#BounceExclusive: Moving Synagogue From Nigeria Will Be Disastrous, Ikotun Residents Cry
Bayo is an okada rider in the Ikotun-Egbe area of Lagos.
Every day, he earns between 2,500 and 3,000 Naira.
But on Sundays, he abandons his okada business and helps people coming for Church service at Prophet T.B Joshua’s Synagogue Church of All Nations park their cars.
On this one day, Bayo makes between 15,000 and 20,000 Naira. This is more than the total amount he earns riding okada from Monday to Saturday.
But this more lucrative source of revenue is being threatened because of Prophet T.B Joshua’s announcement on Sunday that he plans to relocate his church to the Nation of Israel.
Like Bayo’s car parking business, many other small and medium enterprises, SMEs in the area face a similar threat should Joshua eventually take his church to Israel.
When Bounce News visited the area on Wednesday, business activities around the church were still going on normally, perhaps oblivious of the impending threat.
Some of the people spoken to hadn’t even heard the news. They expressed shock and fear for their livelihood upon hearing it.
“Imagine what we make from parking cars here every Sunday. The whole business around here thrives because of this church. On Sundays alone, we make as much as 15 to 20,000 Naira parking cars.
"Why would he move away to Israel?” said Bayo who was waiting for a passenger on top of his motorbike when we approached him.
“This man is the one giving us food. Some people abandon their day jobs to come and help people park cars and at the end of the day, they make up to 20,000 Naira in just one day, just like that.
"We are praying for him. We all love him. We are not complaining about him or his church, why does he want to leave?” Bayo added, looking troubled by the news.
Justin is also resident in Ikotun. He has no other job except helping people find their way when visiting the church. He was dismayed when we informed him of the development.
He told Bounce News: “I make money here as a guide. So many people come here and need guide.
“Many people come from far away, they don’t even know anyone here or where to stay. So, we help them get accommodation, food and buy things they need and at the end of the day, we make a lot of money.
"This is where we earn our daily bread. It is unfair for him to just leave.”
“His relocation will have a serious impact on the investments people have made here. Do you know why many people are building hotels around here? It is because of the people coming to this church.
"I can personally confirm to you that many landlords have converted their apartment houses to lodges just because of people coming to the church,” another resident, Segun told Bounce.
Segun's claim is not unfounded. Less than 20 metres from the Synagogue church building, a new hotel is springing up, finishing work is ongoing.
The would-be manager of the hotel wouldn't speak to me, obviously still too shocked to analyse the impact of T.B Joshua's move on the investment.
But not everyone is against the move. A food vendor, who didn’t want to be named, said although it was regrettable that the prophet was leaving, she is in support because the Nigerian people did not value him.
“What will he do with this land here?” she started.
“Maybe it is a branch pastor that will now be here. I know the people of Israel have captured him. I don’t blame him. We did not value him here.
“Just like Jesus Christ, that the people of his time did not value. That is what happened to the man of God. It is only the white men that value him.
“Now he wants to move. I don’t blame him. But he is the one that makes business to move in this place. All the hotels and other businesses springing up here is because of him.
“Everybody will become hungry if he leaves. Who knew this Ikotun before? It was T.B Joshua that made Ikotun to become popular.
“I wish him well wherever he goes but we are going to start facing serious hunger if he leaves,” she said.
Joshua had announced his relocation plans on Sunday, 30th April in his church.
He told the congregation how he had just returned from the ‘Holy Land’ after holding meetings with three prominent Israeli mayors of Jerusalem, Tiberias and the Jordan Valley, and how they had offered him land and facilities in an area around the biblical site of the Sea of Galilee for him to organise meetings for international pilgrims.
“This is where my Father in Heaven came from – it’s non-negotiable,” Joshua had explained, adding that it was not a decision he took lightly.
Joshua is not all oblivious of the impact this decision will have on Nigeria’s economy.
While pointing out that his decision to leave was not connected to the “persecution” he had endured during his time in Nigeria, he did acknowledge that “the move will help people to “appreciate” what his ministry has been contributing to both the local economy and Nigeria’s international image.”
But many Nigerians have appealed to him to shelve the plan. Even the federal government joined the call for him to reconsider his relocation plans on Tuesday.
Minister of Information and Culture, Mr. Lai Mohammed while speaking with journalists during the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Nigerian Association of Tour Operators (NATOP) in Lagos, described Joshua’s decision as unfortunate.
He called for dialogue between the pastor and the authorities over whatever challenges he was facing.
According to him, “That will be very unfortunate in the sense that if he does move out, it will affect our tourism in Nigeria.
“Pastor Joshua is an important person, he must bear with us. This is his country; if he moves out and go to South Africa, for example, the revenue will go to South Africa.
“It is better that Pastor Joshua sits down with the relevant authorities and resolve whatever problem he has. If I have access to him, this is exactly what I am going to tell him.”
But will he change his mind? Only time will tell.