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How T.B Joshua Leads Nigeria’s Religious Tourism Drive

For almost three decades before popular Prophet and televangelist Temitope Balogun Joshua built his 10,000-seat headquarters of his Synagogue Church of All Nations, SCOAN at Ikotun-Egbe, a suburb of Lagos, the area was partly swamp, partly abandoned industrial estate. Now, it is a boom town with 3-Star budget hotels, mini marts, eateries and bars catering largely for tourists who come not only from West Africa but also from all corners of the globe to hear sermons but most importantly, tend to their spiritual needs. From all available indices, Joshua’s Synagogue had become Nigeria’s biggest tourist attraction, driving religious tourism and hugely contributed to the growth of the economy of Lagos State and Nigeria.

Christian pilgrimages to Israel over the years had become an economic platform for the empowerment of the localities and contributed to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country. Islamic faithfuls from all over the world converge twice every year for religious rituals in Saudi Arabia. The convergence of faithfuls has been of tremendous economic benefit to the country and her people. With the aforementioned and many others around the world, it has been established that religious tourism can be of immense economic benefit to any country and the localities where religious tourist sites are located. In Africa, Nigeria appears to have taken the lead in religious tourism. Thanks to Joshua who also owns a TV channel, Emmanuel TV, devoted to his healing ministry and philanthropic activities across the globe.

Several high profile political, social and sports personalities have visited the Synagogue in search of spiritual restoration and advice from the revered prophet.

Findings have shown that the Synagogue is the most visited destination by religious tourists in West Africa with thousands of foreigners flocking to attend the church’s weekly services. Figures released by the Nigerian Immigration Service showed that six out of every ten foreign travelers coming into Nigeria are bound for The Synagogue, a fact discussed in the Zimbabwean Parliament recently when addressing the economic potentials of religious tourism. The church’s popularity has led to an increase in flight routes to Lagos from several African countries. It was also reported in one of the national newspapers that about two million local and inbound tourists visit The Synagogue annually. This included numerous high profile visitors among were King Godwill Zwelithini of the Zulus with Princess Sibusile Zulu, King Moloto Solomon of the Limpopo Kingdom, Frederick Chiluba – former President of Zambia, President Omar Bongo of Gabon, Prof Pasal Lissouba – one time President of Congo Brazzaville, Justice Ralph Beisner from New York, South African Rugby player – Jacob Westhurzen, Prince Yormie Johnson – former Liberian warlord, President John Atta Mills of Ghana, John Mahama of Ghana, and recently, Liberian President, George Oppong Weah.

“It is very obvious that religious practices under the auspices of Christianity and Islam have in no small measure contributed to the development of tourism in the world. Religious obligations which are seen as means of expressing beliefs and faith in deities and God, had compelled many to travel thousands of miles out of their bases, thereby aiding the growth and development of tourism which directly affected local economies,” said John Baiyewu, a lecturer in one of the private universities in Ogun State.

According to him, there is no doubt that the Synagogue Church of All Nations has in no small way positioned Nigeria as a preferred tourist destination for religious tourism, hence giving fillip to tourism development in the country.

Israel – the birthplace of Jesus Christ – has shown interest in having him as one of her citizens with the hope of having his powerful ministry established there. But the popular prophet is definitely not considering taking the offer. He obviously has a Herculean task of attending to the influx of foreign tourists to his expansive Synagogue which is not a seasonal but a daily and all-year round affair. And as a result of this influx to the Synagogue, the local economy has benefitted immensely. It has encouraged foreign and local investors into building of more standard hotels around the area and not too far off.

Our correspondent investigations revealed that hospitality business in Ikotun and environs also took a positive turn in recent years owing to activities around the Synagogue. Within a walking distance from the church, there is presence of various posh hotels like Havana Hotels, Pavilion Lodge, Paradise Hotel, King Solomon Hotel, White Royal Hotel, Austino Hotel, Don Cy Hotelz & Suites, De Royal Hotel, Prince & Princess Hotel, Fedeco Hotel, Bazano Hotel, Kings Hotel, Dalcon Hotel & Suites, Vitality Hotel & Suites, Gloryland Hotel, Aso Rock Hotel, Olivia Suites among others. There are scores of restaurants and eatery joints equally well positioned to cater for the needs of the foreign and local tourists.

When P.M.EXPRESS interacted with some land owners, landlords and real estate developers in the area, they all acknowledged that the presence of Synagogue had helped raise the value of their properties.

Mr. Tosin Adeyeri, a landlord in the area told P.M.EXPRESS that before the church came to the area he had only two tenants. But as soon as Joshua opened his church, some members of the church took up residence in his house because of the closeness to their place of worship.

An official of Lagos State Government, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that aside the tourism potential of Synagogue, its impact in Ikotun and environs are enormous. He noted that the church has helped in the area of huge boost to the State Internally Generated Revenue as most of the businesses that sprang up as a result of the presence of the church pay taxes to government.

Joshua, 53, is well loved by all his congregants. His humility contributed a lot to this. For a man with an humble beginning of washing people’s feet on the muddy corners of Lagos and worked as a poultry attendant to earn a living, his ministry, alongside the Emmanuel TV Partners, has become synonymous with acts of charity, healing and humanitarian efforts across the globe. Two years ago he was listed among the world’s famous people. Known for his popularity across Africa and his online presence with 3,000,000 fans on Facebook and over 600,000 YouTube subscribers, Joshua has been described as the “Oprah of evangelism” and “YouTube’s most popular Pastor.” His Emmanuel TV is Africa’s largest Christian television network and the most subscribed Christian ministry channel on YouTube with videos amassing more than 240 million views. He has been awarded various accolades, notably; Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR) by the Nigerian government in 2008. He has also been named one of Africa’s 50 most influential people by Pan-African magazines The Africa Report and New African Magazine.

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