Nigerian pastors don’t seem to spread prosperity as much as they spread the word of God, the lifestyles of most rich and famous pastors is far apart from that of their congregation
With massive followership, they are supposed to preach words of modest living. But many pastors across the world, and indeed Nigeria, are living large. Many of them own luxurious property in choice locations around the country. However, a number of them also engage in philanthropic activities as well.
Bishop David Oyedepo is the Founder and General Overseer of the Living Faith Worldwide, popularly known as “Winners Chapel”. He is regarded by many as one of the richest pastors, not only in Nigeria, but in Africa. His church has to its credit, the building of the single largest worship centre in Africa, known as Faith Tabernacle in Otta, Ogun State. The 50,000 seat centre is also its international headquarters. The church also has two universities, Covenant University in Otta and Landmark University in Omu Aran in Kwara State.
Oyedepo’s church owns several businesses, as well, and according to a Forbes Magazine, an estimated net worth of US$150 million.
Then there’s Pastor Chris Oyakhilome, simply called Pastor Chris by his admirers. He also towers above when it comes to wealthy pastors. The aforementioned Forbes report estimated his worth to be between $30 million and $50 million. His church, better-known as Christ Embassy International, is also one that enjoys a huge following, especially among Nigerian youths.
Well-known for his televangelism, Oyakhilome’s church branches and faithful cut across the globe.
Pastor Chris’s interests cut across publishing, TV, record labels and more. His Loveworld TV Network is reputed to be the first Christian TV network to broadcast from Africa to the rest of the world on a 24-hour basis.
Pastor Matthew Ashimolowo is the Senior Pastor of Kingsway International Christian Centre, (KICC) London. He is another pastor Nigerians have associated with wealth for many years. He was reputed to have launched a breakthrough when in 1992, Foursquare Gospel Church asked him to establish the London branch. He was said to have used the opportunity to kick-start his own ministry.
Ashimolowo’s assets, chiefly in media and publishing, rank him among the A-list pastors.
Pastor Temitope Balogun Joshua, the Leader and Founder of Synagogue Church of All Nations, (SCOAN), is another prominent clergyman whom many believe is super-rich. He is simply referred to as T.B Joshua. He is said to have assets in various sectors, and he enjoys close friendships with numerous African presidents, some of whom have paid him courtesy calls at his church headquarters in Ikotun, Lagos.
Highly revered among his numerous faithful, Joshua, through his many philanthropic gestures has often proved that he has more than enough to give, which many say is unprecedented. To his credit is the widely celebrated cable TV channel, Emmanuel TV which enjoys wide viewership across the globe.
Joshua has reportedly purchased a $60 million Gulfstream G550 aircraft in April 2015. But according to an online publication, ‘TB Joshua Watch: A comprehensive resource on TB Joshua and SCOAN’, “We cannot be categorized among the wealthiest in Nigeria because what money we receive is not accumulated but rather given out to those who need it most. There is not enough to keep for tomorrow. As it comes, we give it to the needy.”
Pastor Chris Okotie, of the household of God Church, Oregun, Ikeja was once known as a celebrated pop star in the 1980’s. Aside from presiding over a church that sits atop a wide expanse of land, the pastor has also in the past contested to be president. Though he failed in all of his attempts, the fact that he single-handedly raised and nurtured a political platform – the Fresh Party and campaigned across the country, has fueled the notion that he is a wealthy clergyman. Also, his wealth also reflects in his style. He is a lover of exotic automobiles and believed to own many. He also maintains a sizeable motorcade with many security aides.
Apostle Tom Samson, of Christ Royal Family International Church (CRFIC) in Iyesi-Ota, a developing community in Ota town, Ogun State, has established interests that appear a mix of evangelism and business, as he is also the Chief Executive Officer of Royal City Medical Centre, Royal City Water Factory and Royal City Printing Press. The icing on the cake of his many educational institutions. When he celebrated his 50th birthday, he claimed that some of his followers whom God had blessed through him had deemed it fit to give him gifts.
Samson, born on December 13, 1965, in Ile-Ife, Osun State, is actually an indigene of Ogbagu-Ogume in the Ndokwa Local Government Area of Delta State. He began to gather fame in Lagos State in the 1990s as a Pentecostal warrior organising his Reigning in Life conferences, donned in army green fatigues, “fighting witches and wizards for troubled souls”.
Lazarus Muoka of The Lord’s Chosen Charismatic Revival Movement commands, every Sunday, long lines of buses, parked on the shoulders of the Oshodi-Mile 2 Expressway, between Ilasamaja and Ijesha bus stops in Lagos. The buses bear the inscription ‘The Lord’s Chosen Charismatic Revival Movement’, a church founded and owned by Muoka. From its humble beginning at Ilasamaja, Lord’s Chosen, as is widely known, has grown.
Muoka’s influence and wealth have soared. Every Sunday, and even at special programmes that the church organises during the week, thousands of worshippers throng the centre. His congregation comprises largely the low and middle income earners, who proudly wear yellow reflective jackets on which the Lord’s Chosen name is written. A former member of the church, John Nwosu, who resides on Abiodun Street, Shomolu, told Daily Trust that members buy the jacket for N5000 each.
Pastor Joseph Agboli of Victorious Army Church on Acme Road, Ogba, in Lagos is where, along with his wife Blessing, superintend a large congregation every Sunday and regularly organise different types of programmes during the week. Like most of their Pentecostal colleagues, Pastors Joseph and Blessing are very flashy dressers. In church circles today in Lagos, Blessing is rated very highly. They are believed to have investments in lucrative sectors.
Apostle Wole Oladiyun is of Living Spring Apostolic Ministry located in the Omole, Ojodu-Berger area of Lagos. The church started 16 years ago and has grown phenomenally. In 2012, Oladiyun commissioned a general hospital he said cost N500 million to complete. Every Wednesday morning, when the church holds its mid-week programme, there is always traffic gridlock, caused by members who park on the roadside.
Dr. Olukoya heads the Mountain of Fire and Miracles ministry. The church began in a rented hall on Old Yaba road, Ebute-Meta, Lagos, in the early 1990s, but has grown big with branches across Nigeria and abroad. It is worth billions of naira in assets. Its style of preaching hinges on fiery prayers of death against perceived enemies. Unlike many rich pastors, he has remained unassuming and has not been linked with the acquisition of luxury items. The church owns a tertiary institution, the Mountain Top University, and a football club, MFM FC, which its Chairman, Godwin Enakhena, a sports journalist, has always explained was established to provide worthwhile engagements for youths with football talents.
Prophet Isa El-Buba, founder and President of Evangelical Bible Outreach Ministry International (EBOMI), located in Jos, Plateau State, is a motivational preacher, commanding an ever growing congregation at a massive 11-storey Prayer Temple said to be worth billions of naira, and has some of Jos’ wealthiest and most prominent politicians as worshippers. The former Governor of Plateau State, Jonah Jang, is a senior pastor of EBOMI.
With a collection of personalities working with him, the Borno State-born Prophet El-Buba from a Muslim family is believed to be the most prominent man of God in Jos.
Bishop Jonas Katung, is founder of Maranatha Covenant Ministries International, located along Miango Junction-Low Cost Road. He is a popular preacher around much of Northern Nigeria, with overseas evangelical destinations, described his lifestyle as “Christ-like” in humility. The bishop said evangelism in Jos should not be assessed by the same standards as southern parts of the country where there is wealth to fund a lifestyle of luxury for pastors, insisting that Jos, where missionaries settled early is a place for winning souls. He said as a certified mechanical engineer, he has a licensed company from where he is making a living, having decided not to go on salary from evangelism.
Apostle Chinyere Chibuzor is the General Overseer of Omega Power Ministry, located at Ngbudu-Aluu in Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State. Personalities such as Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike and business mogul, Ifeanyi Uba, have visited the church.
A prominent super-rich Nigerian businessman, in a testimony, said the pastor’s prayer healed him of a life threatening heart disease and he later donated N120 million to the church.
Apostle Chibuzor is believed to own a fleet of exotic cars. He runs a televangelism programme drawing thousands of followers and recently moved into a multi-million naira home located at the highbrow GRA part of Port Harcourt. He drives himself, but moves with a team of mobile policemen. He is also a philanthropist and his church runs a free school where indigent students are offered scholarships from nursery to secondary levels.
Apostle Chibuzor is said to be super-rich but believes that church money belongs to its members. He recently launched an attack on some pastors he accused of using church money to better the lots of their families while their members are living in abject poverty.
Brother Joshua Iginla, Senior Pastor of Champions Royal Assembly in Kubwa, Abuja, continues to be a media darling. The soft-spoken clergyman is not new to Abuja residents, and is well-known across the country. The lifestyle of the Ekiti State-born but Jos-raised pastor shows humility, contrasting with expensive gifts he doles out – sometimes to Nollywood stars – including exotic cars he donated in 2016. He denounced the title of Pastor or Prophet, preferring to be called a Brother.
Brother Iginla’s wealth comes from his chain of businesses including authorship of over 50 books and investment in automobiles. In 2016, he gave out 32 luxury cars and millions of naira. His church, an 80,000 capacity multimillion naira project which he said he started with about N250, 000 has construction work ongoing at the building called City of Wonders. “The church is unarguably one of Nigeria’s fastest growing. Always filled and attended by a mix of the low, high and mighty, is perhaps Abuja’s most talked about religious centre,” a post on his ministry’s Facebook page read.
Daily Trust made several attempts to speak with members of some of the churches but most of them declined, citing reverence they have for the pastors. However, those who spoke on condition of anonymity differed on the lifestyles of their church leaders.
According to a respondent who simply identified himself as Mathew, he is unconcerned about whether or not his pastor lives a lavish life because his offerings and tithes were borne out of his genuine intention to give. “I think I am giving my offering for God. I don’t care how it is spent or who it is spent on. Again don’t forget that some of these pastors toiled hard to establish these churches. From humble beginnings, they have worked tirelessly to build the churches and so on. I think we should be careful what we say so that we don’t incur the wrath of God.”
Another anonymous respondent said, “I think pastors have a responsibility to change the perception that people have about churches being business ventures. Once people have inculcated that view, it is quite difficult to do any serious evangelism upon which church is set aside. They preach prosperity rather than salvation.”
Meanwhile, a Lagos-based lawyer and human rights activist, Mr. Ebun Adegboruwa, has reiterated the need for church proprietors and leaders to live a life of moderation, which he described as a balance between opulence and poverty.
Adegboruwa, who is also a pastor, said it is important to emphasise that the desire of every Christian must be to live Christ-like. “We know that Christ represents modesty. He lived a life that was not ostentatious and as pastors, we are expected to live lives that would not constitute distractions to the congregation. I think pastors should live modestly, especially when they bear in mind that a larger percentage of their members are poor,” he said.
Adegboruwa said it is not to mean that pastors should live in wretchedness, but they should avoid flamboyance. “I suggest financial accountability. I suggest transparency in the running of churches.”