Giving Unto Cesar… (Churches/Mosques to start paying Taxes)

Over the weekend, exactly one month before Christmas
The central bank and the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) announced a new accounting requirement for Churches, Mosques and other registered charities
The idea as explained is to compel the religious organizations and charities to be responsible, and report their financial activities over the financial year
Even more importantly, the plan is to ensure that commercial ventures by these organizations are properly taxed and deducted from their coffers
Unfortunately and as expected, the vampires are out trying to protect their blood bank
The propaganda machines are already in full swing demanding why the government is asking God to render accounts to men
And why the central bank and FRC is trying to pry into God’s book, particularly during these times
The churches in particularly feel most offended.
They have been used to centuries of non regulation, decades of unfretted influence and endless years of massive financial and accounting liberties
All they had been used to was to file returns to the Corporate Affairs Commission, (CAC) pay one thousand naira, and viola!
Little wonder then that many pastors have been acting god and playing deity
These days, pastor purchase choice cars like underwear shorts, they build schools-even universities with reckless abandon and buy jets like it was some BMX bicycles
Not only has the Nigerian church and mosques grown into gargantuan proportions,
Government influence and control-which initially was lax now became practically nonexistent
Although they are registered as charities, they become much more…
The Mega churches or mosques attracted tens of thousands of weekly worshippers
From being worship centers, they became an attraction for everyone looking for a market
Politicians approached them during elections, while public speakers horn their unrefined skill on their many alters and podiums
Business men, advertisers, jobseekers, dupes, beggars even bombers found these gatherings a juicy venue for their many activities
In time, God was either relegated, or He became a sub plot, as it became even more challenging to excite the congregants and constantly capture their attention
The worst part of it was the money!
As the churches and mosque grew so did the money
Knowing the psyche of an average Nigerian, and his belief and utter dependence on the deity (or some Omniscient God) for everything, it became a soft sell for the Nigerian pastors or Imam to prosper
Tithes, offering, Sadaka, Sacrificial giving, prophet offerings and the likes became the official lingo of the Nigerian Faith movement
Soon we were building the world largest church auditorium
Soon we were recording the world largest crusade attendance
Soon the Nigerian Muslim community undoubtedly became the largest in Africa
Pretty soon, the Nigerian faith movement had the largest faith-based satellite TV network in and around Africa
The trouble was that the nation wasn’t changing, or rather the changes wasn’t for the better
These so called bigger churches soon started acquiring and occupying former ware houses as regular church building were becoming smaller
The so called monstrous Islamic gatherings started congregating in recreational centers or Public Parks as normal mosques couldn’t hold the crowds no more
The rise of the Nigerian churches and Mosque came at a steep cost, yet the benefit revolved around a few people’s belly and bank accounts
Warehouses and large companies that used to employ our youths and pay massive taxes were driven out of business
While massive churches, with iconic structure but zero taxes and minimal employed percentages replaced them
Recreational centers and parks where our children used to play and horn their skills enough to be world class: like Hakeem Olajuwon, Chioma Ajunwa etc. were ran aground for lack of maintenance
Only to be re-occupied by NASFAT, and other faith groups, who raise offerings and yet hardly gives back in a structured way
But the most indicting was the many businesses that these churches and mosques delved into in the vaguest manner
They opened up bookshops to sell the pastors books, tapes, DC and other self help books
They started publishing company to print same materials and others of like minds
They opened up clinics, bakeries, even consultancy services in a way that bothers on incredulity
Above all, they built schools: Crèches, Nursery and primary schools, secondary schools, even universities
Everyone of the big boys own a university these days, even the very ambitious ones now own professional universities for research, professional studies and all
In short, the churches and mosques became mini governments all by themselves
Their annual budget now obliterates that of many states and wipes away those of many ministries and agencies
They became so rich in such a monstrous way that they own their own cities, generate their own power, and water-even food
It’s so incongruous that they might soon start spending their own currencies, and issuing their own visa into their independent territories
Yet they aren’t so disposed to declaring their financial spend and cash flow
They aren’t willing to openly declare their earnings and spending to all and will surely fight to high heavens against the possibilities of paying taxes
Well the end is near…
The end is near to the days when our churches were administered like some 3rd world chiefdoms
The end is getting near for those pastors/Imams and charity heads who clean the coffers all in the name of God, Conscience of sacrifice
The end is near for churches that start business and yet register it as church extensions without paying taxes, mosque that makes tapes, sell to the congregation but do not declare account and pay taxes, and charities that host events, seek partnership but do not report such income to the government
The end should be near for faith based organization who are growing so much yet the people’s lives and pockets are shrinking so bad
The end draws near for narcissistic pastors who would rather ride jets when the congregation can’t afford bread
Leaders, who only vacation abroad, drive choice cars, preach only prosperity and feed fat on the poverty of their people
Leader’s whose God is their bellies, who thrive in acting God, and prosper on the irresponsibility of government because they provide basic amenities-which government should have done-yet with the people’s pauper offerings
So I pray, that this new accounting requirements will take effect from January as planned
If Redeemed churches open their books to the authorities in America and Europe, why shouldn’t they do same here?
I pray, that culpable churches, mosques and charities would be penalized and those found wanting possibly jailed
If that is what obtains all around the world, why really should Nigeria be different?
I pray that our faith based institutions would become more responsible to the people, more accountable to the government and if possible return some bit more to public coffers as taxes
I must acknowledge that some are not without their merits and noble efforts in good conscience
But this is not about praise singing, or plaque awarding.
It is about getting everyone to sit up and asking our ‘Men-of-God’ how much they are making, how well the church earnings are spent and if possible tax them and their institutions’ all in a bid to better this society
Am sure we all remember that taxes alone sustains every sanely sovereign nation
Am sure we all know that the oil-which we all live on now will dry off someday soon, frankly possible in our lifetimes
If we all don’t put on ground the system and structure to regulate our faith based institution and charities,
In 50years or less the offerings, tithes and co would have dried off, and possibly our churches and mosques would have withered and atrophied away
I surely dread that day, so I pray not….
A word-they say, is enough for the wise!

Lanre Basamta
Twitter: @basamta

Ring a bell, sing aloud, Nigerian churches will no longer be run like a 3rd wolrd fiefdom
Shout it on the roof top, and scream it by the door post, mosques all over this nationNigerian Churches and mosques will no longer be run as fiefdoms and principaliti


  1. Anonymous05:18

    I see some biasness with the NASFAT emphasis...why aint other faith group names being mentioned cux it isn't only NASFAT who occupied a space,others did and along the same axis...let's drop the sentiments please....The act is a noble cause though cux they make a whole lot of money than SMEs n SMEs pay tax

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