13 Years After Church Demolition: Ossai, Bishop of The City of Refuge Says ‘I Have Since Moved On’

Ellis Oscar Ossai,Bishop of The City of Refuge Ministries International
Ellis Oscar Ossai, Bishop of The City of Refuge Ministries International

…Explains Why VP Osinbajo Cannot Speak for the Church.

About 13 years after he had a brush with the Lagos State government during the administration of the then Governor, Babatunde Raji Fashola which culminated in the demolition of his massive church building, the founder and presiding Bishop of The City of Refuge Ministries International, Ellis Oscar Ossai said he had since put the past behind him and moved on. Ossai regretted how efforts to get compensation from the state government for the demolition of his fast growing Pentecostal church proved abortive.

Recall that on Monday June 30, 2008, Ossai, his ministers, and many of his over 2,000 members, watched helplessly as their ultra-modern church Cathedral located along Ketu-Alapere Expressway was reduced to rubbles by the bulldozers of the Lagos State Task Force on Environment, leaving them stranded and crest-fallen.

The demolition of the church had caused a lot of sensation at the time, and attracted the attention of even international news media like the British Broadcasting Corporation, BBC and the Cable News Network, CNN. The Lagos State government had accused Ossai of building his church on water channel thereby obstructing free flow of flood water when it rained.

But reflecting on that bitter experience in an interview with TELL, the Nsukka, Enugu-State-born charismatic preacher said all his entreaties to the governor, intervention of influential Nigerians for compensation, and recourse to legal action, came to naught. “Nothing; they didn’t pay me a dime. I went to court. Agbaje was handling my matter before he died; Fred Agbaje, the constitutional lawyer. Nothing came out of it. But I have moved on; I’ve built another church. We kept serving God, and we will keep serving God”.

Ossai, who passed through the tutelage of late archbishop of the Church of God Mission International, Benson Idahosa, acknowledged the efforts made at the time by Nigeria’s vice-president, Yemi Osinbajo, to bring him some succour. Claiming to know Osinbajo personally as a pastor, Ossai recalled that “When they demolished my church, Osinbajo spoke for me. He was the one who took me to Jagaban. (Bola Ahmed Tinubu) This Osinbajo; he’s a good man”. He however stated that his intervention could not bring him the desired respite because “Jagaban was just leaving office. He didn’t want to come and put his hand into a new government. That’s my interpretation of what happened. He wanted to give Fashola the liberty to run his government. But it was Osinbajo that introduced me. That was the first time I was entering into that Lion building; Osinbajo took me by hand to him”.

Defending the vice president over his perceived docility and inability to defend his Christian faith when it matters as a pastor in government, Bishop Ossai retorted: “He cannot say anything. Let’s leave Osinbajo alone. Please, I beg Nigerians to leave him alone. He can’t; what do you expect him to do? He cannot speak given the situation he is in. You cannot be a brand ambassador and your position contradicts your brand. I don’t know if I’m making some sense. Imagine somebody who is selling Peugeot and he’s driving Volkswagen. I think that is the best way I can put this thing. Osinbajo is a good man but the setting he’s in is challenging. That’s all I can say and I pray that Nigerians will see the point I am making and please

“Osinbajo is a good man; he can’t speak. The circumstances are such that he can’t. Give Osinbajo power with a base, you will see what he can do. He doesn’t have a base. He doesn’t have a primary constituency. What will he stand to speak on? We need somebody who the church can present and he would speak for the church. I know what I am saying”.

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