​For those condemning church growth over the slow growth of industries in Nigeria | © Fola Daniel Adelesi

I just saw another post this morning about how many churches or religious houses we are ‘putting up’ versus the industries we are building. For me, it has become annoying, not because it’s about the church but because the argument is not tackling the issue and just passing the buck from the government to the church.

I have seen this line of thoughts and arguments severally and I make bold to say it is weak, shallow minded and least of all, condescending for any intellectual to advance as a good reason to come against the church or even mosque. 

The claim that the church is free of tax is also a lie. The argument on taxation is that the people who donate to the church have already been taxed. If your taxes are removed even before you get your salary and you send a portion of the rest to the church, why should that portion be taxed again? So there’s a standing argument on double taxation. 

Regarding the spread of churches versus the building of industries, I dare say we are neglecting or refusing to see a failure of government and expect people called into ministry to take over the responsibility of the government. The world index on the ease of doing business in Nigeria is not encouraging. We are poorly rated so if we don’t start any church in the next 30 years and put all of that money into building businesses, I make bold to say there will be very insignificant progress! Why do I have this bold assertion? How many of these ‘Prosperous churches’ run on government funded infrastructure? How many of them have power supply from the government? We killed too many businesses and still blame churches for rising instead of industries springing up.

I have an acquaintance who spends nearly two hundred thousand (200,000) naira to buy diesel so that she can run an office every month. There are too many people out there who can’t afford to spend close to a hundred thousand to register a business because that’s the capital they need. When you eventually set up with no government support, local government will come, state government will come and FIRS is after you on behalf of Federal Government. 

Foreign investors have come into this country and they can’t move their money after making profit. A case in sight is that of MTN Niberia and some foreign airlines. The government made a big mistake in how it went about dealing with MTN on the fine issues. This is not about MTN but the many others industries that will change their minds about coming to Nigeria.

Someone is not seeing that these multinationals are afraid or skeptical which is why most of their Nigerian staff are either commissioned, outsourced or temporary staff. From banking to oil and gas and the telecoms industry, that’s the trend. What has the spread of church got to do with this? Are you getting the point?

Have we forgotten how many people these churches are even employing? I know of some of these churches that employ over 6 to 7 thousand pastors. Some employ more. Think of the multiplier effects and how many families are being fed. When these churches are constructing, the economy benefits because it is Nigerians, even if they are members of that church, that supply the materials. The monthly activities of some of these churches contribute billions of naira to the food, transport and oil sectors.

To the people who condemn how many religious organisations dot our streets over the needed industries, do you think we have run out of spaces? What’s with people saying we have too many churches versus industries? Even when the churches went to the bush, the indutries like banks, construction and food went with them. Technology followed because the people have to communicate.

In a clip I watched recently, a leader of one of the churches disclosed that they were spending 100 million on feeding per day for a 7 day programme. That’s 700 million to the food industry in one week. Now the attendance at that yearly meeting has more than doubled. How much do you think they’d be spending now? Can it be less than a billion on food in one week? And there are a number of them spending close to that on a regular basis.

Our arguments are weak because it’s not the churches that are taking the place of the industries. In fact, millions have their businesses hinged on the existence of those churches. How can we be blind to the millions of jobs that churches create directly or indirectly?

The government is simply not enabling businesses! I still can’t overcome that surprise about people condeming the rise of religious houses and saying industries are not coming up. Please answer these questions:

1. Was the cement used in building the church manufactured within the church? 

2. Did the church create their own block industry?

3. Was it the church that manufactured the wood needed during construction?

4. Can the pastors’ anointing create roofing sheets?

5. Was it the Holy Spirit that supplied the aluminium materials and also fixed it?

6. Who provides ICT services to the churches? Is it world wide witches or digital managers and other ICT experts who many not even be Christians?

We all know the answers to these questions. Some people from various industries brought these materials. So the church, and other religious bodies, greatly contribute to the economy of this nation. 

The reason businesses are not spring up like churches is not because we are a more religious people. It’s definitely because the government hasn’t created room for the growth of industries. Businesses don’t thrive in environments like this. Churches can because it has a different kind of product to offer – it’s called hope.

Indeed, it has been the real hope of the people. Should I talk about the pastors who have members daily reporting to their houses to get their food for the day? The pastor who probably has a job, business or partners outside his physical church can’t boast of any meaningful offering so his physical input is far more and his output. I know of churches that were spending over one hundred million on scholarships as at ten years ago. Is anyone talking about this?

One church recently graded and tarred a road in Sango Ota. I drive through a federal road daily but it has been abandoned. It’s another church that grades it yearly. There’s a portion of that same road that was recently filled with granites by the same church that did the Sango Ota road. The churches have started health centres and offer cheaper services to the people. Ever since I was a child, I have known about the popular ‘ile agbebi’ which means maternity home that was run by churches. They had visiting doctors and the place was manned mostly by some trained nurses within the church. Some were retired and a few others had no formal training. These people have been saving mothers and their new born babies for decades. How much were they paid to take up a primary responsibility of the Government?

The government destroyed education, looted our treasury and sent their children abroad to get quality education. The churches built schools that don’t go on strike because the lecturers are well paid. Students know their graduation day from their matriculation day. Is anyone even paying attention to the direct and indirect jobs that churches have created? How many government schools in Nigeria also have the facilities in church owned schools? I can mention church owned schools and the facilities they enjoy. Let’s compare government run schools and ask ourselves where they even meet.

Does this mean the church is at its best? Certainly not. A few things have gone wrong and some people are still messing up. Regardless, we can’t wash our dirty linens in public.

Is it the church that sent airlines out of Nigeria? Is it the church that sent foreign development banks out of Nigeria? Did the church send foreign direct investments to Neighbouring Ghana? Let’s do a realignment and face those we should face.

For industries to spring up like churches do I suggest the following, as I have  done in some previous articles:

1. We need consistent policies regardless of the change in government to protect local and foreign investment. Some businesses have died just because of a change in government which often results in new policies.

2. The policies should not only be consistent but friendly and encourage as many people as possible to get into business.

3. We need to take power seriously, be sincere and transparent in its generation and distribution.

4. It must become easier for people to access loans so that they can start businesses.

5. We need to drop cost of registering a business.

6. Business registration process must not be cumbersome and ought to be completed in 24 hours.

7. CBN and banks should make it easier for start ups to open bank accounts. When I was opening a business account in 2009, it was much easier than it is now, in 2017, to open an account because of the draconian CBN rules and the rigid banking system.

There are many more issues to highlight but they will come in separate titles. 

Again, let’s stop building churches in just 1 year and see how many businesses will remain or die. The churches, in my opinion, so long as they are not misleading people and are well set up should keep springing up. They are employing people and helping businesses. Let’s get it right with our industries and leave the church out of this narrative of collosal failure.

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