Falana Wants Religious Bodies To Pay Tax

Human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, SAN, has advocated payment of taxes by religious bodies in the country.

Speaking at a two-day workshop entitled: “The Dynamics of Cashless Economy and Emerging Methods in Financial Crimes”, organised by the Nigeria Police Force, Special Fraud Unit (SFU), Lagos and held at Oriental Hotel, Lekki, Lagos yesterday, the human rights activist advised those who were opposed to a move by Lagos State government two years ago to impose taxes and levies on churches, mosques and other religious centres to have a rethink in view of the growing opulence of some religious leaders.

According to Falana who also represented Prof. Wole Soyinka, guest speaker at the occasion, the tax authorities must extend their dragnets to all religious centres where substantial income is generated on a regular basis in the name of God.

“In the United Kingdom, a Nigerian “bishopreneur” is currently being investigated for fraud by the police. Indeed one of the issues being looked into is the propriety of collecting tithes from poor congregants only to channel the proceeds to acquire limousines and private jets. Pastor Tunde Bakare of The Latter Rain Assembly was reported to have said that not until the religious leaders, including himself, were incarcerated, there wouldn’t be sanity in the churches. He said churches have failed their congregations as Pastors have now become tyrants, oppressors and leaders without care for their followers.

 “In a swift reaction, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), someone who just acquired his own jet a couple of weeks ago, took a swipe at Bakare for condemning their crave for jets and opulent life. He said everything a pastor could get for evangelism should be acquired. Not minding the economic situation of the people, I think the statement credited to this leader is uncharitable knowing fully well that many Christians today would fare well if the resources used in buying these jets are made available to them. There is need for sanity also in the churches”.

He, however, urged Nigerians to take their destiny in their own hands.

Youths, Falana advised, must shake themselves out of bondage of unscrupulous politicians who had nothing to offer but the criminalisation of the youths.

Also, speaking on the ranking of Nigeria by KPMG as the most corrupt state in West Africa, Falana noted that it is not that Nigeria does not have sufficient laws to deal with the issue of corruption, but identified the absence of political will in addition to how the system in Nigeria harbours sacred cows and ‘untouchables’.

The Royal Father of the Day, Lagos monarch, Oba Rilwanu Akiolu decried the attack on St. Andrews Military Protestant Church located within the Armed Forces Command and Staff College (AFCSC), Jaji, Kaduna on Sunday during which no fewer than 11 people were killed and 30 others injured.

The Oba said the attack was a bad signal to foreign investors who may want to come with their money and invest in the country.

Oba Akiolu disclosed that the problem in Nigeria is not that of President Goodluck Jonathan but of all and sundry.

He, however, admonished the perpetrators of the heinous crime to have a rethink.

In his opening address, Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar, who was represented by the Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police, Mr. Peter Gana, said the workshop was specifically designed to equip men and officers with the required knowledge in dealing with whatever circumstances that may arise in the course of the full implementation of the cashless policy of the Federal government.

“The workshop is aimed at providing security agencies with basic knowledge of how to prevent financial crimes, investigate financial crimes and prosecute offenders of financial crimes without contravening the law.

“It must however be noted that it is not enough to train only those who will investigate and prosecute offenders without proper recommendation for the major players in the financial sector of the nation’s economy. Training those in the financial sector of the Nigerian economy is a strong step towards shifting from the traditional way of waiting for them to commit fraud, before being on their trail. It is also a way of putting them on alert of the different ways through which fraud can be committed with the full implementation of the cashless policy”, said Abubakar.

Commissioner of Police (CP) in-charge, SFU, Mr. Ayotunde Ogunsakin noted that the world is becoming a global village where there are technological inventions, advancements and innovations  accompanied by threats and challenges.
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