Another good idea being mismanaged. The Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria, FRCN, has a bad reputation among most Nigerians for being a power-hungry organisation. It has tried to put in place a one-size-fits-all corporate governance code which makes everyone defer to the organisation. That has been challenged.
The challenge with religion in Nigeria is two-pronged. Each major religion has its own issues. The Christians proliferate and many smart Alecs have seen these as money making ventures. The Muslims suffer from a proliferation of sects – one of these became Boko Haram. Another is being brutally put down by El-Rufai. Too many exist up north, undocumented. We recall Maitatsine. Reasonable Muslims are afraid of those sects. Boko Haram has killed more Muslims by far, than any other group has.
So the issues are not merely financial. Where does the FRCN come in? Why not have a holistic approach to this issue? When a company registers at the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) as a Limited Liability, because it intends to make profit, FIRS takes over. When a church or mosque or NGO registers at the same CAC, who takes over? Nobody. And FRCN cannot fit the bill because the issue is not about money alone.
As a matter of fact, of late, many of the mushrooming churches don’t even bother going to CAC, or advertising their Board of Trustees for 21 days as required. All those who used to stay at bus stops performing magic and robbing people have turned into pastors. Some stay small, but make money. Our people have a quirk in their DNA that makes them believe some of these things. Poverty also does not help. FRCN can ‘force’ G.Os to step down, shebi that is when you know of the church’s corporate existence? They will only battle the large churches and Buhari will draw a lot of flak for that, and notably it will be called ‘Church persecution”. This is a case of the government shooting itself in the leg. And everything in Nigeria is reduced to money, money, and money.
The problem with Boko Haram is not money. Yes some people fund them and give them arms, and nothing has been said about those. Boko Haram even attacks the poor and never the rich. They kill people at bus stops and mosques and such places. They are blind to the mansions of the rich who have been reveling in lavish ceremonies lately. So we know Boko Haram’s footprints, but we dont know the truth about them. If Boko Haram had been documented when they started, and we knew who their trustees are, people like Ali Modu will not be denying that he never knew them at all. The Trustees of an NGO are the ones saddled with bringing such an organisation to heel if they stray. They are held responsible for the activities of the organisation. The Trustees are meant to be responsible people, identifiable in society. When a list of Trustees is submitted, even their international passport copies are obtained among other documentation. They are contacted where necessary to be sure they agreed to be trustees.
What we need is a comprehensive approach to religion, which has of late gutted this country in more ways than one. Religion divides us down the middle – especially the Middle Eastern ones. For many adherents, anyone who doesn’t believe the way they do is hell-bound, and they are ready to dispatch you there immediately. It is a sad issue.
So the issue is not about forcing GOs to step down. That is an overkill, and a clumsy, counterproductive move. Even in the UK, as strict as they are, I don’t think they force the head of religious organisations to step down. I wrote two strong articles on Charity Commissions in the last few years and had to research the UK and how Charity Commissions get their returns, etc. Nowhere did I find that heads of organisations should step down after a while. See what happened with Nigerians banks and how the founders dashed back to their banks when the ‘sentence’ imposed by Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for them to step aside expired? People start organisations and it becomes their ‘baby’. If corporate people can be so attached to the organisations they start, why should spiritual people be excised from their organisations so unceremoniously? Why demote a man in the organisation he started to become a shopfloor member? That should be strictly a personal decision.
Why must a Mike Okonkwo, or Oyedepo, if they are still strong and charismatic, suddenly be retired in the work of the Lord? Those who know ‘spiritual’ things will call this an abomination. I don’t know much about such. In the US, we know there are many old preachers who die preaching and heading the organisations they started. The issue is clearly not about how long they stay as the head of the organisations they create. And churches or mosques do not trade with government money, so the limit to effecting changes in their headship should really not arise. NEVER MEDDLE THAT MUCH IN THEIR AFFAIRS! Obazee – that guy who showed how partisan he was in the case of the then governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi at CBN – is wrong again!
But we can begin really tackling the matter. What we need is a CHARITY COMMISSION that will be on ground and do its work, DOCUMENTING these organisations, putting some sanity into their activities, ensuring they are not here to rip people off, or to turn into terrorist organisations. It is not only about money, or about the Christians alone. Government should wake up.
Let us think about the ramifications of this problem. Think about churches that ‘pastors’ use as fronts for armed robbery, printing of fake currencies, the receipt of stolen goods, baby factories, and other crimes. Then think of churches where they drive nails in children’s heads, and chain them down for months because they are ‘witches’. Think of those ‘pastors’, like the one in Akwa Ibom, who claimed on camera to have killed more than 1,400 people who are witches. Think of the atrocities going on in our land in the name of religion. Think of the low barrier, and how anyone can claim to have heard from God. Think of the effect on productivity in the land as our young and strong people take to ‘preaching’ and making money, while no one actually produces anything tangible.
Then think of Boko Haram, and small terrorist organisations brewing in parts of the country, where decades of socioeconomic mismanagement and elite deception and greed has disconnected them from society and they are seething with their own brands of anger. Is that not what Boko Haram was about? Someone told me last week, that a large proportion of relief funds sent up North-East is being used to build mosques. Nothing wrong with that, only that there are no hospitals, no schools, etc. Food is even scarce. The idea is to hasten people’s journey to heaven right? There is problem in the land.
‘Tope Fasua is an economist, author, blogger, and entrepreneur. He can be reached by email HERE.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.