The Chief Missioner of Ansar-ud-Deen Nigeria, Sheikh Abdur-Rahman Ahmad has faulted the Federal Government over its suspension of the controversial Financial Reporting Code which regulates tenure of religious bodies’ leadership and their finances, saying there was nothing wrong or awkward with the code contrary to arguments by some prominent Nigerians.
Sheik Ahmad who is pushing for the reinstatement of the code is contending that any church that runs schools and other business aside preaching the gospel must pay tax.
According to him, the focus of the church should be salvation of souls and not business venture.
Ahmad was apparently reacting to the on-going debate over the law by the Financial Regulation Council of Nigeria, where religious bodies’ heads were given tenure of leadership and control of finances.
Speaking with Punch, the Muslim cleric believed that some pastors had turned churches to business ventures, thus making them super rich.
He said, “It is common knowledge that some of these churches are super-rich with their total worth running into billions of naira, even billions of dollars.
“Some of them also have businesses. If they are involved in businesses, running universities and expensive secondary schools among other business ventures, then it is only fair for them to be taxed as other Nigerians are taxed.
“Religion should not be a shield and nobody should hide under the cover of religion to evade tax. Also, it is said that every Sunday there are a number of bullion vans that go to certain churches to take up offerings (money contributed by congregants) and that’s a lot of money.
“It is not a bad idea at all that the government should look into this money. It is charity; even funds of charities should be scrutinised.
“It should be seen that people are giving freely because they are cheerful givers and the question is: is the money used for the purpose it is meant for? I don’t think that should create any problem for either the mosque or the church. It is about transparency.
“It is about accountability. It is about responsibility. The only area that may appear contentious (in the FRC codes) is when government wants to directly regulate the administration of religions; that will be contentious.”