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Are Churches Truly Nonprofit Making Organizations?
A deeper look at the activities of churches in Nigeria has shown that worship centers are one of the highest employers of labour in the country having involved in may profit yielding ventures like schools, book publishing, media houses including tv, radio and print. For example, the most expensive universities in Nigeria are owned and run churches e.g. Covenant and Lead Universities are owned by the Living Faith Church, Redeemers University is owned by RCCG, Mountain Top University is owned by MFM, Anchor University is owned by Deeper Life, Joseph Ayo Babalola University JABU is owned by CAC, Babcock University is owned by Seventh Day Adventist Church, Bowen University is owned by the Baptist Church, the list is endless. The question is do these institutions run as charities and nonprofit making ventures?
Churches raise their offerings from donations from their members, some of whom are “very poor” and hoping to get “blessed” by God someday soon. These members though pay tokens as offering but very regularly which is their widows mite and these are gathered to raise mansions, build cities, buy luxury cars, private jets, ships and even build schools from crèche to university that members of the churches who faithfully donated these funds every meeting day cannot afford to enjoy because of their social class. Such schools end up training children of the high class who probably don’t attend these churches and invariably have no contributions as regards starting up such schools. A clear situation of robbing Peter to pay Paul.
Should Churches Be Taxed?
When Obazee and FRCN came about the code of corporate governance which is to ensure that all nonprofit organizations including religious bodies with commercial activities be taxed based on their rewards from such commercial activities, most churches neither paid attentions nor attended the public hearings. Moreover, if a pastor earns a salary, his salary should be subject to tax because that’s what the law says and nobody irrespective of his status is above the law. Even Jesus whose principles and footsteps all Christians and Pastors follow paid tax during his sojourn on earth and taught his disciple to do same Matthew 17: 24-27.
Sentiments and emotions apart, how could a university graduate who earns fifty thousand naira or less pay tax, tithe and offering in a church to a pastor who has fleet of cars, mansions and various businesses to himself and the so called pastor because of his title escape tax? Was that Jesus’ example in the scriptures above?
Most churches strategically evade taxes here in Nigeria by registering all their business ventures as nonprofit entities that the church itself is, thereby short changing the state and denying members of their church access to social amenities meant to be provided with tax payers’ money.
Was Buhari Right After All?
The President ordered the minister for industry, trade and investment Okechukwu Enelamah to fire Jim Obazee after rolling out the policy without “due consultation” which affected the biggest religious leaders in the country knowing fully well that the affected persons are strong enough to make or mar any political leader in the country as a result of their influence in religion, politics and economy. Obazee has only been punished for fighting a just cause he so much believes in and opening the eyes of the helpless masses in the streets.
It will interest you to know that this same policy that empowered to see the light of the day would have not been heard about but for the intelligence, boldness and guts of Jim Osayande Obazee because the policy has been left unattended to since 2011 and was practically swept under the carpet by former President Goodluck Jonathan because of the influence of Christian Association of Nigeria CAN and the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria PFN on his ambition to return as the president in the 2015 general election, unfortunately, that did not work.
After the appointment of Mr Adedotun Suleiman as the new chairman of FRCN, President Muhammadu Buhari will do well not to witch hunt anyone by upholding Obazees FRCN code of corporate governance policy and allowing it to stay for real.