Nigerian businesses and hoteliers are bemoaning the reduction in tourist visitors to the country after the collapse of a guesthouse belonging to The Synagogue, Church Of All Nations (SCOAN) in September 2014.
According to reports in Nigeria’s This Day and New Telegraph newspapers, more than two million pilgrims annually visit T.B. Joshua’s church in Lagos, significantly contributing to Nigeria’s economy.
However, foreign pilgrims to Nigeria have drastically reduced following the tragic incident that befell the church and T.B. Joshua’s subsequent disappearance from church services for almost one year.
“Look I doubt whether there is any individual alive in Nigeria, indeed Africa that can attract people to a particular country as Prophet TB Joshua does,” said Chief Jerry Omorodion, a hotelier in the local vicinity of the church.
According to Omorodion, the livelihoods of many people had been affected by the troubles faced by the church, noting that majority of businesses in the local area ‘depended’ on religious tourism for their welfare.
“Tell me, in the whole of Africa, which other single destination is capable of attracting such large and diverse number of tourists from all over the world like The Synagogue, Church of All Nations? Nigeria should be proud of this and it should not be destroyed,” he angrily stated, describing T.B. Joshua as “the biggest tourist attraction” Nigeria has ever had.
He opined that the Nigerian government should find a means of coming to an affable settlement in the protracted court case with the church in the wake of the incident.
Several years ago, figures released by Nigeria’s immigration service indicated that six out of every ten visitors to Nigeria are bound for The SCOAN.
When a building tragically collapsed in the premises of the church in September 2014, 115 people, mostly South African lost their lives.
The Lagos State government said the collapse was caused by structural defects while The SCOAN maintained the building was sabotaged.
After a lengthy absence, T.B. Joshua returned to services at The SCOAN in January 2016, much to the delight of his teeming followers.
Ihechukwu Njoku is a freelance Nigerian journalist