Not written by me.
Some stakeholders in the tourism sector yesterday advised the Federal and Lagos State Governments to dissuade Pastor Temitope Joshua ( popularly known as TB Joshua), founder of The Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) from relocating to Israel.
The stakeholders insist Nigeria would lose billions in local and foreign currencies, if Joshua relocates the headquarters of his church to Israel with members of his family.
Recall that the SCOAN founder was in the news recently when he said that he was planning to relocate to Israel from Ikotun, a suburb of Lagos in Nigeria.
Joshua reportedly held meetings with the mayors of Jerusalem, Tiberia and the Jordan Valley.
He was quoted as saying that he was offered different facilities very close to the biblical site of the Sea of Galilee where he could organise meetings for international pilgrims.
Some heads of government from African countries had also visited SCOAN to seek spiritual restorations and advice from Pastor Joshua.
Mr. Ime Udo, General Secretary, Nigerian Association of Tour Operators (NATOP) said our country would lose billions of naira from religious tourism revenue if SCOAN actualised its planned relocation to Israel.
Udo said Joshua’s planned action would lead to a reduction in the human traffic of local and foreign religious tourists that normally patronise SCOAN.
Her words: “Religious obligations have become a fashionable trend all over the world as a means of expressing beliefs and faith in the ability of God to protect and guide mankind.
“Religious practices under the auspices of Christianity, Islam and traditional practices have in no small way contributed to the development of tourism in the world.
“Christian pilgrimages to Israel have formed an economic platform for the empowerment of the localities and contributed to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country.
“Also, Saudi Arabia has been benefitting immensely economically from many Islamic faithful who converge there twice annually on holy pilgrimage.
“With these scenarios and many others around the world, it has become valid that religious tourism has become a source of economic revival to a country and its people,” she said.
According to her, thousands of foreign religious tourists visit SCOAN monthly to worship and for other spiritual healings.
She said that these tourists would fly into Nigeria; lodge in hotels, board commercial vehicles, patronise eateries and visit other tourists’ sites around the locality.
These had been translating into huge revenue for the Nigeria economy.
“The local community; hotel operators, food vendors and others around SCOAN must have benefitted from tourists.
“SCOAN has, no doubt, contributed immensely to the tourism profile of Nigeria with several heads of government from various African countries that had visited there to seek spiritual restoration and advice from Pastor TB Joshua,” she said.
Udo advised the Federal and Lagos State Governments to encourage SCOAN to remain in Nigeria as part ways to develop our tourism sector.
A hotel operator, Mrs. Anthonia Chuks said that if the rumour that Joshua was relocating to Israel eventually turned to reality, the hospitality business in that area and the state would suffer and fold up.
“Ninety–five percent of guests that lodge in hotels in the community are international and local visitors outside Lagos and they are SCOAN members.
“We have over 130 rooms that are always fully booked every weekend.
“We usually enjoy huge patronage from Fridays to Sundays weekly; and they are mostly SCOAN members from far and near” she said.
Solomon Oyelade, a car-hire operator, said that since the rumour of the planned relocation of the church to Israel, the patronage of cabs had reduced drastically.
Oyelade said that in the past, he used to go to the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja, Lagos seven times in a day to transport international passengers down to SCOAN.
“But, since the incident of collapsed building in the church premises years back, the patronage of foreigners had reduced.
“With this present rumour of relocation, we hardly carry passengers from Airport two times a day. The patronage has reduced beyond expectations,” he said.