…Over 200 hotels not enough, landlords convert houses to emergency guest houses
By Nnamdi Ojiego
One week after the death of founder of the Synagogue Church of All Nations, SCOAN, Prophet Temitope Balogun Joshua, residents of Ikotun-Egbe community in Alimosho Local Government Area, LGA, of Lagos State, are already counting their losses.
TB Joshua, as he was popularly known, died on Saturday, June 5, 2021, at the age of 57.
His death was officially announced through his church’s Facebook page on June 6.
“On Saturday, 5th June 2021, Prophet TB Joshua spoke during the Emmanuel TV Partners Meeting: ‘Time for everything — time to come here for prayer and time to return home after the service”, SCOAN said.
“God has taken His servant, Prophet TB Joshua home — as it should be by divine will. His last moments on earth were spent in the service of God. This is what he was born for, lived for and died for’, the church declared.
The father of three was one of Africa’s most influential preachers with millions of television and social media followers. According to report, more than 15,000 people from Nigeria and abroad attended his weekly Sunday services.
Following the demise of the cleric, who some people described as controversial, businesses within and around his church are already experiencing downturn and difficult time.
Residents whose means of livelihood are tied to the activities of the church said he was a huge blessing.
The popularity of SCOAN attracted worshippers from within and outside Nigeria. Those who besieged the church believed that if they could have the opportunity to meet and be prayed for by the late cleric, their problems would be over.
Olatunde, who resides in Ikotun attested to this.
His words, “TB Joshua had so many followers. He had so many people that believed in him. In fact, they believed he was their second God.
“They believed that no matter the situation they were in, if they could just see him, their problems would be over and it worked for them.”
Speaking further, Olatunde narrated how businesses sprang up and blossomed in the neighborhood through religious tourism.
“When worshippers come to see Prophet Joshua, they are required to register and wait for their turn. To see the man of God usually takes weeks or months.
“So while you wait for your turn, you will need shelter, you will need food and other basic things and these needs now became business opportunities for those of us who trying to provide these services.
“What this means is that the more people visited and the longer they stayed, the more business owners smiled to the bank.”
Over 200 Hotels
The influx of people enabled establishment and growth of many businesses especially in the hospitality industry.
One of the businesses that benefited most is hotels and guest houses. This is evident in the number of hotels that litter the area.
In a bid to provide shelter and accommodation for the teeming visitors, many people ventured into hotel business.
Residents who spoke to Sunday Vanguard said there were over 200 of all categories of hotels and guest houses within and around Ikotun-Egbe.
Because of how ubiquitous hotels are around the communities, a respondent quipped that the entire area was about to be turned to a hotel region.
“Every day you see new hotels springing up. Big men were coming from outside to buy properties here. They bought old houses, demolished them and built hotels. I think there were plans to convert this whole area to hotels”.
Even with this huge number of hotels in the area, it was still not enough to cater for the accommodation needs of surging tourists that besieged SCOAN premises daily.
To solve this problem, residents were forced to cash-in on the situation by letting out their residences to, in some instances, stranded visitors or to those who could not afford hotel bills.
The house letting came in two ways – those who operated it as business and those that let occasionally.
Business oriented ones regarded themselves as semi-guest houses. They have single rooms for those that desired privacy and it could cost as high as N3, 000 per night. They also have open rooms (sitting rooms converted to hostels) with about 10 pieces of 2 by 6 mattresses. With N1, 000, one can secure a bed here for a night.
On the other, many families let out theirs occasionally. They vacate their rooms for strangers for an amount ranging from N1, 000 to N3, 000. Those who could not let out their rooms allow squatters sleep on couches in sitting rooms for about N1, 000.
The death of SCOAN founder has, however, dealt a huge blow to businesses that rely on the church for survival. Business owners have started counting their losses as there was sharp decline in the number of visitors, resulting to low patronage.
From local food vendors (mama put) to fast food centers and hotels, the story was same.
A chief chef at Sweet Savor Hotel and Suites, Mr Etim, said the death of the popular cleric was already impacting negatively on their business.
He disclosed that since he started working in the hotel, there was never a day the hotel was not fully booked.
“But everything has changed now. Since the news of TB Joshua’s death, our rooms are rarely fully booked”, he said.
“As chef in this hotel, I do make dishes, especially continental foods, till 2am every day because of the number of customers we attend to.
“We have to satisfy our guests who are mostly foreigners. I cannot tell you how much we make daily from the rooms, restaurant and other services because I am not the accountant or auditor.
“However, to have an idea of how much we make, we have about 36 rooms here and our cheapest rooms are N15, 000. “We also have rooms that cost as high as N30, 000 per night and people were staying up to six months. Before now, if you come to our hotel on a Monday, you may not be able to get a room for the week because all our rooms are usually booked for the week before Monday. I must be honest with you, we were making money”.
Similarly, a hotel manager who did not want his name in print bemoaned low patronage since the sad incident occurred.
“You can see how everywhere is quiet. This is not how it used to be. If you had come here by this time last week, you would see people moving around, people going out and coming in, but since Prophet passed on, activities were at standstill and it is affecting us”.
No programme in two years
Meanwhile, for Mr Emmanuel, who let out rooms to visitors, patronage had been low for more than two years, even before the outbreak of coronavirus pandemic.
“The poor patronage we are experiencing is not because of TB Joshua’s death. We have been experiencing it for a long time now”, Emmanuel said.
“This is because the man stopped holding programmes in the last two years.
“So people have not been coming the way they used to because it is programmes that bring them to the church.
“When we entered into this business newly, there were programmes every week.
“There was a Prayer Line that usually holds every Thursday and, in order to be in church early enough for the programme, people would arrive Wednesday or even Tuesday.
“Also, after the Thursday prayers, most of the attendees do stay behind for Deliverance Service on Saturday and Sunday service.
“So, almost everybody that came on Tuesday or Wednesday stayed till weekend and, for us, it meant more business.
“Then, there was no week my spaces were not occupied.
“However, the story has changed. We rarely see customers.
“My point is that things have changed and business has become bad even before he died.
“And, if you ask me, I will tell you that the man finished his work long time ago. “If not, how could he stay for over two years without any programme? Until now, there was no Sunday service even before the Covid-19 lockdown.
“It was only after his members complained so much that he started Emmanuel TV Partners programme last April”.
Asked about the dangers of letting out rooms to total strangers, Emmanuel retorted, “Life is all about risk. There is risk in every business. So, we can’t because of risks do not do business. “And if you continue to look at the risks, you can’t live; you won’t be able to do anything.
“Having said that, the most serious issue in this business is when a guest dies in your residence.
“What happens at times is someone can die in your house.
“You know, some of those that came to the Synagogue are sick people seeking divine healing.
“The people may look healthy but are sick inside but you won’t know and let him house.
“When something like that happens, it always put the person who let out the room in serious trouble because you don’t know anything about the person. We don’t pray for that but it happens once in a while.
“Another risk is letting your room out to petty thieves.
“This happened to me about nine years ago. I can remember it vividly. We accommodated one man who gave his name as Solomon.
“The way he spoke when he came made us think he was a good person.
“So, on a Sunday, when everybody had gone to church, the man came back and told my wife he wanted to take some things the prophet asked him to bring, that he would be going back immediately.
“So my wife allowed him in alone and returned to our own apartment. The man went in and broke into other rooms and stole people’s belongings and disappeared.
“All the victims asked us not to worry except one who lost a laptop and insisted we pay him. He even took us to Ikotun police station and we paid him about N75, 000 for his loss.
“How we operate now, even then, is when everybody leaves for church service, we will no longer allow anyone in unaccompanied.
“If you want to go to the room when others are still at service, somebody must go in with you.
“Why it happened to me then was because my wife can trust so easily and gave him access to the room alone. I always warn her that you don’t do that in this business.
“In cases of death, we now request for some information including names and phone numbers of next of kin before giving out rooms.”
TB Joshua’s kind gestures are known widely and the communities where the church was located were the ultimate beneficiaries.
He provided social amenities such as water and electric transformers for the people.
A restaurant operator, Mrs Blessing, said this of the late pastor, “People around here loved him so much because he was too good to them, he took care of them. “If you are a giver, people will love you.
“The day he died, all the Agbero (local touts) along this road were crying because he used to ‘settle’ them. He used to give the boys money.
“Not only the Agberos, he was also good to everybody. For example, during the Covid-19 lockdown, he gave every household and every staff member of companies, a bag of rice and money. All of us benefitted from his benevolence.”
How secured is the neighborhood in view of number of people that visited daily, our reporter asked Mr. Osakwe, a security guard with one of the companies close to the church.
“There’s no case of robbery because there are no thieves around this area”, he said.
“Those who would be stealing were taken care of by the prophet. No matter the time one comes to this area in the night, nothing will happen to you.
“I can tell you that since I moved in to this place many years ago, I have not heard of snatching of bags, phones or shout of ‘thief, thief’ in this area let alone robbery attacks.”
It is expected that, especially in this part of the world, that wherever people gather overnight, they tend to mess up the surroundings by defecating openly in any available space. But Mr. Osakwe said that was not the case with the Synagogue.
“There is nothing like open defecation or littering of environment here”, he said. “The church provided adequate facilities to cater for every member and visitor. You can see for yourself, go around and check if you can see anything of such.”
Meanwhile, the residents of Ikotun and Egbe communities are not giving in to despair over the death of their greatest benefactor.
They are very optimistic that whoever that would succeed the late prophet would be more powerful and do greater miracles.
“Though TB Joshua is dead, I believe it will get better. The way I look at it is that somebody who is greater will take over”, Emmanuel prayed.
“Our prayer is for God to give us somebody who will be greater than TB Joshua to attract more worshippers from all over the world to the Synagogue. What we want to see is somebody who is more powerful than Joshua. If his successor is powerful, testimonies will spread and people will start trooping in again”, Etim, on his part, said.