An interesting feature of the attitude of antagonists of mega churches in Nigeria is the fact that the more these churches do, the more they choose to turn a blind eye. Drawing from the words of Jesus, the Church of Christ will never be able to impress the gates of Hell. During election periods in Nigeria the promise of housing for the populace is a prominent factor. A few years ago, Nigerians were inundated with the promise of 4 million houses in 4 years by some major political actors. It is therefore a thing of joy that the Church in Nigeria and in particular, the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) and Living Faith Church Worldwide aka Winners’ Chapel have taken the gauntlet by providing houses en masse for citizens and especially their members in line with the popular scriptures which say ‘The husbandman that laboureth must be first partaker of the fruits’ 2 Timothy 2:6 and ‘As we therefore have opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them which are of the household of faith’. Galatians 6:10. Some efforts being made by these churches are hereby discussed.
The RCCG AND THE REDEMPTION CAMP
The RCCG is the single largest owner of private property in Nigeria. The church’s camp known as the Redemption Camp also has the largest religious site in Nigeria and probably the world over. Adeboye, its General Overseer and fondly called ‘Daddy GO’ however insists that the sprawling acreage is nothing close to the size of the ‘City’ God has promised the Church.
In 2012, it measured more than 1,540 hectares, a considerable increase from 770 hectares in 2010. The camp continues to expand aggressively to accommodate its vision of constructing a city of God that will be like no other in Nigeria. A prayer camp measuring just over 14 acres in 1983 now contains more than 2,500 distinct buildings including about 1,000 bungalows and 600 duplexes. There are also over 15 churches, while 336 make up chalets, dormitories or hostels. There are also well over 200 offices and many uncompleted structures dotting the 40,000 acre environment.
Recently, the Church’s university, the Redeemers University of Nations was relocated to another property in Ede, Osun State of Nigeria to create more room for the expansion of real estate for the Church.
The Redemption Camp has a population of over 30,000, and it is the site of various Arenas. The largest is the N35 Billion naira 3km by 3km Arena (contains 1,260 football fields). The Arena is a massive 3,000 acre area with a car park to accommodate 90,000 cars, a youth auditorium, 10 cafetarias, 10 shopping arcades, dormitories, banks and e-payment centres. There is also a smaller one of 750 metres by 1,000 metres (contains 105 football fields) which cost about N7.7 Billion ($22 million) in 2007 with the third and smallest one measuring the size of 69 football fields in 2003 according to Charles Peter Wagner, the late American Church historian. The camp also hosts a maternity which is usually operating at its peak during the church convention in August and congress in December. There are also five banks amongst other structures.
The Camp is self-sustaining: it supplies over 9,000,000 litres of water per day for its inhabitants and 15 megawatts of electricity power from 2 gas turbines constructed in 2010. The Camp is divided into 22 zones, containing a little over 10 separate residential estates for member-owners. By church law, only church members are allowed to buy housing units and live within the walls of the Camp. About half of the residential housing units are built and owned fully by members while others are built and owned by church owned mortgage companies such as Haggai in conjunction with Global Homes which in turn sell property to members. The prices of the units range from N14 million or $38,888 for a 2 bedroom apartment to N18million or $50,000 for a 3 bedroom apartment. A 3 bedroom with a Boys Quarter goes for N20 million or $55,555.
As the second largest Pentecostal church in Africa in terms of national spread (largest Pentecostal church in Africa is the decentralised 18 million strong Africa Assemblies of God Alliance) expands in membership, it converts urban landscape and by so doing helps to decongest the bustling Lagos, some 37 km away. Additionally, housing outside the camp has developed with unbelievably affordable prices. A 3 bedroom flat costing about N2 million ($6,000) per annum in the centre of Ikeja, Lagos would cost N350,000 or $1,000 for the same quality and period. An effective transport system such as rail or good roads is all that is then needed to demystify the housing challenge in Nigeria which clearly peaks in major towns such as the Federal Capital-Abuja, Port Harcourt and Lagos. The RCCG has thus steadily transformed into a property church, heavily invested in the property market of Nigeria and meeting the needs of those who would otherwise have turned to the government for succour.
FAITH THEATRE AND CANAAN CITY
The Living Faith Church Worldwide first announced her housing project in 2007, a mind boggling 150,000 (One Hundred and Fifty Thousand) Housing Project which is the largest scale of housing ever conceived by a single private organization.
The first phase of 15,000 houses was to be situated in Canaanland, Ota, Ogun State and adduced as the largest single housing scheme in Africa. Dr Oyedepo, made an announcement to this effect in December 2007 during the Church’s Annual Shiloh event. However, on the 11th of December 2010, during the Anointing Service of Shiloh 2010, he announced it again while slide pictures of the project were displayed on the large church screens.
The Canaan City is designed to surround the Faith Theatre which would be an auditorium of between 120,000 and 200,000. Due to the concept of the project and expected crowd, the conceptual size of 100,000 has been jettisoned.
The Faith Theatre which will be the epicentre of Canaan City will also be surrounded by hostels which would be used by church members all year round and especially during Shiloh. There will be 97 ultra-modern hostels surrounding Faith Theatre as follows: 37 Nigerian hostels for delegates from 36 states and the Federal Capital, 54 utility hostels for delegates from all African countries and 6 others to cater for other continents outside Africa. While Faith Tabernacle is located within a 66 acre area, Faith Theatre and the 97 hostels will be located within a 1,200 acre area.
WINNERS’ CHAPEL HOUSING
The Canaan City Project was initially a joint development between Fabrem International Project Limited and Affcom Success Sdn Bhd from Malaysia providing world class housing estate with full infrastructure. A consortium of about 5,000 contractors, made up mostly of church members and Christians in general are currently partaking in the mega project.
The two major objectives of the project at inception were:
1) To create affordable housing and world class development as well as establishing a new benchmark for quality property development in Nigeria with the combination of Malaysian expertise and experience.
2) To make a role model in housing development which offers good quality, affordability, comfort living and to be recognized as a city of peace and prosperity.
The first 600 units of the project was started in April 2011 and finished in 8 months; the houses were then put on display in December 2011.
The project is continuous as it largely depends on individual interest while the church provides the facilities and enabling environment for a serene estate to develop. Canaan City is located adjacent to the Faith Tabernacle and Covenant University, Ota and also encircles the Obasanjo Farms. It covers an area of 3,620 hectares or 9,000 acres.
The first phase of 15,000 houses is costing a whooping N250 Billion or $714 million. It can thus be safely estimated that on completion of the whole scheme of 150,000 houses, it would have gulped a stunning N2.5 Trillion or $7,140 million. The funds for Canaan City primarily come from the Church as well as members occupying the houses. The Canaancity houses are of seven different models and prices.
To further encourage members to get these houses at affordable rates, the Church has discounted the houses.
These discounted prices are as follows: the 1 bedroom apartment for N5.4m is now N4.9m, 2 bedroom standard for N9.8m is now N7.9m, 2 bedroom luxury for N11.5m is now N8.9m while the 3 bedroom at N14.9m is now N13.1m. The terrace apartment for N26.9m is now N23.9m, Semi-detached apartment at N39.1m is now N31.3m and the fully detached apartment for N51.2m is now N41.5m. The Church also offers the advantage of furnishing the homes at an additional cost due to the logistic challenge of ferrying furniture across Lagos/Abeokuta or even Ota into Canaan City. Members have the option of paying over a few years while church staff will have the privilege of paying in little stipends over 30 years.
The 9,000 acres is an extension of the famed 17,000 acre Canaanland and was purchased for over N1.2 Billion. The thousands of acres were acquired from villages in Ewutagbe, Faru, Ikogbo, Iyesi, Batera, Igbesa, Imuta, Olukowonjo, Okomi, Tatowu, Ijeba, Ibeju, Idimu, Lemomu, Osuke, Lusada, Imoshe, Igbo-Ota, reaching up to Lafenwa and Olugbodo.
The wall around the property keeps extending and was 123 kilometres long with fence costing of about N1 Billion in 2010.
Canaancity is billed to operate a 24 hour security ensured by fully manned Close Circuit Televisions (CCTVs), security personnel and 24 hour electric power supply. Recreational parks for family outing, picnics, party spots and institutional and public facilities such as hospitals, schools, gymnasia and world class shopping malls.
Others are playgrounds, post offices, police, petrol and fire stations, banks, community centres, swimming pools and a medical school in the neighbouring Covenant University. The large University medical center already operates at full scale with state of the art equipment.