Nigerians are the most anxious people in the world

A.P. Ibironke

A.P. Ibironke

Apostle Prophet Israel Olufemi Ibironke is the General Overseer and presiding pastor of the Assembly of the Faithful Worldwide, in this interview with GOKE OLUWOLE and TAI SHOFELA, the Flight Operations Officer with the Nigerian Airways highlights the prospect of Nigerian transforming into an economic giant and the relationship between individual success in business and the ability to remain focused on a business venture

How would you describe your background?

I am by God’s grace the General Overseer of The Faithful Church Worldwide, born exactly 60 years ago, today, February 5, happened to be my birthday, February 5. I was born, bread, and raised in a good Christian home, my family church is the Apostolic Church, and my siblings are nine, eight boys and one girl. All the eight boys, today, are Pastors but I am the only one that administers a ministry outside the Apostolic Church. I am still part and parcel of the Apostolic Church till today, my calling is that of a prophetic apostolic.

In the early days of my life, I used to work with the Nigerian Airways as a Flight Operation Officer [a trained aviation expert for over 20years], I left to go into private business as a Cold Room –frozen food merchant, operating business then under the registered name of Hibbies Nigeria Limited, which was then my company’s name. My cold room then was popularly known as Big Fish Cold Room situated at Surulere, Itire and Ijeshatedo.

But I had to leave the business due to various spiritual attacks. I lost all my businesses in the course of finding solutions to my afflictions until I accepted him. While we were growing up we were all members of the Apostolic Church Choristers at the Inalende Assembly, Ibadan. But while working at the Airport, I decided to become a free thinker so I can do whatever I like and that was the beginning of my troubles, such that wherever I went I always saw the hands of God.

Between 1989 and 1990, I was afflicted with a very terrible sickness that defied all healings, I was bedridden for nine months, and for days, I couldn’t drink nor eat. In that state of health I would have dreams where I would find myself evangelizing, preaching and whenever I woke up the Doctors and the Nurses told me that I was always talking during my sleep. At times they will say I was smiling at some unseen guests.

After the ninth month, I got divine healing and a divine mandate to kick start my ministry I told God where and how, but I was directed to Anthony Village from my residence at Ketu, in Lagos State here. Precisely on 1 January, 1995 I moved to the Adekoya Community open field with myself and children where the lord fulfilled his promised that he will build a cathedral for us called the Cathedral of the Faithful on Ikorodu road.

What are the things that differentiate your ministry from the others?

Since the establishment of this church many transformational and revolutionary activities have been introduced by God through our instrumentality. I am not called for televangelism that is why most people always ask why I am not on air, this is not because of lack of money but it is our divine mandate not to go on air.

The most notable differentiation of our ministry is our annual Feast of the Nobles, celebrating the irrevocable call of God, we always celebrate it, but now it is celebrated according to Gods command Bi-annually with an Award ceremony for distinguished Nigerian who are doing wonderfully in their chosen professions and even those in governance that are doing marvelously well are honored as our own little way of identifying with them. At least, if your child did well, you’ll pat him on the back, so that he would be encouraged to do more and even better.

I am a positive thinker, I have a pact with God that during my time, Nigeria must be the greatest nation in this world. Many Americans, when they wake-up in the morning, before their morning devotion, say, “God Bless America,” why will such nation not be great? How many of us who are even religious leaders pray for our nation and our leaders. Despite the global financial Meltdown hitting the American economy, the people are still hopeful on President Barrack Obama.

But do we in Nigeria have leaders with Obama qualities? Apart from Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State, tell me how many present and past leaders have the Obama’s pedigree. God has mandated us from this ministry to preach hope and prophesy about the great future of this nation, it is God desire to still make Nigeria the African capital of the world. Please beware of the evil preachers and prophet of doom within the churches who are always seeing evil. What God is showing us is very different, we see hope and a total rebirth and renewal in the land, some will prophesy death, evil, sorrow and they will pray towards it to come to fruition so that people can hail them that they are seeing visions. But why should any servant of God be seeing vision about death and blood in the land why can they silently pray to ward it off in the land?

Please tell us more about this your Bi-annual Feast of Nobles ?

Yes, the feast is for the nobles, when you feast with the Lord you become a Noble, all the disciples of Our Lord Jesus Christ were called Nobles after they dined with Christ at the last supper. For us, our identified leaders too will become Noble men and women when they are feasted in the Cathedral of the Faithful. This event will hold inside the Faithful Cathedral, on Saturday, 28 February, 2009. A lot of Nigerian have been identified and screened by a panel of judges which include many men and women of integrity.

Since the Lord mandated us to start the feast none of the people we’ve honoured here had been indicted of any illegality or abuse of office or charged with corruption and embezzlement while in office. Our panel of Judges is led by one of Nigeria’s most respectable Jurist, Hon. .Justice G.O Kolawole, who is a justice of the Federal High Court, currently sitting on the case of the man with 86 wives. Hon. Justice Kolawole is by His grace a member of this Church and he is an ordained Deacon. The feast is celebrated in grandeur and spiritual ambience as directed by God, the Nobles we select are not necessarily big names but how we perceived their great achievements.

With the gathering of the ominous cloud of economic problems over Nigeria, what do you think is the way out?

The only way out is for us in this country to be patient. Little drops of water, little grains of sand make a mighty ocean. So all of us should join hands together with the government to salvage our economy, we need to learn how to be patient even a seed must have a sowing, grooming, and harvest time so is the situation in the country.

God himself is a God of orderliness, Nigerians are the most anxious people in the world, you see a lot of business men losing focus on their businesses, many marriages are failing and a lot of students are failing out of colleges and University just because they are not focused and patient in the race to success. Success is for the steady not the weary.

Some Christians have turned themselves into religious wanderer while some business men have also turned themselves into business wanderer in the course of looking for risky shortcuts. There is a popular Yoruba adage which I imbibed from my father that goes like “before the yam is transformed into pounded yam, it must be pounded in the mortar and that it is only when you keep looking at a spot that you see things well and deeper, it is also when you continue to urinate on a spot that your urine will foam“ all these form part of the Yoruba’s belief system and they underscore the principle of been focused and dedicated.

For Nigeria to be great, we must all learn that for a business to be regarded as not profitable it must have been operational for not less than three years, before we start to complain. These are part of the things that had led many to be preyed upon by scammers and financial predators in business circles. In advanced countries many of our people there work for hours and in those hours, no room is left for cavorting. Let’s follow the laid down rules of God rather than the laid down precepts of Men. Many failed in business because they build their business on shallow ideas, no feasibility studies,

We should also learn to appreciate government policies; we should try to understand that not all government actions are politically motivated, many are with good intentions like what Governor Fashola is trying to do in his attempt to transform Lagos State.

In our time, Nigeria will be good again, look at all these thieving governors and public office holders, go and look at those of them that had died; they were victims of one terminal ailment or the other. Some you will not have heard of before, so God has his own EFCC, because the other appellation of money is trouble, when you get to acquire too much money it will affect your psyche.

I remember the first day in this ministry when somebody paid a tithe offering of N350,000 then for one week I couldn’t sleep even I was afraid to put it in my room I kept it under the staircases and covered it with some rags and other abandoned items under the step so every morning I will have to check it and took some, and whenever there were any strange noise I will be scared whether somebody was coming to rob us of the money.

Among religious groupings in Nigeria there is this contentious issue over government’s intention to tax certain qualified income, what is your response?

Few years ago when the issue of divine healing and preaching prosperity on the pulpit was generating serious concerns among Christians, I was one of the selected pastors invited by NTA Lagos to come and discuss the issue and throw light on it. For me, my vision, calling and anointing is a mandate to lead a generation of righteous believers and as passionate advocator of divine mandate and apostolic prophetic utterance among church leaders I support the preaching on pulpit of divine healing and prosperity because my own God is God of the rich.

He had promised me that he will not call me to poverty but to prosper in my ministry but Christians must very vigilante so some lions in sheep skin among the Pastorate crowd will not use these things to cajole them into religious servitude to enslave their followers.

On the issue of the government intention to introduce tax, this, to my mind is a baseless rumor, but if it becomes a reality because out of every ten rumours in Nigeria six are always genuine, so if government of the day decided to forge ahead with the plan, good for them, if it is the only avenue that will aid the final transformation of Lagos Pastors must pray for divine wisdom before reacting. I, for one, will support such idea, after, all I am already a dedicated tax payer and a passionate advocate for the transformation of Lagos. We at the Faithfuls’ are ever ready to support any genuine and sincere move to liberate the people of Lagos from the stranglehold of backwardness and hardship.

I am proud to tell you our Church is a socially responsible organisation. If Governor Fashola calls me today, I will show him my tax certificate, this is the laminated plastic id card we are now using in Lagos, like my driving license expires today been my birthday first thing tomorrow I will go and renew it .I will implore other Pastors to pay their taxes as and when due and if tax is eventually imposed on our churches, we must pay, after all Our Lord Jesus’ disciples paid in the bible. What Pastors need to tap into is the divine provisions and the spiritual intervention of the disciples in paying their taxes.

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CHURCHES, MOSQUES, NGOs TO START PAYING TAXES FROM NEXT YEAR

The tax exemption status of religion based organizations and non government organisations are to be reviewed to align with international standards. This, according to a source in the Presidency, is to appropriately integrate otherwise tax exempt organizations into the taxable entities mainstream so as to drive the new impetus to fund the growth of the national economy from non oil revenue.

In line with this new thinking, the source informed that the Presidency has given its backing to the Nigeria Accounting Standard Board to evolve accounting standards that will serve as framework for tax exempt organizations to file their accounts and to be able to delineate which of their income is taxable from next year.

“The government does not intend to tax the income of churches, mosques or non-governmental organization or any other organization that naturally enjoys tax exemption status. The law is clear on the exemption status of such organizations. What the government has decided to do is to streamline income made in the furtherance of charitable activities of the tax exempt organizations and remove it from income made from what is known universally as unrelated business income,” the source said   

“So many religious organizations have, in fact, transformed into profit earning business enterprises and it is just proper that they are properly assessed for the purpose of taxation under the unrelated business income tax (UBIT),” the source argued. “These organizations are involved in various types of commercial activities, such as operating publishing houses, hotels, factories, radio and TV stations, parking lots, newspapers, bakeries, and restaurants. The Tax Reform will make income derived by churches from unrelated trade or business subject to tax.”

Another source at the Nigeria Accounting Standard Board argued the justification for taxing the unrelated business income of tax exempt organisations

The problem at which the tax on unrelated business income is directed is primarily that of unfair competition. The tax-free status of religion based organizations and NGOs enables them to use their profits tax-free to expand operations, while their competitors can expand only with the profits remaining after taxes. Also, a number of examples have arisen where these organizations have, in effect, used their tax exemptions to buy an ordinary business. That is, they have acquired the business with little or no investment on their own part and paid for it in instalments out of subsequent earnings – a procedure which usually could not be followed if the business were taxable. The idea is to impose the same tax on income derived from an unrelated trade or business as is borne by their competitors. It is, however, not intended that the tax imposed on unrelated business income will have any effect on the tax-exempt status of any organization,” the source explained.

The United States of America’s Internal Revenue Service Code, the template, which the NASB, is likely to adapt in its accounting standard to effect taxation of unrelated business income of affected organizations from next year, explains that churches and religious organizations, like other tax-exempt organizations, may engage in income-producing activities unrelated to their tax-exempt purposes, as long as the unrelated activities are not a substantial part of the organization’s activities. However, the net income from such activities will be subject to the UBIT if the following three conditions are met:

                      the activity constitutes a trade or business,

                      the trade or business is regularly carried on, and

                      the trade or business is not substantially related to the organization’s exempt purpose. (The fact that the organization uses the income to further its charitable or religious purposes does not make the activity substantially related to its exempt purposes.)

 

Exceptions to Unrelated Business Income Tax

Even if an activity meets the above three criteria, the income may not be subject to tax if it meets one of the following exceptions: (a) substantially all of the work in operating the trade or business is performed by volunteers; (b) the activity is conducted by the organization primarily for the convenience of its members; or (c) the trade or business involves the selling of merchandise substantially all of which was donated.

In general, rents from real property, royalties, capital gains, and interest and dividends are not subject to the unrelated business income tax unless financed with borrowed money.

 

The code also provides examples of Unrelated Trade or Business Activities:  Unrelated trade or business activities vary depending on types of activities, as shown below.

Advertising

Many tax-exempt organizations sell advertising in their publications or other forms of public communication. Generally, income from the sale of advertising is unrelated trade or business income. This may include the sale of advertising space in weekly bulletins, magazines or journals, or on church or religious organization Web sites.

 

Sale of merchandise and publications

The sale of merchandise and publications (including the actual publication of materials) can be considered the conduct of an unrelated trade or business if the items involved do not have a substantial relationship to the exempt purposes of the organization.

 

 Rental income

Generally, income derived from the rental of real property and incidental personal property is excluded from unrelated business income. However, there are certain situations in which rental income may be unrelated business taxable income:

                      if a church rents out property on which there is debt outstanding (for example, a mortgage note), the rental income may constitute unrelated debt-financed income subject to UBIT. (However, if a church or convention or association of churches acquires debt-financed land for use in its exempt purposes within 15 years of the time of acquisition, then income from the rental of the land may not constitute unrelated business income.),

                      if personal services are rendered in connection with the rental, then the income may be unrelated business taxable income, or

                      if a church charges for the use of the parking lot, the income may be unrelated business taxable income.

 

Parking lots

If a church owns a parking lot that is used by church members and visitors while attending church services, any parking fee paid to the church would not be subject to UBIT. However, if a church operates a parking lot that is used by members of the general public, parking fees would be taxable, as this activity would not be substantially related to the church’s exempt purpose, and parking fees are not treated as rent from real property. If the church enters into a lease with a third party who operates the church’s parking lot and pays rent to the church, such payments would not be subject to tax, as they would constitute rent from real property.

Whether an income-producing activity is an unrelated trade or business activity depends on all the facts and circumstances.

FRAUDULENT CREDITS HAUNT NIGERIAN BANKS -Industry Sources Warn

Despite continued assurances made by Central Bank of Nigeria’s Governor, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo restating the healthy state of Nigerian banks, reliable banking industry sources have indicated otherwise.

The sources warn that many commercial banks’ risks exposure is quite high, this, the sources averred is responsible for the growing tension in banking operations in the country.

“Of course, most banks keep issuing spectacular financial results, declaring huge profit after tax. But we can tell you that all you see are mere accounts engineering for which financial sector regulatory authorities should be held responsible.

“It is unfortunate that the auditing processes of companies have not been criminalized, if they are, all the shenanigans happening in the banking sector would have been exposed. We can tell you that several banks have lost there shareholders funds. The same capitalised funds that the CBN Governor is hailing as the proactive measure of consolidation that have supposedly saved the Nigerian banking industry.

“But have you ever imagined to the dividends several banks declare at their year-end? If you look at their books properly, they morphed the supposed dividends in their assets account. Yet what the requirement is that funds attributable to dividend should be set aside and, indeed, forwarded to the registrars for onward delivery to shareholders.

What some of the banks do, however, is to transfer some funds to the registrars, which usually are under their direct supervision because they are the banks’ subsidiaries. The registrars just make a show of posting dividends, but then, what you will soon hear is unclaimed dividends. The truth is that the dividend warrants were not dispatched in the first sense.

“Again, So many concerned Nigerians are looking to commercial banks exposure to the stock market as the next likely cause of distress in the Nigerian banking industry, yes, we agree that the stock market may be a possibility, but more than the eventuality we expect from continued worries arising from banks’ risk exposure in the capital market is the heavy exposure to fraudulent credits granted to some highly rated Nigerian and foreign businessmen that have become more or less moribund.

“We can tell you of a celebrated businessman who owes several banks a total of about N412billion debt and as the days pass it is becoming increasingly impossible to recover the sum from him. Besides, there is another gentleman who recently stormed the petroleum products marketing sector. He secured a facility of more than N50billion to finance his diesel supply business and joined other top players in the market to slash price for competitive advantage. But now, the situation have turned bad for him, again it is becoming increasingly bad for him.

“A Nigerian branch of the group of companies owned by an Asian ranked in the list of the world’s ten richest people had on the strength of the track record of the wealthy individual behind the company wracked up about N92billion facility form different Nigerian banks. For this individual, the slide in the global financial market has badly affected his business empire that he is to talking about official bankruptcy. With such a situation what is obvious is that it would become near impossible to repay the facilities secured from Nigerian banks.

“We qualify most of the facilities so secured by these businessmen as fraudulent because the processes of securing are often compromised. We have investigated how conniving accounts officers of some of these banks compromise the whole process of risks and collateral valuation. These account officers are usually promised a percentage of the amount to be loaned out; they forward favourable reports to the management, again, there are members of the management who are insiders to these compromised processes; they easily approve the reports for their personal gains.

“What all these boil down to is that if the CBN Examiners properly conduct the review of the books of most of these banks as required, the revelations will be shocking. On this basis, we want to warn that depositors’ funds with several Nigerian banks are at risk. People should start becoming cautious as they relate with their banks. Just a small slip could cause a lot of damages to depositors’ funds.