National Ecumenical Centre dedicated in Abuja
Thousands of people attended the dedication service of the National Ecumenical Centre, Abuja, the symbol of unity of Christendom in Nigeria, on Sunday, October 2, 2005.
The President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), the Most Rev Peter Akinola presided at the service.
The Ecumenical Centre, a magnificent edifice, built by an Italian firm, Gitto Construction Company would serve as a national monument.
The project which started some 16 years ago was comatose for many years but reactivated as a priority of a new CAN leadership elected into office in 2004 with Archbishop Akinola as president. They organized a Completion Committee and in May 2004, realized over N3 billion in donations and pledges at a fund raise for the completion of the abandoned Ecumenical Centre.
Nigeria’s President Olusegun Obasanjo was invited to serve as treasurer of the Completion Committee.
During the launch in 2004, President Obasanjo wittingly told donors ‘please let no one come and make a pledge he is not willing to redeem,’
“If you do that here, God will not hold you guiltless, because we are here to build the house of God. Don't try that here, don't pledge and not fulfill, Obasanjo said”
At the dedication held on October 2, to commemorate the nation’s 45th independence anniversary, Worshippers from all walks of life filled up the pews at the magnificent edifice.
Thousands overflowed outside the auditorium and organizers provided large television screens and canopies to ensure that none missed the dedication service.
The event was transmitted live on National TV’ and radio Stations around the country to an estimated 50 million participants
The Ecumenical centre elegantly sits behind the Central Bank of Nigeria, along the Central Business District Area, Abuja.
Nestled near it are the National Mosque and the National Cultural Centre, under construction, all in the Central business district of the nation’s capital city.
Fuel, Corruption and Politics
The dedication of the Ecumenical Centre also marked the commemorative service of the nation’s 45th independence.
In a sermon, the President of the Christian body called attention to the recurring issues of fuel scarcity, corruption and politics.
Addressing the handling of the fuel issue by the President Olusegun Obasanjo, Akinola said government must go beyond rhetoric and solve the problem.
Government should no longer increase fuel prices without first "providing functional and affordable public transportation system” Akinola said.
“You can sell a litre of petrol for even N200 but if the mass transit system is there, there should be no public outcry. Those who can afford it will buy. But now, there is nothing on ground to assist the poor masses,” he said.
On corruption, Akinola, who is also Primate of the Anglican Church, remarked that the present war against corruption must go beyond the current level that appears superficial and inadequate.
The war against corruption should be waged "more comprehensively, decisively and totally.”
We must arrest and prosecute, get the judiciary to jail all the ‘jailables’, arrest all the ‘arrestables’, who continue to trouble Nigeria. So far, we have seen some arrests and prosecution but have not seen anybody sent to jail. Justice delayed, it is said, is justice denied. All the ‘jailables’ must be jailed. Enough is enough for corruption in the land, he said."
On politics in the country, Akinola warned that it has become satanic and is characterised by so much bitterness and bickering.
“People are now being killed because of politics,” the Cleric screamed.
He, therefore, called on Christians in politics, to profess the identity of Christ as revealed in the summary of the law: “You shall love the Lord you God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength and you shall love your neighbour as yourself.”
Unity in Christ
The CAN leader also used the occasion, to encourage greater unity among the Christian fold in Nigeria, with her hundreds of large denominations and multitudes of smaller ones. “Just Look at us!” he said to a thunderous applause as worshippers looked round and became aware that the denominational barrier was not visible.
“But this house shall also be the most visible symbol of Christian unity in Nigeria. I tell you, throughout the whole world, there is no other place, in which the Christian people including my brethren from the Roman Catholic Church all come together and build a place they can jointly call their own. There is none. Only in Nigeria, do we have this”
Earlier, Akinola had acknowledged President Obasanjo's commitment to the building of the Centre, which had been stalled by bickering among Christians for more than two decades.
He revealed that President had to guarantee a N614 million loan taken by CAN when the project was about to be stalled this year.
He extolled the commitment shown by Mr. President for the project, which involved coming to the site several times to ensure its completion.
CAN would consider a "request from high quarters" to change the name of the Centre, which is described as the most visible symbol of Christian unity in Nigeria, Akinola said.
Quotes at the historic dedication of the National Ecumenical Centre
At exactly 11.55am on Sunday October 2, 2005, the following pronouncement was made by Archbishop Peter Akinola:
“I, Peter Akinola, by Divine Providence the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) on behalf of all the Christian faithful at home and abroad. “Do hereby set apart, hallow and dedicate this National Ecumenical Centre as a House of prayer for all people and an instrument of unity of all Christians in Nigeria and we hereby pronounce, decree and declare the said centre to be so dedicated and set apart for all profane and ungodly uses. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”
On the holiness and sanctity of the Centre, Archbishop Akinola:
"Yesterday, I called the Architect and told him; tell the contractors, especially my Italian Friends, from today no more smoking in this house, no more drinking in this house. If you want to smoke you get out, this house has been dedicated to the glory of God.”
Reading the first lesson from 1 Kings 8:22-30, Nigeria’s President Olusegun Obasanjo substituted the word ‘Nigeria’ for ‘Israel’ in the last verse:
And harken, thou to the supplication of thy servant and of thy people Nigeria (Israel). When they pray toward this place; yea, hear thou in heaven they dwelling place, and when thou hearest, forgive
Design and Construction of the National Ecumenical Centre
The Ecumenical Centre was designed and supervised by indigenous Architects, Daky Wall Group led by Wale Olumide.
On the dedication of the Centre on October 2, the Christian Association of Nigeria presented 3 plagues of honour to the Architects that designed the centre, the Italian construction firm and the President Olusegun Obasanjo, for their outstanding contribution.
Archbishop Akinola described the edifice as second to none:
“I have traveled to many parts of the world, I have gathered photographs of great Cathedrals of the world and there is none like this one.”
"The work that has been done on this building in the last 12 months is 98 per cent more than all the work we did here in 15 years and so like the Psalmist we can echo Psalm 147:1. Unless the Lord builds the House it builders labour in vain.’ It shall be a House of Prayer, a House of Unity, our differences whatsoever our own making. The unity of the Church shall determine the unity of the nation. "
(Church of Nigeria News)
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