It may not be long before the Villa Chapel located within the Aso Villa presidential quarters in Abuja is relocated.
Despite denials by top officials of the administration, Vanguard Newspaper said it has uncovered how pressure is being mounted on President Muhammadu Buhari to relocate the Church where Christians worship on Sundays.
The Villa Chapel, built and inaugurated by President Olusegun Obasanjo, is said to be too close to Buhari’s bedroom and kitchen.
Obasanjo, it was gathered, deliberately cited the church beside his official residence to enable him take part in worship and prayers from the comfort of his bedroom.
However, some aides of President Buhari, uncomfortable with the location of the church, made efforts to stop the use of the facility by Christian worshippers on August 30, 2015.
Media reports, which caused nationwide condemnation, had revealed how security agents prevented the Villa Chapel choristers from entering the building for their weekly rehearsal on Saturday, August 29, 2015.
It took the intervention of Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, who reached out to his principal, before the security men left the building.
But the relocation threat to the Chapel is real. According to Vanguard, as prelude, the Children’s church, which forms part of the Villa Chapel, has been shut and some rooms, converted to shops for storing food items.
As a result of the closure of the children’s church, the children were forced to relocate to the office of the Chaplain, Pastor Joseph Sheyi Malomo, for their normal service.
A source at the Presidency said on Tuesday, “As we speak, the children’s church remains shut and everything relating to the church has been removed. We had to beg them to allow us to remove our property. The children’s church has been turned into a store.
“As a result of the unforeseen development, we had to collapse some facilities to accommodate the children and keep our worship going. That was why the Chaplain said that the church had not been shut but ‘we only had some procedural issues that needed to be sorted out’.
Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina had denied the closure of the church by the Presidency.
He also tweeted photos from service held on Sunday, September 6, 2015.
A tweet via his handle, @FemAdesina said: “President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) orders Aso Villa Chapel shut? There is no such thing. It’s only a rumour spawned by fecund imagination gone into overdrive. PMB respects freedom of worship.”
The presidency is, however, considering relocating both the Mosque and the Church to a more spacious area in the Villa so as to forestall accusations of partiality.