President Tinubu, clean up the religious space in Nigeria, By Sunday Adelaja

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This week we woke up to a massive scandal instigated by the BBC documentary released in three parts.  The accusations are so weighty that they could have consequences on the Nigerian nation.  There are dead people involved and from other nations too. This is the reason I’m writing this appeal to the Nigerian government. If the government doesn’t investigate the allegations the victims or the foreign governments could raise a court case against the Federal Government Of Nigeria. That is not my focus in this article 

Apart from the foreign concern something must be done about this situation also for the case of those Nigerians who have suffered and died through the activities of such religious organizations like that of T.B Joshua. The truth is that similar crimes are going on daily in Nigeria, when our citizens are losing their lives on daily basis.  There are court cases in court and in police stations all across Nigeria that had been instigated against T.B Joshua and his synagogue church, most especially in Lagos state. Those cases are still hanging without a solution or justice to the victims.

I don’t believe there remains anyone in Nigeria who has not yet witnessed the excess of religious organisations exploiting and abusing parishioners under their care.

Mr Jim Osayande Obazee, the Executive Secretary of the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria (FRC) in December 2012 announced that the FRC had designed an accounting system for churches, mosques and other not-for-profit organisations that would compel them to report their financial transactions periodically from January 2013.

To achieve this objective, he unveiled the Statement of Accounting Standards (SAS) 32 which stipulates that the financial statements of such organisations shall include Statement of Accounting Policies, Statement of Financial Position, Statement of Activities (income and expenditure), Statement of Changes in Net Assets, Statement of Cash flows, Notes on Accounts and Five-year Financial Summary. He also tried to introduce accountability to religious organisations by proposing for founders of churches to have a time limit to their leadership, similar to what was successfully executed with other professional and charitable organizations that have to do with public trust and money. According to Jim Obazee in his own words “Mosques and orthodox churches freely complied, but those Pentecostal churches called me to ask questions.

“They said ‘this church is church of God and we are accountable to God.’

“And I told them: ‘Very good, so you must take this church to heaven, you can’t operate it here’.

“When public funds are involved, government needs to ensure proper accountability”

These churches didn’t stop until they got Obazee sacked. This is how the recklessness of these one man show churches continued unabated until the building collapsed in the synagogue and in another church in the south/ south of the nation leading to a huge loss of innocent lives.

Religious organisations in Nigeria can no more continue to operate without a supervision and government oversight like in all advanced countries. Right now it’s impossible to ensure accountability through CAN or PFN because every church claims to be independent so they are gods to themselves. 

I am therefore using this avenue to appeal to the Federal Government Of Nigeria and especially to President Tinubu to reconvene the committee to regulate religious activities and put it under Jim Obazee because he knows what to do. Obazee needs to finish the work he started. Below I’m offering my suggestions on how to clean up the religious mess in Nigeria. This is coming from my nearly 40 years of experience living in Europe. I’m using the one man churches as my basis for judgement especially since Obazee confessed that the mosques and orthodox churches are ready to cooperate with the government in this regard.

So how do we clean up the religious mess in Nigeria?

We need a government intervention and regulations in religious affairs in Nigeria asap especially thanks to the corrupt practices of Pentecostal and prosperity gospel merchants

Here is a rather comprehensive guide:

Pastors and imams must have minimum qualifications and experience set by law before they are allowed to practice.

Religious leaders must be checked that they don’t have any past criminal records, it’s not enough to simply say they are born again or changed.

Too many predators are entering into the pulpits with bad intentions on gullible people.

Religious leaders from other countries must be checked by submitting their papers and biometrics to Interpol. Too many criminals are trying to escape justice by disguising as missionaries same is true of boco haram terrorists.

No pastor, imam or church officials shall provide counseling services unless they have a degree in guidance and counseling or psychology or psychiatry from an accredited university and duly certified by the appropriate agency of government. This would reduce the number of women men and children raped trafficked and pimped by Pastors.

Churches and mosques should be classified as charities and nonprofit organizations with regular reports to the government of their charity and finances.

Churches and other religious organizations should not be used as cover for tax evasion or avoidance. They shouldn’t be owning fuel stations, banks, shopping malls, hotels, printing press, fee paying universities, schools, etc. only their subsidiaries and affiliates can and they must not be tax exempt.

All money transactions of churches and mosques should be under surveillance and investigations when necessary to ensure they are not being used as cover for money launder wire fraud lottery scam mail fraud drug trafficking codeine trafficking and other illegal activities.

To sell food and drinks in the church the people involved must be certified to do so. Including the bread and wine for communion must meet the health standards of the land. This will help avoid food poisoning in the places of worship and even death.

Some so called churches are actually placing codeine, drugs and narcotics in members drinks, food and even communion to create a mass feeling of being in the spirit, deliverance and healing.

Churches and religious leaders should be prohibited from promising multiplication and increase of money just by giving money to the church or pastors. They should also be banned from issuing threats, curses to members who don’t give. All sorts of scams in the name of religion and God should be stopped. Like prophecy scam, miracle scam, wealth covenant scam, tithe for wealth scam should all be seen as offense.

Private jets and other ostentatious lifestyle commodities should be probed if they are coming from the offerings or legitimate businesses. If from offerings that should be viewed as punishable offense, with taxes paid.

Medical certification and proofs should be provided before miracles could be advertised on media by medical authorities of the land.

Churches and religious leaders should not be allowed to prescribe medicines or medical solutions like asking people to drink anointing oil, holy water, mantle or other witchcraft paraphernalia for healing and medical solutions.

Children should be prohibited from going through deliverance services and procedures or prosecution should follow.

Board of trustees must not consist of relatives and family members.

Assets cannot be acquired using tithes, offerings and donations in the name of pastor’s and relatives.

Pastors and head of religious organizations should retire as regular civil servants at the age of 60-65 years.

Churches and other registered religious entities should not be handed over to family members let them go start their own churches.

Annual reports and audited financial statements must be filed with the relevant government agencies, and posted on the churches notice board and website.

Salaries of religious leaders and staff members should be made available and verifiable by auditors, accountants and church members.

If a church doesn’t spend fifty percent of its income on charity they should be taxed and made accountable.

Churches must comply with the laws of the land. Especially in regulations relating to building, fire, water, zoning, sewage, bathroom facilities, parking, noise pollution, garbage disposal, etc.

Churches should be warned against abusive practices against citizens. Especially in deliverance services, or practices that could hurt people physically, emotionally, and psychologically. These should be punishable offenses by law. May Nigeria succeed and may all her enemies live long to witness it.

Sunday Adelaja is a Nigeria born leader, transformation strategist, pastor and innovator. He was based in Kiev Ukraine.

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