16th October, 2012
By Isaac Asabor
It is not an exaggeration to say that corruption has remained the major problem that is literally holding Nigeria by the jugular. Corruption assumed a menacing dimension that the federal government had to establish two financial crime fighting agencies, Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission, ICPC and The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC. However, since both agencies came into existence, the EFCC has remained the most popular and the most vibrant. Not only has it remained the most popular and vibrant, it has equally remained the most dreaded. Corruption is the most conspicuous encumbrance that has hampered the progress of our country. The deprivation corruption has put many Nigerians was encapsulated in the editorial of P.M.NEWS of Thursday, 13 September, 2012. In one of the paragraphs of the editorial titled “Weak EFCC And Endemic Corruption”, the pace setting and enviable evening newspaper wrote: “Corruption is a cancer threatening the progress, unity and prosperity of Nigeria. When public funds are looted and sent to foreign countries or private bank accounts, schools are not built, roads are not constructed, hospitals are left to rot, the entire infrastructure is neglected and the majority of Nigerians are forced to live in squalor and hopelessness. Corruption is the reason few Nigerians live in abundance while the majority of the people in our country are denied the basic things of life such as potable water, balanced diet, sound education and proper health care.”
There is no better way of painting the picture of the deplorable state of deprivation and squalor which Nigerians are facing as a result of corruption than it was done in this editorial under reference. The editorial is what any writer with a good sense of judgement would call a piece of realism. The editorial said it the way it is.
Corruption, no doubt, is the bane of a great percentage of the Nigerian population. Corruption has permeated every facet of the society given the fact that it is already holding sway in our churches. In fact it is the biggest and most lucrative industry now in our country.
In the opening sentence of the above quoted editorial, corruption was referred to as a cancer. It says “Corruption is a cancer threatening the progress, unity and prosperity of Nigeria.” As rightly said, like a cancer, the issue of corruption has assumed an ecumenical dimension as documents used in facilitating tithe payments to churches are now marked as exhibits in well constituted courts of law.
Recently, the media was abuzz with the news that an ex-banker paid N35 million as tithe to St. Monica Catholic Church, Ibusa, Delta state and another N10 million to St. Augustine Catholic Church totalling N45 million. It was reported that EFCC accused the ex-banker, Mr. Francis Atuche, a former managing director of Bank PHB of using depositors’ fund to pay the tithes. As if the allegations were not weighty and incriminating enough, e-mail print outs used as an order to release the two separate tithes were tendered before the Court by the lead prosecution counsel, Kemi Pinheiro.
No doubt, the news of the tithe payments has since then sent tongues wagging particularly on the collective integrity of those in Christendom. Some overzealous “born-again” Christians would want to justify the tithe payments by quoting the scripture in Malachi 3 verse 10 that the payment of tithe is commanded by God. Regrettably, they may not realize that in chapter 1 verse 8 of the same Malachi it is written that God abhors sacrifices that have blemishes. In this scripture, God asks: “When you bring blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you bring sacrificed crippled or diseased animals, is that not wrong?” A similar scripture in Leviticus chapter 22 verse 22 also says “Do not offer to the LORD the blind, the injured or the maimed, or anything with warts or festering or running sores. Do not place any of these on the altar as an offering made to the LORD by fire.” If I may ask, can a tithe that is shrouded in controversy and alleged to be depositors’ fund be said to be spotless and acceptable by God given the truth, life and spirit that are inherent in the foregoing scriptures? In my view, some of our pastors are not convincing Nigerians and the world at large that they are truly followers of Christ. Galatians chapter 2 verse 14 says “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile, and not like a Jew, how is it then that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?” Contextually, it would say “You are a Christian, yet you live like a sinner, and not like a Christian, how is it then that you want sinners to become followers of Jesus Christ?”
Apart from tithes which are undeniably meant for God, many men of God are wont to receive handouts from some money-bags of questionable integrity. Pastors should be industrious enough like the biblical Paul. In the book of 1st Thessalonians chapter 2 verse 9, God commands men of God through apostle Paul not to be lazy and be a burden to others. Hear him: “Surely you remember, brothers, our toil and hardship, we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you.” In obedience to this scripture, pastors who are solely depending on the fruits of their ministry, and making others to be bearing their burdens should desist from that and be creative enough to earn incomes that are not enmeshed in the labyrinths of controversies.
However, considering the unprecedented controversies that have come to be associated with the Christendom, financial crime fighters have been pushed to a tight corner as they may be compelled to be carrying out financial crime related investigations in churches, and in some cases inviting some highly revered men of God to their offices for questioning or fact-findings. In my view, that would tantamount to sheer mockery of what Christianity espouses.
When any overzealous Christian and fundamentalist of “born-againism” is confronted with some of these views he would flare up, speak in tongues and fall to the ground in fits of spiritual anger instead of defending some of these views in seriatim and with scriptural evidences.
Most of us who are Christians should be realistic with the image problem that is facing the Christendom and men of God. In fact, if we do not eschew our unbridled quest for money and material things it may become worse. In fact, seeing some Christians from afar would make one erroneously begin to see them as angels of God as their steps, speeches, gesticulations and every bit of their movements are sanctimoniously demonstrated but having a close interaction with them often reveal otherwise.
However, the essence of this write-up is to admonish fellow Christians not to allow their corrupt tendencies put financial crime fighters in a ‘tithe’ corner. It would be unimaginable seeing crime fighters beaming their searchlights and spreading their dragnets in churches as a result of questionable tithes paid to churches. Many Christians would not be able to accept the shame that may trail the investigations and prosecution of their highly revered spiritual fathers over stolen money paid as tithe, offerings or sowing of seeds. On the other hand, most financial crime fighters may not be comfortable when they are asked to arrest or investigate any man of God over blemished tithe. This is the reason why I coined the title of this piece “Crime Fighters In A Tithe Corner. Most crime fighters, particularly the Christians among them, may no doubt be in a tight corner as it would be a duty that would be difficult to carry out. An African proverb says “Whoever makes himself a sheep will be eaten by wolves.” Therefore, our pastors should as much as possible desist from carrying out their spiritual activities in non scriptural manner as that would make people begin to see them as fishers of money instead of fishers of men. Finally, our elders say “If an old woman has no strength to run during a stampede, she should avoid being in the midst of tumultuous crowd.” Our pastors should please help our financial crime fighters by following Christ’s example in order not to drag security agents into a ‘tithe’ corner. Paul in the book of 1st Corinthians chapter 11 verse 1 says “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.
•Asabor wrote from Lagos. E-mail: [email protected]