• Saturday, July 13, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

Churches hit by cash scarcity

Election spend to drop as cash in circulation shrinks

Since December 2022, Nigerians have been grappling with the challenges of Naira scarcity and its direct impact on the economy.

Church activities and various sectors of the economy have been significantly disrupted by the scarcity with no hope in sight, even after the Supreme Court’s intervention on the matter.

The withdrawal of the old banknotes in January triggered a cash shortage in the economy, causing long queues in banks and automated teller machine (ATM) points as the new notes in circulation were inadequate following the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) plan to reduce money in circulation.

The Naira crunch has further impacted living standards and increased poverty levels resulting from a reduced purchasing power of the people amid surging inflation.

“There was a huge drop in offerings. Because, some who live beyond walking distance to the church couldn’t come, because no cash to pay transport fare to their parishes,” Tope Ilesanmi, Senior Pastor, Revival Summit Ministries and Chairman, Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), Ikeja Province, said.

According to him, the Naira scarcity opens a vista of opportunity to see into the heart of their followers as many who come to church now do not have enough cash to dispense off like before.

“Some committed ones even had to do transfer. But persistent network failure has also posed enormous challenge. I don’t care to say that the network was manipulated for reasons best known to the operators,” he said.

Chidi Anthony, the General Overseer of Kings in Christ Power Ministries International and President, Pentecostal Ministers Forum (PMF), said about 70 percent of Church attendance has been depleted because most worshipers who are willing to come to church do not have money to attend Church services.

“These days, it is not that the thing affected only the tithes and offerings of the church, it also affected the attendance of church members,” he said.

According to Anthony, the current cash crunch has seriously affected the church because many of the members needed money to carry out the weekly activities of the church.

“The Bible says money is a defense, and money answereth all things,” he said.
Speaking further on the impact of the Naira scarcity on Church activities, Anthony said that the worst thing that can happen to any individual is to know that he/she has money but cannot have access to that money.

“Is it not when you are okay that you will come to church and give something to God? If you don’t have, you don’t have. Because of this a lot of them are in anger, living a frustrated life. So, it affected everything generally, it affected the church over 80 percent,” Anthony disclosed.

Collaborating Anthony’s position, another clergyman disclosed that the Naira scarcity has affected more than tithes and offerings. According to him, the scarcity has affected the living standard of every Nigerian.

“It has not only affected the Church per say, but the people make the Church. Some of them don’t even have transport to come to church not to talk of giving offering,” Joseph Ojo, the presiding Archbishop of Calvary Kingdom Church (CKC) International, said.
According to Ojo, while it is true that some Nigerians do not feel the heat of the current cash crunch, it will be immoral for the Church to talk about people giving tithes and offerings when they are struggling to eat.

“It has affected virtually all the economic life of the less-privileged mostly,” he said.
He further said that the Church is hoping that since the governorship and House of Assembly elections are over, maybe things will gradually return to normal; if not, I don’t know what to say.

“Some programmes that are not supposed to cost money to organise are now demanding money because of the times. Again, because of the no liquid cash available, some programmes are being rescheduled and others that cannot be rescheduled are low keyed; that is the situation we have found ourselves,” Ojo said.

However, there is a thin ray of hope with the Naira scarcity and the Church, as it has also forced some churches and their members to embrace financial inclusion.

This is so because members who would have loved to paid offerings through transfer may not be comfortable to send it into private accounts.

“It will amaze you that some churches hitherto had no bank account. This also affected the income of so many churches especially those in the remote areas,” said Ilesanmi.

However, in response to being asked if there is a positive side to the Naira scarcity, he said “Yes! We were able to know the degree of some members’ commitment to God in adversity.”

However, in reacting to the post-election atmosphere and realities in the country, the clergymen said that Nigerians must give peace a chance and must not take the laws into their hands.

“Like I said the other day, if we have seven people for example; maybe those seven people will be having five or four minds. Two may say this is the person; so everything is like that. What I plead for is for people to give God and peace a chance.

“If I say give peace a chance, I am actually saying give God a chance because Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace: everything will gradually settle down. God told Israel, ‘hold your peace, God shall fight for you.’ We shouldn’t be taking arms and unnecessary struggles; I believe things will settle down.

If you expected A to win and A didn’t win, it shouldn’t make you to go and pull the pillars of the house and then be destroying things. Let’s allow peace to reign,” Ojo said.

But on his part, Anthony condemned the election in its entirety, saying that it will past as one of the most poorly conducted elections in Nigeria’s recent history.

According to him, Nigerians had their hopes of a better country dashed by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

“The last election affected a lot of people – it is not an election; it’s a selection, because election is where the mind of people prevail, and this is the first time in the history of Nigeria that the youth, everybody came out to vote.

For a very long time, I don’t vote but because I began to imagine a new Nigeria if Obi eventually becomes the president of this country.

So, I have to go queue on line, get my own PVC and on that day I went to vote and still try to protect my vote; but after all said and done, what happened? The wish of the people did not prevail; it was only those cabal that enforced their choice on us,” Anthony said.

According to the clergyman, the atmosphere across the country when Bola Tinubu was declared president-elect speaks to the general feelings about the election across the country.

Read also: Banks to open Saturday, Sunday as CBN confirms cash disbursement

“If you watch very well, even the day he was announced the president-elect; there is supposed to be jubilation across Nigeria, but you find out that that day looks like a day of mourning. People’s heart couldn’t believe that day; so everywhere was as cold as mortuary – that’s to show you that it’s not the wish of the people that INEC gave to us,” Anthony said.

Speaking to the outcome of the presidential election and how it may have affected the faith of some Nigerians. Anthony said that all hopes are not lost and called for prayers.

“There is nothing anybody can do about the outcome – it’s only to go to prayers. Even as I am talking to you, the judiciary has also failed the entire nation. The Bible says the heart of the king is in God’s hand. God knows them very well, and God can use anybody and anything can happen anytime. They have gone to court and we are still praying; let the will of God be done. If eventually at the end Tinubu is the one having the office – I know it is the will of God.

“There is nothing that can happen under this planet without the consent of God, and nobody seated there unless by God. So, whether the person comes through crooked or no crooked means, it’s because God want it to happen. We have seen people win election but they could not sit on it. Abiola won an election, but was only declared president after he had passed away after so many years,” Anthony said.

A cleric who spoke on condition of anonymity said that the cash crunch and its impact on the church has been telling. According to him, it has affected both the poor and the rich.

“You would think that it is only the poor that would be crying or absent themselves from church activities on account of the cash crunch, but from our experience in my own assembly, the level of absenteeism among the wealthy members has been much. The reason is simple, the rich members feel embarrassed when offering bags or boxes are passed to their seats and they have no cash to drop in there. Although they have far bank accounts but they have nothing to drop inside the bags or boxes. Some of them have devised a means of going around it by writing some amount in a paper which they drop inside the offering bags when they are being passed around. A good number of members are no longer coming to church,” the cleric said.

On the lesson learnt from the current situation, he said: “Some of us believe there will be rapture at a point after which the reign of an anti-Christ will begin. We read about what would be the condition of the world at that time, when people would not be able to buy or sell without the mark of the anti-Christ. That being the case, what we are experiencing now is just a joke, yet many people are not keeping up with their faith. You can then imagine what would be the fate of those who would experience it at that time. It is going to be more than terrible I must tell you.”