Ministers conference in Nigeria held under strict COVID-19 protocols

By Zakariya Musa

Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) conducted its Annual Ministers Conference under strict adherence to COVID-19 protocols, with minimal numbers of participants, on Feb. 16-19 at the EYN Headquarters in Kwarhi, Hong Local Government Area, Adamawa State.

The EYN Disaster Relief Ministry distributed COVID-19 Personal Protection Equipment to curb the spread of the microscopic virus. Hand sanitizers, face masks, and locally made handwashing machines were placed at strategic places for general use.

The conference had 210 participants instead of about 1,000 participants in normal circumstances. Delegates were invited from each District Church Council, comprising the DCC Secretary, DCC Chairman, DCC Ministers, Advisory Board member, and few other ministers. Past EYN leaders who were present included former presidents Filibus K. Gwama and Toma H. Ragnjiya, former vice president Abraham Wuta Tizhe, and former general secretaries Bitrus A. Bdlia, Ayuba Jalaba Ulea, and Jinatu L. Wamdeo.

Keynote speaker

The preacher was picked from within the EYN Headquarters in the person of Anthony A. Ndamsai, the EYN vice president. The key sermon was targeted at awakening the ministers of God as titled, “Mu Kula Da Kan Mu.” He based the message on the text taken from Acts 20:17 and admonished that we are in a time where sin is celebrated by a wayward, cultic, and perverse generation. He encouraged that EYN pastors are expected to be more Godly because they have suffered serious persecution as a result of Boko Haram. He warned that people have begun turning for herbal protection in the communities. He made mention of charm not being a lasting solution. “Let’s depend on Jesus and even die with Him. Don’t be a minister in principle rather than in practice,” he said.

Address by the EYN president

EYN president Joel S. Billi in his address said the cut in number of participants was forced by the global pandemic that has turned down many activities, saying that half bread is better than none. “We don’t want to violate and become law breakers,” he said.

Billi faulted the government over security challenges distressing the nation. “Shame to our leaders who have totally failed in providing adequate security to her citizens. Always showing deceptive images on TV claiming to destroy pockets of hideouts of Boko Haram. Heavy presence of soldiers who are yet to reach Sambisa [a Boko Haram hideout] for the past 11 years. It has become the order of the day to hear daily of civilians and soldiers killed or kidnapped. It is unfortunate to note that there is virtually no single road, village, town, city, or region in the whole of Nigeria? What is the future of our children? Will the church survive? The infiltration of AK47s and other dangerous weapons into the country has become a major security threat.”

A Bible study group at the EYN Ministers Conference. Photo by Zakariya Musa.

Decisions about finances

During the conference, financial experts were invited to brief the gathering over the sustainability of central payments [remittances to EYN Headquarters], financial management, and the attitude of non-compliance with the church’s policy among some of the ministers.

It was reported that in 2020, staff leave grants were not paid due to the COVID-19 pandemic and backed by remittances. The leave grant fund has accumulated only N48,000,000. [Equivalent to $126,035 US dollars. N signifies the Nigerian currency the Naira. The current exchange rate is N381 to $1].

Billi called “ugly” which incidents came about as a result of some pastors’ laxity and lack of prudence in their remittances. The conference therefore agreed to forfeit the unpaid staff leave grant and to focus on the future, hoping that things will change for the better. The vote in favor of the decision was 209, with 1 person against, while 6 held their votes.

The briefing noted the following:

— Only N17,000,000 [$44,625] was realized from a two-month offering carried out in EYN nationwide as directed by the 2020 Majalisa [Annual Conference] in order to pay the N72,000,000 [$189,000] debt incurred to pay staff salaries.

— The church was able to pay staff salaries in the year 2020.

— More effort is required to sustain Central Payment.

— Central Payment is going on with challenges of low or inadequate remittances from churches.

— Total debt has amounted to N104,000,000 [$272,985].

— DCC Secretaries were encouraged to make remittances to appropriate accounts and to distinguish between Sustainability Account, Retirement Account, and Headquarters Account.

— The Audit Department was able to visit 506 Local Church Councils [congregations] to check their books and have identified lots of issues for correction.

— Churches were warned of spending without recording in the cashbook.

— Some congregations created ways just to avoid the 35 percent deduction.

— More Local Church Councils have been established, but income is shrinking because some churches make donations just to gain autonomy.

— Some Local Church Branches [new church plants] don’t remit their income to their Local Church Council.

— Some pastors relax their responsibilities to Church Treasurers and Secretaries.

— What shall we do about non-reporting of capital projects?

— EYN schools are not yet charged the 35 percent remittance.

Report by the Ministers Council Secretary

One of the key events of the conference was a report of activity presented by the Ministers Council Secretary, Lalai Bukar.

Ten pastors and 14 pastors’ wives were reported to have died in 2020.

All candidates approved for ordinations were ordained in the year 2020. Approved by the conference were 31 candidates for probationary minister and 39 names for ordination into full minister status. In this regard, the EYN president ordered the District Church Councils and their respective Local Church Councils to carry out all the ordinations before the end of May.

Response to Boko Haram violence

The EYN leadership is sending a pastor to Ngoshe, one of the four District Church Councils sacked by Boko Haram in Bayan Dutse, Gwoza Local Government Area, Borno State.

About 50,000 refugees are hosted across the border in Minawao Cameroon, by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. This refugee camps is where Bitrus Mbatha is serving as EYN Coordinator, and where 13 EYN congregations have been organized. Mbatha is one of the pastors who experienced heavy suffering from Boko Haram activities. He was in Baga, where hundreds of people were killed and churches were displaced before they fled their homes in Gwoza area, which was later abandoned to Boko Haram. He was among those who fled to Cameroon in 2013.

— Zakariya Musa is head of EYN Media.


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