Financial Reporting Council (FRC) of Nigeria has said that there is no going back on its enforcement of financial reporting standard rules on religious organisations in the country, especially those venturing into non-charity ventures.
The council saddled with monitoring and enforcement of such standards and corporate governance practices in both public and private sectors, said it has become more imperative for churches and mosques to comply for the sake of probity and public accountability on generated funds.
Executive Secretary/Chief Executive Officer of the FRC, Jim Obazee, at the weekend said that though only 89 out of the 23, 216 registered churches in the country have complied till date, the council would be unrelenting till the right thing is done.
By the FRC rules, public interest entities are mandated to file in financial report, as prepared by competent independent auditors.
Obazee, who spoke at a public lecture organised by the Chartered Institute of Personnel Management of Nigeria (CIPM), said: “In keeping other peoples’ money, you have to prepare account. That is why churches fought me so badly, took me to court as a person and then my office too. Mosques and orthodox churches freely complied, but those Pentecostal churches called me to ask questions. They said: ‘This church is church of God and we are accountable to God.’ And I told them: ‘Very good, so you must take this church to heaven, you can’t operate it here’. When public funds are involved, government needs to ensure proper accountability.”
The CEO explained: “Religious organisations are ordinarily set up as ‘not-for-profit’ and they remain institutions of public character. The challenge, however, is a trend where churches and mosques start dabbling into non-charity ventures like schools, hospitals and so on.
“When you set up a church, your motive is to ensure that people are well focused to go to heaven. Then the money in the church should be targeted at ensuring that people are helped to do that. If you want to set up a school, then it should be free for all your members’ children. If you charge any money, then you are in the same league with other schools outside that are paying taxes to the government.
“If you set up schools, hospitals and the likes under a church, there is a high likelihood that you will be engaging in non-charitable activities within charity. If you are doing that, then what stops Dangote from setting up a mosque and having all his cements, rice and sugar under it? That is actually what some churches and mosques are doing.
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