The Catholic Diocese of Enugu has suspended the Founder of Adoration Ministry Enugu, Rev. Father Ejike Mbaka from church activities for one month.
Father Mbaka was asked to proceed on suspension with effect from May 3 after being summoned by Callistus Valentine Onaga, the diocesan bishop.
According to report, Onaga called Mbaka following his repeated clashes with President Muhammadu Buhari and warned that his conduct was smearing the image of the church, the largest of any Christian organisation worldwide, church officials familiar with the matter told The Gazette.
Mbaka sparred with Mr Buhari’s aides in a series of verbal fireworks that included the Nigerian presidency threatening to blackmail the priest as a political jobber and public contract racketeer. Mr Mbaka denied the allegations.
Still, Onaga and other senior reverend fathers of the Enugu Diocese were compelled to step in and mitigate the unfolding public perception tumult that could have far-reaching consequences for the conventional but unofficial church and state relationship.
The church leaders recognised that Mr Mbaka’s Adoration Ministry as an independent congregation that does not fall directly under the main church’s control, he could still be reined in as a priest under the Roman Catholic’s certification, officials said.
Following his suspension, Mr Mbaka returned to his ministry that lies north of the outskirts of Enugu city centre, where he subsequently incited his members against the bishop, sources said.
Mbaka’s followers claimed that he was kidnapped by Onaga and handed over to the State Security Service.
They subsequently marched on the premises of the bishop on Wednesday morning, looting and destroying assets therein.
The mob also descended on the Holy Ghost Cathedral, again looting and destroying items in the building. The members also went to town to allege that the SSS had arrested Mr Mbaka — generating widespread media reports despite lacking requisite corroboration.
The Gazette did not publish the claim.
A spokesman for the SSS denied taking Mbaka into custody or coming in any contacts with him when reached by The Gazette, contrary to his followers’ rumours.
A spokesman for the diocese did not immediately return a request seeking comments.
Before falling out with Buhari recently, Mbaka was an ardent supporter of the president. He endorsed his campaign in 2015 and claimed his blessings played a role in its success.
But as Buhari’s regime failed to tackle acute poverty and insecurity, Mr Mbaka said he was compelled to speak up and distance himself from his regime, describing it as evil and satanic and calling on the president himself to vacate office.