The International Worship Centre in Uyo, the capital of Akwa Ibom in Nigeria’s 21st state whose foundation stone was laid Sunday, January 21 is put at N10 billion, investigation by StraightNews has shown.
The centre, the first of its kind, located at the Banking Layout, Udo Udoma Avenue in Uyo is being handled by Julius Berger (Plc) Nigeria, measuring 5,000 acres.
It has a sitting capacity of 8,500 with such appurtenances as main auditorium, library, offices and conference halls, among others. But in the state budget for 2018, the centre was supposed to have a 10,000-sitting capacity.
The complex is also designed to have 16 staircases, eight lifts and two small churches and some chapels.
Already, the construction giant has pegged a bill-board sign post, cleared the site, moved equipment to site and moblised workers to the project expected to be completed in two years.
The foundation-laying ceremony was performed by Pastor Enoch Adeboye, the General Overseer of The Redeemed Christian Church of God worldwide.
Speaking at the centre on the theme, “He shall build me a Home,” Pastor Adeboye described God as a master builder who works in partnership with men and also a rewarder of those who are in partnership with him.
Adeboye stated that God builds homes, marriages, cities, churches and people, citing Biblical references to buttress his assertions.
He said, “While God is a master builder, He works in partnership with men. Anytime He wants to build something, He looks for a human being to be His partner.”
Governor Udom Emmanuel who spoke at the ceremony was happy with the commencement of the project. He told the listening audience that government would put in a meagre amount in the building of the centre, but a large chunk of money would come from voluntary contributions.
Emmanuel, therefore, encouraged individuals and corporate bodies to build the worship centre. He stated that the centre was an altar erected for God and expressed confidence that it would be an avenue for God to bless the people of the state.
The governor did not tell the people the cost of the project. He did not tell the spectators indeed Akwa Ibom people how much the state government would put in the project since they are co-partners in the common patrimony of the state resources. He did not tell the people the voluntary organisations that would co-sponsor the project.
The governor did not mention the person or organisation that supposedly awarded the project (contract) to Julius Berger Plc Nigeria. He did not explain the role government and other volunteers played particularly the sponsorship of the foundation-laying ceremony? He did not inform the people whether government or another individual or agency donated the land for the centre.
However, StraightNews went to the city to get reactions of people on the viability or otherwise of the centre. In his opinion, Pastor Sam Etok, the Regional Overseer of Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministries, South South 33 Region, 12 Urua Udofia Street, Uyo, declared “I thank God for the initiative of the state governor, Udom Emmanuel to build a place for God to be worshipped and for spiritual events in our state. Moreover, I am happy that one of our fathers in the Lord was the one who laid the foundation stone for the centre. This creates impact for Christendom in the state. I am delighted at the development and believe it would create an avenue for souls to be converted for the work of God.”
Etok described the centre as “a worthwhile vision despite many challenges facing the state and the country as a whole. I have cause to follow up some comments in the social media criticising that the state has many things to do with money. Sometime ago, I also read from the Governor that the funding was not from the state government and that what the government is putting is a meagre amount, though he did not mention the amount. He said the bulk of it is coming from voluntary contributions. I think the state is not losing anything. If it were a capital project of the state, one would have criticized it. I know things are difficult and there are so many things to be done with money, but then that should not make us to forget the need to contribute for the work of God.
The major thing is that when such a place is built, it should be used for the glory of God and should a place where people would be drawn to God and every other blessing would be added to us. The Bible says “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all other things shall be added unto you.” If we truly seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness in that place, the blessings we are complaining about, Heaven would come to our help in this state.”
Apostle Gabriel Nkenang of Word Tabernacle, Osong Ama Estate in Uyo in Akwa Ibom State, stated “I think other states with predominant religions have worship centres. There is nothing wrong if a Christian leader who believes in Christ is leaving a legacy- a centre where children of God can meet and government can use it during Christian activities. I know that some people are of the view that we have places that have been used before now such as Ibom Hall and the stadium. You know such places were not originally erected for religious purposes. Personally as a Christian leader, there is nothing wrong to erect a Christian centre where God can be hallowed. In the centre, alcohol and immorality would not be brought in. It is a place that will be hallowed unto the name of the Lord.
On the spiritual significance of the centre, Nkenang answered “It is an altar for those who are conversant with spiritual matters erected and linked to the name of the Lord and to the Lamb of God in the spiritual Heaven. Considering the calibre of the man who laid the foundation, Pastor Enoch Adeboye- a man I have great respect for, a man I have had a spiritual encounter even though I have not met him; in fact bringing such a man to lay the foundation of the worship centre is key. Knowing that the project is sited at the Banking Layout, the entire layout will be affected because the land is interconnected to the whole state. It means that any other altar or foundation that may have been laid has become useless, powerless and voiceless by reason of this superior altar.”
“My advice is that the project should be completed within the tenure of this administration and should not be allowed for another administration to inherit and abandon it,” he enjoined the government.
In an interview with StraightNews, Akan Okon, the state commissioner for Housing and Special Duties, said “For me, I think this worship centre has been long overdue but it is better late than never. I believe you are living witnesses to the blessings that followed people who built houses for God in the Bible.
The state deserves this project. You know a place of God should remain a place of God and that is what the project is aimed at. The place will be 24/7 open for Akwa Ibom people. If someone wants to go there to have a quiet time with God, he or she is free. Some people have trillions but may not think of projects like this but I thank the Governor for allowing God to use him.”
Okon noted “I believe that the blessing that is associated with building for God will be the portion of this state. So, I don’t think that this is a matter to be debated on. We are in a state that people will continue to criticise and politicise. Oppositions are doing their work too. We are focused on development and we are not distracted. When former Governor Victor Attah wanted to establish an airport, did people not criticise him? But today are they not happy using the airport. It is a bit difficult for people to see the prospect of a project at first; that is why we have leaders who can make the right decision and God has blessed this state with a leader in the person of governor Udom Emmanuel. I know that there will be a manifold of God’s blessing in this state for this project.”
According to him, “I believe that with the calibre of the construction company going to handle the project, it is going to be completed within two years. Like the governor had said, if you have an opportunity to sow a seed to this project, do not hesitate. I can assure you that building for God will always speak for you in time of your challenges. An account has been opened in Zenith Bank and First Bank for that purpose and it has been publicised.”
Despite the spiritual significance of the centre as affirmed by the governor, some men of God and other people, the sponsorship of the project is still a subject of controversy.