BAUCHI, Nigeria (Compass) -- The Bauchi state government in northern Nigeria has threatened to demolish two churches for zoning violations.
An April 28 letter from the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Environment accused the churches -- Deeper Life Bible Church and Spirit Life Assembly International -- of illegally occupying areas "officially designed for residential use," and asked them to close or be demolished. Both churches are located in Bauchi City, the state capital.
The Bauchi state chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) reacted to the threat by accusing the state government of hindering the development and growth of churches and Christian activities.
Rev. Dauda Marafa and Rev. Iliya Hassan, chairman and secretary of CAN, said the threat to the churches has shown a systematic strategy adopted by the state government to persecute Christians since the introduction of "sharia," or Islamic law.
The Christian leaders petitioned the Bauchi State Commissioner for Lands, Housing and Environment to stop the planned demolition of the churches to avert what they called "a quagmire in the state."
In their letter to the commissioner, the CAN officials stated that the two churches had acquired their certificates of occupancy (C of O) from the government in regard to the land where the churches were built.
"That church (Spirit Life Assembly) bought (the land at) No. 5 Corowa Road, Commercial Layout, off Maiduguri by-pass Bauchi -- it is covered by C of O No. 2051," the letter stated.
"It offends our sensibilities that you refer to our churches -- in properties duly acquired by us -- as unlawful activities, when mosques are springing up without proper acquisition of land."