The church and bad governance in Nigeria

Posted by John Okiyi Kalu | 8 years ago | 2,826 times




The picture here is that of Modern Ceramics (MOCERAM) Industry Umuahia established in the 60s by Dr M I Okpara. In the 80s I visited the factory on excursion as a small boy. It was unbelievable. Very beautiful environment with lovely ceramic products of all types: cups, plates, vases, tiles, sanitary wares, bricks, ceramic blocks etc. I also saw many workers (over 300) earning honest living and looking very proud and happy.

I don't know the inside story of why Modern Ceramic Industry shut down in 1996 but I can imagine it has something to do with high operating costs and inability to compete with dumped foreign alternatives. Epileptic power supply and the high cost of alternative power must have affected the company's bottom line alongside vandalization of the equipment of the factory by agents of past military regimes. (A reliable elder told me it was part of the plot to destroy Ndigbo economically, and it also affected other Eastern Development Company owned industries like Nigercem and Presidential Hotel Enugu). 

In 2003 Abia State government led by Orji Uzor Kalu sold MOCERAM to UCL Resources and Investments Ltd (UCL) and the plant was renamed UCL-Modern Ceramics Industries Limited (UCL-MOCERAM). The backstory is that UCL resources is an investment vehicle belonging to a church. Even the MD of the new UCL-MOCEREM is a clergyman. The chairman, clergyman.

Simply put, a church bought the factory and promised to resuscitate it. After years of inability to invest what they promised in their bid document the church went back to the government in 2008/2009 and requested for help. They told the government they have found a technical partner from Italy who will help them resuscitate the factory.

To support their resuscitation plan that included a re-packaging of the industry for re-commissioning on January 30, 2009, under a ceremony to be performed by Goodluck Jonathan the state government provided a 1000 (33/415) KVA electric transformer and N2b. 

I don't know if the N2b was a loan or a dash. But I know that the money and transformer are inside voicemail as the factory is still as dead as dodo. Nobody has the courage to ask the church "how market" even though the state government own 5% of the shares of UCL-MOCERAM with the church owning 80% through UCL and another 15% reserved for undisclosed investors.

I was tempted to ask why the church left its primary business of tending to spiritual needs of our people to venture into manufacturing. But my thoughts immediately veered off to the massive contributions of the church in education and healthcare in the past. 

Yet I find this incursion still worrisome, especially given that the church owners have failed woefully in resuscitating the factory.

It is my view that the church should immediately return that industry to the government and return whatever funds given to them to resuscitate it. Otherwise they are contributing to bad governance and the unemployment/crime situation in Abia. In fact the church can also be accused of being involved in ripping off Abians.

That brings me to the phenomenon of handing over schools to churches while government continues to pay teachers salaries. What exactly is going on? How can we say the schools have been handed over whereas the government is still paying teachers? 

Who is collecting school fees and other payments made by school children in the schools taken over by the churches? 

If the church is interested in taking back their schools I see no reason for Government to pay salaries of the teachers and even provide anything in schools belonging to private institutions like churches.

To worsen the situation, I have observed that the new owners of the returned schools are actively selling school lands to prospectors. That is in addition to money they are collecting under sundry titles from students and their parents.

Mpu na aru emela baptism n'ulo uka.

Such things should not continue. Either the government own the schools and fund all aspects of running the schools or the church take back their schools and run independent of government. For strategic intervention purposes, Government can build its own schools and run. Churches that cannot run their own schools can hand them back to government or community unions.

If you remove church owned schools teachers wage bill from the state's salary wage bill we will possibly reduce the state's wage bill by more than 30%. I personally thought that was why the schools were returned in the first place. 

Of course I know that it will take a lot of political courage to stand up to the church. Those who tried it before woke up in the morning and heard their names as title of Sunday and week day sermons at the pulpit. Non survived the onslaught of the pastors with millions of loyal church goers.

As a Christian myself and also a common man, I will therefore prefer to appeal to the church to do the right thing. Return government properties to them if you cannot manage them efficiently and profitably to the glory of God and happiness of the flock. It is unbecoming for the church to turn itself to the enemy of common folks that they still collect tithes and offerings from every Sunday. That is tyrannical and unacceptable to non politicians like me.

Even if it was possible in the past to blackmail corrupt or desperate politicians to yield to the demands of the church for political reasons, things are now so tough that the church need to reconsider. Do not make yourselves part of our society's problem.  You are supposed to be our last hope.

A church without conscience cannot be the church of Jesus Christ because the first church was a gathering of the poor, helpless and needy who came to find physical and spiritual help.

Happy Sunday to the church of Jesus Christ in Nigeria. Remember to leave Facebook and go to church today.

JOK

 



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