By Kenneth Ohamaeze
A few years ago, I sat with a group of journalists at one of their local secretariat as each of them was trying to recall his experience while visiting a popular Pentecostal Church somewhere around the state. Ostensibly the media men had accompanied on “assignment”, a group of tax Collectors from the state to ‘count’ the number of buildings in the within the premises of the religious institution so as to cut appropriate tax.
From their discussion, what really amazed the journalists most was that as they were approaching the Church gate, all the policemen attached to the Tax Collectors started giving one excuse or the other to disembark. Some went to eat, others went to “pee” and just ordered the tax team to proceed with the promise to meet up with them later. Eventually, the tax team could not gain entrance into the church facility. And there was not a single law enforcement officer around them who could assist them to gain passage. In simple terms there was no cooperation between the security operatives and the tax officers.
From post event investigation, it was realised that as at that period of the year, the same Church had paid taxes in excess of one hundred million (N100m) to the State Government coffers.
Furthermore, the reason why the Security operatives attached to the tax officers also could not join in the tax hunt was that far more than the State and Federal Government, police in the community had benefited immensely from the Church. The Church’s Corporate Social Responsibilities (CSR) are Second to none. From Police patrol van, to monthly fueling and allowances for upkeep, to health care facilities, provision of water in the police barracks and other part of the community, to provision of access roads and a whole lot of things. Church member or not, people of the community were a lot more loyal to the Church and its leaders than even the government.
Recently, the Dangote Group got a Tax Holiday on all its subsidiaries for the whole of ten years to fix the Apapa Port road. Of course this speaks to Government recognition it’s own inability to fix all manner of social infrastructure demand by its citizens. Some people have come to fill in the gap, and the government must recognize this.
Perhaps it may end up being a faster route to a composite development in dysfunctional state where Government Business ends as Nobody’s business.
I have followed carefully the charted course of Nigeria’s leading Lotto Merchant, Kensington Adebutu in the Education sector for instance. Without sounding immodest, outside late MKO Abiola, (and this is also contestable considering the different age and time) not any other single individual has invested so much in the education sector more that this man.
At the last count, his imprint dotted several of the country’s higher and not so high Institutions so much that his name has become synonymous with either a Hall, a lecture theatre, a Reading Room, a Library or a Laboratory most especially in the South West region of Nigeria.
Perhaps retiring too early from making profits into a vocation of spending, especially where it mattered most towards improving the lives and living conditions of the people. Where the government fails to spend or seem to have forgotten the people, Adebutu fills the vacuum as an alternate succor.
From the books some individuals appear to have come to this world to serve God, Government and humanity because on the whole they seem to be given their all to and in service of government; paying tithes in Church, Tax to Government, and paying benevolence and charity to humankind.
Kenneth is a public affairs analyst and writes from Lagos