RELIGION AND GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT: THE FINANCIAL REPORTING COUNCIL OF NIGERIA MISSTEP AND FEDERAL OVERREACTING
ll over the world and since the beginning of human government, there have been relationship between state and church, sometimes it is interwoven, in the era of the Catholic Church and the Barbarians that came after the fall of Rome or England who decided to have a state religion after parting ways with the Catholic.
Religion has an important role in the life of any society, America recognized this fact, when her founding fathers decided to have a government where the role and function of the State and Church is separated, yet the values and principles of religions are espoused in the value of the society. So, while there is NO state and church correlation, the principles and values of the Bible were taught as curriculums in schools and legislators had Bible study and services in government buildings.
Nigeria is a secular state (thankfully so), where there is no state religion, but the values of religion is needed to have a good functioning society. Nigerians also happen to be very religious, and based on our historical background or formation, our view of religion is much more complex and possess more problem for the system of governance that we borrow from western countries, either parliamentary of federalism.
When America was getting ready to vote for John F Kennedy, the first practicing Roman Catholic to run for the American Presidency, he had to give a special speech, that assured the people that he honors the Pope from a spiritual standpoint, but the Pope (as authority of the church) would have no influence on his policies as President of the United States. In Nigeria, this is not so – the current Vice-President of Nigeria would find it hard to disagree with the head of his church and perhaps the President would have a problem not honoring the grand mufti or imam of the country, this has a lot to do with our cultural norms. Except the President is an atheist who could careless about religion – unfortunately such a person would not come close to power in Nigeria for now.
Advanced societies all have laws that govern religious institutions, such laws have benefitted me and it has not benefitted me personally, I’ve had problem speaking in England (the issue was finally cleared this week – Jan. 17) although I do visit for family events, based on a law of the land. In America, I spend at least $750-$1000 in accounting fees to make sure that my non-profit organization’s document is current with the IRS – I have had to answer questions on an annual basis from the IRS, the last time they owed me money.
It will be an understatement to say that Church or Religion as institutions are corrupt, if anything a lot or most are very corrupt, but as a society our fear of the “Man of God” and his “anointing” scare us away from doing anything. Many years ago, I was told a first-hand story of Police IGP Balogun (now late) who hired, Imams, Pastors, Babalawos, etc. to intercede to god on his behalf so he won’t lose his job. Our Animistic background, scare the hell out of us to question spiritual authority, especially those we consider to have “anointing”.
I believe there should be a government agency like in all western countries to monitor that activities of religious institutions, from financials to maintaining political stability (the law that got me stopped from preaching in England was written to stop Jihadi preachers) or save innocent people from the clutch of a cultic leader – every nation has done that, however, what every nation has NOT done, is interfere with the “spiritual” or “Divine” authority of the Church – that in my opinion is DUMB and STUPID.
Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria, an agency under the ministry of Trade, should have oversight based on laws written by the legislative branch and executed by the executive branch, to curb excesses of religious institutions and to protect citizens. I also believe religious institutions should have representative who will lobby for them in the various legislative houses across the land, on what laws would be good and beneficial and what laws would be an over-reach. I sit on the board of one of such lobby organization in America.
Unfortunately, based on what happened in RCCG this past week due to an ill-conceived law, the baby is being thrown out with the birth water, due to “fear of the unknown or of Man of God” and the people are feeling all animals are not equal, so laws don’t apply equally – this unfortunately has taken away from the fact that the agency, although needed, but its laws must be well thought out in cooperation with religious councils and people who desire a good name for the body of Christ.
I believe while the Federal Government should constitute the FRC board, its Chair (not members) must be confirmed by the Senate. I believe when any law is being considered by this agency – it must be debated publicly before signature of the President – this way there are check and balances. I believe the law that caused this brouhaha is DUMB and STUPID (nowhere in the world I know in our generation – have laws that govern longevity of the spiritual leader), however, people of good conscience must sit down and write laws that makes the body accountable while protecting the people (who follow emotionally, not in spirit – which is majority). My opinion.
William Femi Awodele is the Executive Director of Christian Couples Fellowship International, Inc. and a Vice-Chair of Embrace the Heartland in Prayer (http://www.prayheartland.com)