Tension remained high at the Pentecostal Assemblies of God (PAG) national headquarters at Nyang’ori in Vihiga County after a contingent of police officers were deployed to bar overseers of the church from holding a meeting at the premises.
The deployment ordered by Vihiga County Commissioner Susan Waweru citing security reasons angered the clergy who vowed to go on with the meeting.
They were however barred from accessing the premises prompting them to relocate to Tigoi PAG church where they regrouped to strategize on how to gain entry to the headquarters.
They moved back to the premises in a convoy of vehicles and barricaded the busy Kisumu-Kakamega road after being denied entry.
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Police officers engaged the clergy and asked them to back off to avoid confrontation as traffic piled up.
The PAG General Superintendent (GS) Patrick Lihanda who is the overall leader of the church was locked up in his office the whole day amid tight security.
PAG Governing Council Chairman Stephen Ganira said the order to stop the meeting was illegal since the church had notified the police in advance about the meeting.
“This is just a prayer meeting like any other. We have invited over 5, 000 pastors from all over the country. We are not armed therefore we don’t understand why the police are blocking us from accessing our premises,” he said.
Speaking to the media outside the headquarters, Ganira said it was unfortunate for the 130 overseers to be locked outside the premises of a church they govern, adding that police officers were being misused by some elements out to divide the church.
He pointed an accusing finger at Pastor Nathaniel Ondego, the administrator of the pastor’s retirement benefits scheme whom he accused of embezzling the funds and using government officers to frustrate church overseers.
The fund into which pastors have contributed over Sh. 300 million, he said has been mismanaged and was at the centre of the row in the church.
Bahati PAG Church overseer Pastor Cornelius Simiyu said Pastor Ondego who is also in charge of Kondele PAG Church has failed to provide statements to the fund during subsequent annual general meetings.
This, he said was a pointer that the funds had either been embezzled or being used by him for other business but not the church and pastors’ welfare.
He added that Pastor Ondego was using the money to pocket government officials to frustrate efforts of the church overseers to probe how the money has been invested.
“It is very unfortunate that one man is using pastor’s money to hold the church at ransom,” he said.
Pastor Ondego, he said has embroiled the overseers and the church in endless court cases where millions of church funds have been lost.
He urged the various agencies of the government to intervene and probe the fund to help save pastors’ money.
Reached for comment, Pastor Ondego distanced himself from wrangles in the church adding that he had no hand in the order stopping today’s meeting.
Ondego insisted that the pastor’s money was intact adding that he could not be walking scot free if the funds had been embezzled.
“If they can level all manner of accusations against one person and they are over 5, 000 then why haven’t I been arrested?” he asked.
A source within the church told KNA that the overseers planned to discuss how to remove Ondego from the administration of the fund, a move pastors within his camp were opposed to.
Vihiga County Police Commander (CPC) Hassan Barua confirmed that police had received information that the two warring groups planned to clash at the meeting.
“For security reasons we shall not allow the meeting to go on as planned. We have deployed enough officers to ensure that the order is enforced,” he said.
Last year the church was in the news after a cross-section of pastors accused the GS Patrick Lihanda of gross misconduct and financial impropriety.
The allegations came after the church received millions of donations from politicians during the buildup of the 2007 general elections.
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