abuja went off with a bang and by 2011, the church had moved to the This Day Dome in the City Centre where a fortune was spent to host her weekly services. In December 2014, COZA relocated to her world-class 3,500 capacity auditorium on Guzape Hills where the ‘Takeover Generation’ throng regularly and which on a regular hosts world class speakers and gospel musicians more than any other Church in the country. The beautiful COZA Auditorium stretches across 2,450 sq metres with a further 700 sq metres designated as foyer area. The conveniences are located beneath the structure while the sound system is about the best one can find in the country.
Joseph Iginla’s Champions City of Wonders located at Chikakore, Kubwa is also worthy of mention. Though on the outskirts, the project which began in 2013 stands out as one of the largest auditoria in Abuja. A visit in January 2017 led yours truly to count the chairs in the massive 14,000 capacity structure.
As a ministry known for large structures, LFC soon felt the need to ease up the Durumi traffic. After constructing the ‘Winners’ Highway’ at Durumi and running 4 services on Sundays, she began a new building in a massive compound at Jahi. Jahi however did not meet the vision of the leaders of the Church. Eventually after establishing other branches in Lokogoma, Sunnyvale, Gwarinpa and Life Camp among many others, she proceeded to the suburbs of the City in 2010 to build the 15,000 capacity LFC Goshen together with a Youth Church, Primary and Secondary Schools, a Guest House, a 45 unit Housing Estate and Bishop Courts for the President and First Vice Presidents of the Commission. All these were completed in 15 months. It should be noted that though the 700 acre Goshen is not located in the FCT, just like the Headquarters in Ota, most worshippers take the 40km trip every Sunday from Abuja.
Dunamis which is the focal point of this writ soon started running 3 Sunday services in their Headquarter Church in Area 1.The Church also opened Harvest Centres in the FCT, and State Branches around the Country. Currently, there are over 50 Harvest Centres in the FCT and at least 47 branches around the country. The crowd began to surge and the church moved to running five services of 90 minutes duration each. In 2015, necessity was laid on the church to create room for the sixth service, and although service times was reduced to 80 minutes each, congregants are sure to encounter the “feelable”, tangible presence of God,and get a word in season within the new time frame. Today, widows from the community where the Church is situated are being financially empowered in their numbers by the church, while hundreds of orphans from the community are on scholarship by the same Church. A lady who was identified as the daughter of a one time head of that community once testified in the Church that upon the death of her polygamist father, she was withdrawn from secondary school. The church took up her education and sponsored her through higher institution. As at the time of her testimony, she was a certified pilot.
Dr. Enenche had received Divine instructions in a night revelation concerning the relocation of Dunamis Headquarters to a place along the airport road in the FCT with specific landmarks. He sent out surveyors to locate these landmarks all to no avail. He eventually gave up searching for a season and began to make maximum use of the present facility. His wife however was certain that the said piece of land was still available. The conviction was stronger with every journey on that route to the Airport. En route the airport one day, Dr. Becky nudged her husband in a reminder about this ‘land’. Not wanting to get into such a closed conversation, he asserted that there was no such available land on the Airport Road. He however grew restless in his spirit one day as he sent again for a surveyor, laid hands on him and sent him out again to look for that place that had been so clearly described to him by The Lord. The surveyor returned this time with good news about seeing the exact landmark which The Lord had shown Dr. Enenche. As God would have it, The land owners were willing to sell as much as the Church was willing to buy. Upon inspection of the land, the exact landmark that was shown to him in that revelation was present on that land. This set the stage for the establishment of The Lord’s Garden.
In August 2014, Bishop Oyedepo was invited to dedicate the landed property in a Ground Breaking Service held on the bare ground which had been secured at a cost of over $15 million, debt free.The initial projection at the Lord’s Garden was a 75,000 capacity auditorium. The plans soon changed and presently has been converted to a 100,000 capacity Church auditorium which when completed will not only become the largest Church auditorium in the world but the largest covered roof hall in Africa. The new auditorium is built like a stadium and the roof of the project alone which is being handled by expatriates cost about $5 million. Like his mentor Oyedepo’s projects, the building has no visible internal pillar while the angular pillars swallowed trailer loads of cement. The laying of marbles and glass is virtually completed. The Destiny Academy (an Elementary and High School) and the Pastoral Quarters are also almost completed. The facility has a Shopping Mall, Two Office Towers of 7 floors each, a 7-Floor 5 star hotel, and a 1.5 Kilometre long recreation park. There will also be a Medical Centre, a 5000-seater Youth Facility, 200 units of guest chalets and 2 Gas Stations. This project is on the verge of completion without a single dime taken as loan from any Bank or any other Institution.
To the Glory of God alone and for the benefit of humanity, exactly 3 years ago last Wednesday 24th November and precisely on Saturday 24th November 2018, The Glory Dome at the Lord’s Garden was dedicated and opened for use.
It was an epoch making day in the Body of Christ in Nigeria and worldwide as a large number of fathers in Christendom such as Pastor Enoch Adeboye the minister at the service, Bishop Oyedepo who dedicated, Matthew Ashimolow, Emmanuel Kure and even Nigeria’s Vice President, Pastor Yemi Osinbajo with many others at the event hosted by then 50 year old Dr. Pastor Paul Enenche who has become a bridge-builder between the fathers and the sons in the Body of Christ. Interestingly a few days later, W.F Kumuyi of Deeper Life Bible Church attended service at the Dome. As at today, 3 Sunday services hold every Sunday at the Dome to the Glory of God.
With this and many more in the offing, Abuja becomes a foremost city on the global map for the propagation of the Gospel of Christ.
“Cry yet, saying, Thus saith the Lord of hosts; My cities through prosperity shall yet be spread abroad; and the Lord shall yet comfort Zion, and shall yet choose Jerusalem.”
*This article was first written in July 2018.
COURTESY: CHURCH GIST