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OP-UNEDITED | Why Churches Must Pay Tax to Nigerian Government – By @AdelajaAdeoye

By Adelaja Adeoye

In the beginning was the word and the word was God, he commandeth the earth to take form and created all things beautifully in his glory, pleasure and not for the glory of mere mortals.

God said, ask it shall be given, seek you shall find, knock it shall open, basically many people do not bother to ask for Wisdom, Knowledge and Understanding but MONEY and other material possessions.

Scriptures both in the Bible and the Quran dictate how humans should co-exist and live in peace with one another but sophisticated environment and evolution of mankind over time has greatly affected the ways and manners the dictate of God are adhere and obeyed.

For instance Nigeria is a nation blessed with both mineral and human resources and we can as well say the country has more population of Christian and Muslim than other paganism.

Religion in Nigeria some years ago is not the same as of today. In December 2015, I was caught up in religion discussion with my colleagues in the office and one of them gave us this crazy joke that “When the Oyinbos {Colonial Masters} came to Nigeria, they saw our green land filled with rich oil and other beautiful natural resources that we as a people do not have the capacity to tap, they asked us to close our eye to pray for us, by the time we opened our eyes after the prayer session, all we saw was Bible and Quran in our hands while all our resources landed in their control.”

The Oyinbos took us through a long route by dominating all our resources using religious dust to cover our eyes, only few educated elites were able to mingle with them and this was made possible because of language barrier, they needed to communicate with few of our powerful people like the Obas, Ezes, Emirs and politicians of that time who could not speak English and hence the need for them to train Nigerians that can serve as interpreters.

After Nigeria gained independence in 1960, the ruling elites began to handle economic matters, businesses and FDI began to increase, religious activities began to take localized and indigenous status. To many Nigerians when churches and Islam arrived newly, the purpose was to serve God almighty according to his dictate in the Bible and Quran.

Churches for instance started off as missionary pre-Independence when the Oyinbos were dominating and ruling Nigerian people, they established some of the now popular schools like CMS Grammar School in Bariga Lagos, Our Ladies of Apostle, St Gregory College, Kings College and host of others.

Their intention then was to ensure that the people of Nigeria believe so much in God and cave in to believe that everything belong to God including all our natural resources so that they’ll be no one to challenge them when they are exploring these mineral resources.

Religion is no doubt one of the key elements that have helped our world to stay stable to some extent because people who truly believe that Gods’ teachings must not be offended tries to refrain from doing wrong and evil; they are truly committed to the ways of God with genuine fear.

Fast forward to our Modern days religion in Nigeria, I posted on My Twitter page @AdelajaAdeoye few days ago when this topic came up that Imo State Governor, Rochas Owelle Okorocha want to tax churches in his state to raise funds to run government, I am never a fan of Rochas but on this one, I am totally on his side. I asked one simple question which no responded to me till date, that what made the famous pastor Matthew Ashimolowo of KICC and many others to relocate back to Nigeria with their church?

You see the answer is simple, in the United Kingdom, the government there don’t do things on religious sentiment, they tax individual and almost everything including churches to run their countries, here in Nigeria every tom, dick and harry can just wake up and claim God has called them to service and begin to conjure all manners of preaching just to extort money from people.

Only in Nigeria, pastors or religious leaders will be quick to quote a particular portion of the Bible to frighten you like “Speak not again or do no harm unto a man of God”, in fact some of them will buttress this statement with a prescribed curse if you speak against them just to continue to milk and suppress the people because this industry is multibillion dollars venture.

People should not get me all wrong, I am not saying there are no genuine people called to service by God, and all I am saying are known facts to many especially those who have not allowed themselves to be religious caged.

For the fact that we want to serve God does not deter us from asking questions where necessary, we should not allow pastors or Imams to cage us with convenient pages of holly book to their own selfish gains.

God is supreme; he is Omnipotent, Omniscience and Omnipresent, no one can ever be like God, the power and the glory of God is immense and undisputable, Nigerian ways and attitude to religion is more like a business enterprise.

Churches around the world are public entity and not privately owned unlike what we are have here in Nigeria, you will agree with me that no one can lay claim to the ownership of churches like the Catholic, Anglican and other churches that has global tentacles.

The reason why some governments around the world decided to exclude these churches from tax net is because they are like Public entities as the government.

Religious bodies especially most of the popular new generation churches are not public entity in Nigeria, the news we read on a daily basis about ownership structure, struggle for leadership and succession of some of these religious places make one to wonder if they are originally set up for the service of God in entirety or for commercial purposes.

People dumps their professions and career nowadays very freely to venture into religious activities because apart from Government, religion is the second largest lucrative ways of making money in Nigeria, like I posited earlier, it’s a multibillion $$$NNN generating venture.

Our nature as Africans, we mostly believe our problems are more of spiritual than natural cause, the best way for many to solve them is to turn to religious people for spiritual help.

I was going through a news post days back and read that in a particular state, dead bodies were exhumed around a church building; another separate news report says a particular pastor was caught trying to bury charms in his church premises.

All of this are struggles people embarked upon to attain powers that can enable them to bind, cast and be famous with massive wealth in this industry, I am not one of those who in any ways ever doubted the powers of God, the same bible made us to understand that in the end time, many fake prophets will heal the sick and command in his name.

In the case of Nigeria, I think since churches and other religious bodies are no more public entities, they must be made to register as businesses for the purpose of taxation (I propose 40%).

When the UK government slammed religious and flamboyant pastors with massive tax, many of them from our country who could no longer cope with the tax regime ran back home because they know anything and everything goes here in Nigeria.

As part of the change agenda we are all pushing for, it will be moderate and reasonable for Nigerian government both at States and Federal levels since we are all talking of diversification and exploring new opportunities to raise funds to run the nation, it’ll not be bad to look at this option of raising funds by taxing the two main religious organization (churches and mosques) in the country in all fairness.

Let us leave sentiment aside, we cannot in our own fight for God, God has endowed us with everything we need to survive here on earth, we the people are the limitations and barriers to our own progress using all sort of sentiments and blackmail like religion, ethnicity and other nonsensical tactics to stall our progress.

Corrupt people who are friends to pastors and Imams now use religious places to launder illicit funds because it is not taxed nor checkmated by Government. Going by the music of our late AfroBeats Legend Fela Anikulapo Kuti, most of his lyrics are the sad reality of happenings in our society concerning religions.

First step government must take is to make CAN and MAN to register and account for all churches and mosques we have in Nigeria, they should be made to register properly with CAC, all other separate subsidiaries such as Universities and other allied businesses should be declare for proper tax filing.

These religious bodies are so smart that they do everything possible to evade tax as many of them tactfully invested the proceeds from religious activities massively into education because it does not attract government taxes.

If you are an ordinary person who’ll be quick to defend these religious leaders who own Universities and other side business made possible via your offerings, first fruit, building project and other endless harmless giving, ask yourself if it’s affordable for you to educate yourself or your wards via these educational institutions.

Let us do away with sentiment and begin to ACT RIGHT, religion should be for the service of God and not for material gains, contributing tax from Church and Mosque is still part of service of God as it also help alleviate the suffering of the people from poverty because God wants us ALL to live in a beautiful world devoid of scam, cheating, fraud or swindling.

Adelaja Adeoye is a blogger, social and political commentator who writes from Lagos Nigeria and can be contacted on Twitter via @AdelajaAdeoye

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Inspired by Steve Biko’s ‘I Write What I Like‘, OP-UNEDITED is the citizen opinion segment of SIGNAL. All opinions posted on the OP-UNEDITED page are unedited and the raw opinions of the writers.

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Copyright 2015 SIGNAL. Permission to use portions of this article is granted provided appropriate credits are given to www.signalng.com and other relevant sources.

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