Nigerian Churches accused of Taking over London

The BNP’s London campaign chief was today facing suspension as a councillor after launching a racist “tirade” against Nigerian church-goers. Bob Bailey, 44, took an “antagonistic and offensive” tone when a black pastor applied for planning permission to convert Barking offices into a church. Locals at Crystal Palace also mounted a campaign to lobby Bromley Council to refuse a change of use of cinema to a Nigerian church.

A meeting in Barking town hall was in uproar when Mr Bailey said: “We don’t want any more Nigerian churches in the borough.” The public gallery at Barking town hall was packed with members of the Redeemed Christian Church of God. 

He said he had visited the premises and told the planning committee meeting last July: “These people eat off the ground.” He added: “We don’t want the amount of black children.” A rival councillor called him a “racist pig”. 

Barking and Dagenham council’s standards committee was meeting today to decide whether to suspend the leader of the 12-strong BNP opposition for up to six months. 

A preliminary report by the council’s monitoring officer found that Mr Bailey, a former Royal Marine, had brought the authority into disrepute, failed to treat others with respect and may have breached equality laws. 

Mr Bailey, who was said by a doctor last year to have a “possible personality disorder” when he claimed that he was banned from driving because of “conspiracy against the indigenous people”, is responsible for the BNP’s London campaign in the general election and borough elections. 

Barking is the BNP’s number one target seat as its national leader Nick Griffin is standing against the sitting Labour MP, Margaret Hodge. 

The church, whose 400-strong congregation is predominantly Nigerian, was granted permission to convert offices into a place of worship, despite Mr Bailey voting against. 

He was said to have breached planning laws by “closing his mind” and being “biased” against the application. He claimed there were already more than 20 Nigerian churches in the borough — the most in London and more than any other denomination. 

The council report said: “Mr Bailey made a series of comments expressed in a derogatory tone. The comments were intended to, and did in fact, cause offence on racial grounds.”

Pastor Thomas Aderounmu, 55, of the Redeemed Church, said today the remarks would encourage ethnic minorities to vote against the BNP in May.

He said: “It was just derogatory statements. He was very specific on Nigeria. I don’t know what Nigerians have done to him. It was very personal. Their actions will work against them.”

Last year locals at Crystal Palace mounted a campaign to lobby Bromley Council to refuse a change of use at No 25 Church Lane. And hoping that a church, finding themselves with an old cinema on their hands that they can’t transform into anything more spiritual, will agree to sell to City Screen.

An intriguing local-community, It was a dispute between God and Mammon, “with God showing curious signs of being the bad guy”. On one side are residents who are worried about the regeneration of the “Palace triangle”, three busy roads which have been designated an “at risk” conservation area. On the other side is an Evangelical church. 

The battleground is the site of the old bingo hall in Church Road. It started life as a rather beautiful art deco cinema, built in 1928 by the architect George Coles. 

Like so many other cinemas in the Sixties, its audiences dwindled and it became a bingo joint. Recently it was sold by its parent company, Gala plc, to the Kingsway International Christian Centre (KICC), a phenomenally-wealthy Pentecostal church. 

The locals learned that the KICC is now preparing a planning application to change the use of the cinema site from a D2 planning use (leisure) to a D1 (place of worship). If their application succeeds, a new church will appear on the site where a generation of Crystal Palatians watched Casablanca and Brief Encounter and Fantasia. 

The locals have a better idea. They favour the City Screen group, owners of the Clapham Picture House, the Brixton Ritzy and other independent movie theatres which have enlivened some districts of south London in serious need of, shall we say, glamour and community fun. When Gala plc offered the old bingo hall, City Screen put in a bid for it, and lost out to the KICC, and are now presumably kicking themselves that the church has bought the place.