The General Superintendent of Assemblies of God Church, Nigeria Rev. Paul Emeka has defended himself against the allegations of financial misconduct leveled against him by some powerful cabal in the church in this blunt interview with Vanguard Newspaper . Excerpts here:
What is your position on the crisis rocking Assemblies of God Church?
Everything has immediate and remote causes; so in a situation like this, you don’t really know where to start. I must let you know that there was a time we got license to operate the Evangel University. The Board of Trustees employed people and, of course, members of the church, but they began to mis-run the university, making it too expensive for us to continue.
They employed without looking back, they employed without consulting, because, by the law of the university, statutorily as the General Superintendent, I am the Chancellor and the Visitor. I am the proprietor, so I was concerned that they were spending too much. We had 73 students but they employed 135 workers. In their first salary schedule, they brought six million naira. We protested but helplessly paid.
In the second one, it went up to nine million naira and it never came down until it came to thirteen million naira. Each time we called them to give account, they said no, that they were not accountable to the BOT or even the Executive Council of the church, that they were accountable to the Governing Council. So there was a problem, nobody was accountable to us.
So the BOT, in the process of recognising and adopting a pragmatic approach in the running of the university, suspended them and set up a panel to look into how the university was being run. But these people ran to what we call Ambassadors of the Kingdom made up of those my predecessor felt had served the church and gave them the recognition as ‘Ambassadors of the Kingdom’.
It was not meant to be an association; it has no place in our constitution or organogram of the church. But somehow the people (Ambassadors) came together and began to see themselves as a pressure group or the political arm of the church. The Vice Chancellor of the university happens to be a member of the body and he ran to them and called on them to help him out.
They came to the Executive Council (EC) to see us and we asked them to wait, that we will invite the BOT and explain everything to them. They laid their complaints that the young university will soon be closed, that they were not happy that the people were suspended and didn’t care to know the reason for our action.
Few weeks later, they came up with a write up that they addressed to the Presbyters (these are pastors in Assemblies of God and are up to 2,000 in number). They didn’t address it to the EC members which is the highest decision making body of the church. This was where trouble started. All of us had different approach towards resolving it.
They came up with so many allegations that didn’t have to do with the university but other things. They alleged many things against me. For instance, they talked about a house we bought in Germany. The allegation associated with the Germany house purchase are very shapeless, the story keeps increasing by the day. They also alleged that we created the Assemblies of God Ministers Benefit Fund.
The pastors every month make contributions to that fund and, each time a pastor retires, he is given what he contributed with interest and the balance remains with the church. They also alleged that I made a pledge to the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria without consulting the EC, that my brother-in-law was the one hiring equipment and being given two million naira each time we were to do a programme and helping himself from that.
The truth is not far-fetched because the purchase of the project in Germany was started by my predecessor, the advance which was twenty million naira was paid by the General Treasurer who was serving under him and later on there was this election that brought me in when he retired and we continued from there.
The church obtained a loan from GTB and it was the responsibility of the General Treasurer and the accountants there to pay and they paid and kept remitting the money to the company until the transaction was completed. I didn’t have anything to do with the money, all I did was to go and see if it was true, the General Secretary equally went and the Assistant General Superintendent also went, all these things are in our minutes.
But when they were making their allegations, they didn’t do them as if all these things are in the minutes; they talked as if I woke up one day and carried the money to buy a property in Germany.
Retired pastors fund
The allegation on the Pastors Benefit Fund started about 16 years ago. Each pastor contributes automatically to the fund and goes home with what he contributed on retirement with interest. But I discovered that each month, all the ministers of Assemblies of God contribute an average of thirty million naira but the ministers who retire in a given month don’t take up to six million naira and there was a Board set up to use that money and invest.
It was from there that we built our bank called AG Homes; that continued for many years until I became the General Superintendent. I proposed before the EC that here you have one man managing the millions of naira that the ministers are contributing and here you have the bank. He is the Managing Director of the bank as well as the Chairman of the Board, that it would be nice that we separate it so that he will continue to be the Chairman of the Board and another person the Managing Director. The Committee bought the idea.
I equally said that the ministers retiring, and given what they contributed with interest and the money remains there, they are not coming back at any time to benefit from the investment that their money was put into. I said the only way these people could have a share is that since this body doesn’t give them pension and since what the General Council pays to them as pension monthly is too small, we should do something to enhance their living standard from the money.
By the time the former Board was handing over, they had already about N2.5billion and I said it was possible to take part of this money to increase the pastors pension so that they don’t suffer too much. They accepted and adopted it unanimously. I proposed N350 million but they handed over about N1.5million and said they had invested the rest.
We said they should give us N200million so that we start helping the retired pastors and they sent it from AG Homes to the General Council account. It did not go to my personal account. The General Treasurer received it, receipted for it; but when they were writing, they started alleging and talking as if I had direct access to the money and using it on my own. It was credited to the General Council account.
Donation to PFN
On the allegation about making donation to the PFN, we went to the NAC (National Advisory Committee) meeting of the PFN, all the church leaders were there. So there was this spontaneous fund raised, people were pledging fifty to one hundred million, but, on behalf the Assemblies of God, I pledged ten million naira and that was not to say I paid it immediately.
When I came back, I brought the matter before the Executive Council meeting and they approved that the General Treasurer should pay. Nobody gave me cash, it was a cheque credited in the account of the PFN. But here they said the Executive Committee did not know about it even when they paid willingly.
Another allegation about my in-law hiring equipment; the truth of the matter is that whenever we are doing a big programme, there is a central committee that will meet with sub-committees.
At a time, the committee told us they now had a company owned by one Okezie and that they supply power and sound to the government at Okpara Square each time they had a programme and that if we would hire them, they would do us good.
We told them to bring them and they brought them. The central planning committee would always haggle the price with this man depending on the nature and duration of the programme.
We would agree and immediately we agree on price the manager of the company would go to the accounts office where he would be given a cheque and that ends it.
Nobody gives me the money and that is the structure of the church. The General Superintendent does not have anything to do with money, we take the decisions and it is the responsibility of the General Treasurer with the people working under him to take action. Now when the Ambassadors brought their complaints and started alleging all these things, they were not in a position to know since they are not in the organogram of the church.
It was somebody that made them to know and they came up with these allegations that never existed. They are alleging over N450 million.
The Executive Committee members working with me who know when all these decisions were taken, I thought they would come to my aid when these allegations were raised but some of them were of the opinion that these Ambassadors will be brought and they would be made to repeat the allegations and I would answer.
That continued until a certain time when they appealed to the General Committee. The General Committee, judicially speaking, is higher than the Executive Committee, the Executive Committee makes decisions. The General Committee is called twice a year but if a General Committee is needed, the General Superintendent can on his own call it but if it is called without the General Superintendent, the constitution says they will obtain 33 percent signatories of the members of the General Committee and they will lay it on the table of the General
Superintendent and he will invite the people for the General Committee and he equally will determine the terms to be discussed with members of the Executive Committee. Now they called the General Committee without respect to this process. They were not able to obtain it because the constitution says that the General Committee will serve as a court of final appeal and I told them that if the General Committee will serve as the final appeal, it means that the Executive Committee will serve as court of first appeal.
First of all, we have to look at it so that if the General Committee sits, we will now tell them the extent to which we have looked at it. But I never knew there was a political plan to be hatched that day. They never allowed me to execute it as constitution demands and that was on the 6th of March. I told them I wouldn’t attend because it fell short of constitutional demands.
There were text messages here and there but, before that day, I had called the police to say I was not comfortable with the meeting and asked them to stop it but the police said no, they didn’t have the right to stop a private meeting of the church, that all I needed to do was to obtain a court order to stop it.
I invited my lawyer to prepare a court order to the effect. It was not to be a court order against the Assemblies of God but against certain individuals I perceived were responsible for the General Committee. But along the line, I called the lawyer and said I would want to terminate the suit, that I would be misunderstood and I asked him to leave it.
But on that very day of the meeting, somebody from among the Ambassadors and the eleven Executive Committee members standing against me was sent to go to court and look for the abandoned suit and he brought it to the General Committee.
In that meeting, the Legal Adviser of the church was the one who read it that the General Superintendent had taken the church to court and should be suspended. But some others said he didn’t take the church to court, because the Trustees are not there, the General Council is not there and Assemblies of God is not there but those there are individuals, but they wouldn’t listen.
He also failed to let them know that the suit was abandoned and the court wrote to that effect, that the suit was not in existence. Nobody was served any summons.
What is happening is that there is a group of men in the church whose interests became threatened and they felt I was the one anchoring it.
But when I was making the reorganization, I didn’t deliberately do it to step on any toe, I was doing what I felt would help the church to go forward because to me, I didn’t feel comfortable that every day you stand before the church to go and raise fund, instead of people hearing sermons, you are telling them about money whereas we have ventures here and there that could yield money for the church.
Without worrying people, our offering and tithe should be enough. That was my aim. We had money. If you invest N250 million very well, it will increase the revenue of the church. As at last year, the pastors fund generated N2.5 billion from the time that scheme started, all that had been paid to the pastors was only N123million in 16 years, up to N300 million and more was spent on office.
The purpose of that scheme was not to run office or other things but to help our pastors in retirement but many of them are suffering and we felt free to our conscience to allow them in that state and pay lip service to our holiness. They said Rev Chidi Okoroafor becomes the acting General Superintendent. This is what has been rocking Assemblies of God.
But we learnt some members of the church later went to court. Is this true?
I didn’t go to court. Dr Nathan Udeze and another one who is a lecturer in one of our Bible schools, Dr Ekenedilichukwu Offodile, they didn’t like what happened, they went to court and sued and the nature of the suit was in representative capacity, not only for the two of them but for any other person who did not like what happened.
We went to the court for hearing three times and the court said, return to status quo and, by this I am still the General Superintendent and Chidi remains the assistant and there is nothing like acting. Yet our people have decided to ignore the court order.
This is what is happening and on daily basis they keep writing against me. In the Assemblies of God, the maximum punishment is suspension; after suspending me, you say you are setting up a panel, so when the committee must have concluded its work, what other punishment will you give me? If you have allegations of fraud, the police is there to look into it.
How do you feel about what is happening and at what point can you leave it for God. What will be your advice to members?
I have already left it for God. What I am doing is simply what God wants me to do. I have tried my best; a man does not praise himself. I have not laid bad example – morally speaking or with money. You cannot say that you found Paul Emeka messing up with women or in fact that you suspect him at all.
The salary I take is enough for me; forget about what they are writing about. Think about it, in a corporate organization, you cannot steal money alone, you cannot go and take half a million alone, there is a Treasurer and you cannot in the name of General Superintendent pounce on people’s money and you begin to cart it away. The national leadership of PFN has come and they keep turning them here and there. They should tell the world what is happening.
Somebody is retired and wants to be the father of the Assemblies of God and that is why I believe it cannot last for long because the people do not like it and God himself does not like what is happening. But we will not chicken out for them to continue even if I am out.
Sometime last month, Africa Thisday received a report from a Nigerian christian in United States of America of how Rev. Dr. Chidi Okoroafor who is currently acting as the General Superintendent of the church had put pressure on her for sex. She had registered her dissatisfaction about the integrity of the One time Umuahia District Superintendent whose tenure was filled with sexual scandals.