Safety at crusades – The Nation

  • That is the import of a victim’s court victory over seven lost teeth

Recklessness by people in authority is no longer strange in Nigeria. Public officials elected by the electorate, and thus expected to be responsible to them, have often claimed or behaved in a manner that suggests that they are merely doing the public a favour. When demands are made that campaign promises be fulfilled, the public servants or elected office holders sometimes feel offended and tell the aggrieved to do their worst.

The culture appears to have seeped to the church. Clergymen sometimes claiming divine authority damn whoever chooses to complain about any of their actions or inactions. This was what played out in 2010 when Mrs. Tamara Egbedi, a lawyer, attended a crusade organised by the Chapel of Liberty. As confirmed by the defendants, the chapel and its presiding pastor, Rev. Chris Kpakpovwe, the crusade recorded “a huge attendance.” When the matter came before Justice Candide Johnson of the Lagos High Court, the plaintiffs proved that the defendants paid little or no attention to the interest and safety of the invitees, thus, Mrs. Egbedi fell into a ditch at the National Stadium, Lagos, venue, losing seven teeth at once.

It is unfortunate that, when the matter was reported to the church leadership, the victim got very little attention, and when she continued to insist that the church should bear the cost of her treatment as well as pay some compensation, she was not only denied by the church, but dared to go to court.

This is contrary to the care and concern that Jesus Christ who leaders of the church claim to follow took while establishing the Church. In the Good Samaritan parable, he taught his disciples that his followers should take care of whoever they were in position to, irrespective of the situation, even when they are not in any way responsible for the hurt. On another occasion when the multitude followed him into the wilderness to partake of his ministration, the founder of the Christian faith had to make provision for about 5,000 out of compassion. It is therefore incongruous that the Chapel of Liberty was denying a victim at its programme of necessary care.

We agree with Justice Johnson that it is “ridiculous” that the church could “without any remorse or conscience argue that they only rented a space at the National Stadium so they owed no duty of care or concern for the welfare and safety of the guests.” Indeed, as the judge declared, it is the type of “reckless impunity and consciencelessness” that has given Nigeria its poor image. In addition to the N9.45 million that the church and its founder were ordered to pay as compensation, it should on its own apologise to Mrs. Egbedi for the emotional trauma she was made to go through.

It has become commonplace in Nigeria for religious houses to organise programmes that would eventually lead to commotion or sometimes death without as much as offering a simple apology to the victims or their families. This reeks of impunity that is strange to the religion. It should be noted henceforth, following from Justice Johnson’s verdict, that churches and mosques are responsible for the welfare and safety of their guests, whether members or not. Anyone who could not make adequate preparation for their guests should not invite the general public. There should be adequate provision for traffic control, security, safety, conveniences and medical care.

This also suggests that the government should not abdicate its responsibility in such circumstances. Whenever it comes to the attention of government agencies that such crusades or revivals are to be held, the agencies should invite the authorities for discussion on provisions being made in these respects.

The judiciary, too, should note that justice delayed is justice denied. Were Mrs. Egbedi unable to raise sufficient fund for her needs, she might have recorded some permanent damage in the seven-year period of wait.

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