Church and The CAMA Controversy (2)
Charity Commission, the regulator of charities in England and Wales, in 2018, opened a statutory inquiry into the activities of Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministries International owned by Dr. Daniel Olukoya.
A post by the commission on its website www.gov.uk, partly read: “The Charity Commission, the independent regulator of charities in England and Wales, has opened a statutory inquiry into Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministries International 1100416. The inquiry was opened on 27 March 2018.
“The charity’s objects include propagating Christianity through various channels including seminars and conventions, counseling programmes for the distressed, bereaved and the vulnerable, education through bible studies, evangelical training and teaching, as well as the publication and distribution of educational print and media.
“The charity has repeatedly failed to submit returns and financial information to the Commission on time and its accounts for 2014 and 2015 were qualified by its auditors. The Commission has been in active engagement with the trustees of the charity since September 2017 having been made aware of potentially significant losses to the charity. The Commission is concerned about the apparent failures within the administration and management of the charity which have resulted in an environment in which such losses could occur, and continued to occur over a prolonged period.
“The charity operates through a network of approximately 40 separate branches, which are allowed a degree of autonomy from the main charity in respect of administration and financial matters. However, the Commission has identified concerns as to the adequacy of the trustees’ oversight and control over the individual branches. The Commission also has concerns about the trustees’ failure to promptly report serious incidents to the Commission and to the police.”
The commission eventually suspended the church’s Board of Trustees led by Dr. Daniel Olukoya and appointed Adam Stephens of Smith & Williamson as Interim Manager.
“Adam Stephens remains in post as Interim Manager of Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministries International where his duties include reviewing the charity’s financial and governance processes, inspecting a number of the charity’s branches and their handling of serious incidents.
The General Overseer of Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministries (MFM), Dr. Daniel Olukoya has denied any link to fraudulent activities allegedly involving the London branch of the church.
Olukoya, also, added that the seven allegations leveled against him and the MFM were without foundation, but intent to damage his reputation and destroy the global image of the church. He made these clarifications in a statement his media aide, Mr. Collins Edomaruse issued in response to the fraud allegations.
Olukoya said: “It has become pertinent for the purpose of clarity to respond to the false allegations being peddled against MFM and Olukoya in the social media particularly sponsored by SaharaReporters.”
He denied that he falsely “claimed residence of the US city of Maryland. Nothing can be further from the truth. Olukoya is a public figure nationally and internationally. His domicile is therefore a fact of public knowledge. The true position is that the pastor who wanted to register MFM in Maryland inserted Olukoya name without prior consultation with or knowledge of the G.O because he believed that Olukoya should be involved.
“But after he consulted a lawyer and received advice that a person’s name cannot be on the incorporation documents unless he is resident in Maryland, that registration was put in abeyance and allowed to lapse. The pastor is still alive and all the evidence is there for all to see at the Company Registry in Maryland,” the statement explained.
The UK Charity Commission also indicted the country’s branch of Christ Embassy and its board of trustees of alleged fraud following a five-year investigation into the church’s finances and administration.
The commission in a post on its website stated that inquiry concluded that there were serious misconduct and mismanagement in the church’s administration, inadequate recording of its decision-making processes and failure to comply with its grant-making policy.
The commission said it opened an inquiry into Christ Embassy to investigate issues ranging from transactions between the church and “partner organizations”, administration; governance and management of the charity; financial controls and management of the charity and if the trustees had complied with their responsibilities under the charity law.
The commission found out that the church, between 2009 and 2011, paid substantial grants to organizations classified as “partner organization”.
According to the report, the church’s account showed grants amounting to £1,281,666 were paid to Love World Television Ministry; £118,995 to Healing School, £186,616 to International School of Ministry, £10,000 to Christ Embassy Canada, £10,566 to Christ Embassy France, £37,216 to IPPC Conference and £77,266 to Rhapsody of Realities.
However, after examining the church’s records, the interim manager (IM) found no evidence of compliance with the church’s grant-making policy in the documents examined.
“Documents examined showed a lack of records and receipts to account for grants made and there appeared to be little consideration given to whether the receiving parties had expended grants appropriately and for intended purposes, as was required by the policy,” the report said.
The commission in its conclusion said: “In light of the findings and evidence of misconduct and/or mismanagement, the Inquiry exercised its legal powers under section 79(2) (a) of the Act to remove two of the trustees of the charity. However the trustees subject to regulatory action resigned prior to the Commission being able to complete the process. Section 79(5) and 82 of The Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Act 2016 has closed this loophole, thereby allowing the Commission to proceed to remove a charity trustee who has resigned following the Commission having given notice to the charity trustees of its intention to make a removal order. The law has since been amended so that resignations following the Commission issuing a notice of intention to remove a trustee would not prohibit the trustee’s removal and consequent disqualification from action as a trustee in the future.
Kingsway International Christian Centre (KICC) led by Pastor Matthew Ashimolowo, was caught in a similar web in 2009 when he filed company accounts, which revealed a £4.9 million profit over 18 months.
BBC News reports that, The Charity Commission launched its investigation in March 2002 after noticing an annual return stated £76,000 had been paid to trustees. It found that the board of trustees was comprised of Pastor Ashimolowo, his wife, two of his employees and two US-based trustees.
Most board meetings were attended by only the UK-based trustees, who, according to the report, “lacked independence from the senior pastor”. The report also found that hundreds of thousands of pounds had been transferred overseas, with little documentary evidence to explain how the money supported the charity’s objectives.
Responding to allegations of financial mismanagement, Pastor Ashimolowo said; “if you use £1.2 million to investigate a man and you couldn’t find fraud, then I’m proud to be black. I’m proud to be a Nigerian and I’m proud I’m blessed”.
He told the church that when the 30-month inquiry was rounded off in March, Charity Commission said they were satisfied that KICC had put in place a new structure, which would allow it to be run effectively.
Although Ashimolowo admitted that the church made a couple of mistakes in the way some transactions were conducted, he was quick to add that Charity Commission wrote an adverse report because, despite spending £1.2 million from KICC’s money, their inquiry did not achieve what might have been their original intention.
We understand the skepticism. Our experience with law and prosecution has been a mixed one. In more ways than one, we have seen rape of justice when government is a party. We have seen judges lower the standards to accommodate government excesses and we have seen government go against laid down process of obtaining justice.
But does religious freedom mean religious people get special rights? No. So what is behind the outrage? The church sees governmental assertions of authority through CAMA as unreasonable intrusions into the life of the church because it is a known fact that due process of law is a big problem in Nigeria.
Did government cross a line with CAMA? No. I believe the church needs the law. There’s need to ensure our churches have a structure. CAMA is not averse to the interest of the church, where there’s due process of law. CAMA will change the way churches operate if its implementation is not political. CAMA will improve transparency and accountability. CAMA will cause reorganization and revamp of church administration regarding income and expenditure, if pastors know there is a prying eye.
The legal thresholds required to lawfully undertake action against any church under CAMA is the reasonable ground to believe a misconduct or mismanagement has happened.
CAMA will inspire vigilance on the part of the church. More than ever, it is time for the church to do things decently and in order, as the Holy Scripture says. It seems odd that the church should be afraid of the government on this issue of CAMA.