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How Lagos megachurches are building their own cities

Enoch Adejare Adeboye, General Overseer, Redeemed Christian Church of God's International Enoch Adejare Adeboye, General Overseer, Redeemed Christian Church of God's International

As the loud sound comes out through thousands of loudspeakers placed at vantage points of Redemption Camp, market shoppers pause their business, and worshippers, some of whom have been sleeping on mats in this giant auditorium for days, stop brushing their teeth to join in the worship.

It was that of one of Nigeria’s megachurches organising a Holy Ghost convention with its theme as ‘Hallelujah’

The auditorium of the 3square kilometres structure becomes home for many including the rich, who arrive in their helicopters, and shiny SUVs and other worshippers who climb up the hill towards the huge edifice in shabby Toyota Corollas and yellow buses which create heavy vehicular traffic.

But some people have been spared the hustle of having to endure hours of traffic. Many of those making their way to the auditorium now live a stone throw away from the church. The church, Redeemed Christian Church of God’s international which has its headquarters in Ogun state has transformed from being not only responsive to the spiritual needs of the people but also the building a whole community with infrastructure to address their every need.

These include a 25-megawatt power plant with gas piped in from the Nigerian capital that serves close to 5,000 private homes on site, the provision of schools to cater for the education from crèche to university level and the operation of Redemption Camp health centre which boasts of an emergency unit and a maternity ward. The community also boasts of some of the finest fast food joint, supermarket, banks.

The Church set up at the current location some 30 years ago to be used as a base for the church’s annual mass meets, as well as their monthly gatherings but today, Redemption Camp has become a permanent home for many of its followers.

A careful observation throughout southern Nigeria will reveal a domination of one form of Christianity or another with giant billboards advertising the churches and commercial bus drivers forcing their favourite pastor’s sermon down the throat of passengers with some creating their own megachurches but none, arguably, comes close to Redemption Camp for scale.

The Churches argue, reliance on government to get things done results in delayed growth and stalled development hindering the smooth construction and operations of megachurches thus the idea of providing all of its amenities like roads, electricity, schools, waste collection, security services, markets, play grounds and much more with its own resources. Despite having the ability to raise huge revenue, religious institutions are tax-exempt in Nigeria.

Convention periods are also times when people take advantage to trade in customised goods such as handkerchiefs which will be used in service during singing and dancing time.

The euphoria, however, peaks when the General Overseer himself prepares to mount the stage and when he finally appears to deliver his usual almost three-hour sermon before a congregation who largely form a big part of the city created by the existence of the church.

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