Delegates to the ongoing National Conference (National Confab) on Tuesday overwhelmingly voted that religious bodies in the country should pay tax to the government.
If the recommendation is passed into law by the National Assembly, it means that churches and mosques in the country will begin to pay tax to the coffers of the government.
The decision to make religious bodies pay taxes came up when a delegate representing civil organisations, Mallam Naseer Kura, during his contribution on the report of the Committee on Religion, said that religious leaders were making much money and should be taxed.
Kura complained that pastors were making too much money at the expense of the people and that many of them owned private jets and universities.
He said with the amount of money that the religious leaders made, they should be made to pay tax to the government.
Also in his contribution, a delegate representing the Nigeria Guild of Editors, Mr. Isaac Ighure, frowned at the situation where he said pastors and heads of churches made too much money not to pay tax.
He stressed that religious bodies should be made to pay taxes and that the elite must stop abusing the poor in the society, saying “some people buy private jets when people in their churches are suffering and living in abject poverty, they should be made to pay taxes.”
When the matter was put to vote, the delegates in unison voted ‘yes’ in support of the motion that religious bodies should pay taxes.
The conference also passed the recommendation that government should discontinue the sponsorship of official government delegations on any pilgrimage.
Not only that, it said that government at all levels, should not utilise public funds to sponsor religious pilgrimages for any category of citizens and government functionaries.
The delegates however rejected the amendments made by some delegates that Fridays should be made a work-free day in the country.
They also voted against another amendments that would make religious bodies and organisations not to be at major highways and areas populated by residential buildings.
The delegates also voted that people who changed religion in the country should not be molested and that they should not be persecuted by their communities and families.,
Sola Akanmode moved the motion for the scrapping of the pilgrimage welfare boards, which was supported by Chief Charles Edosown (SAN).
But Charles Ibiang moved a counter motion, which was seconded by Saidu Dansadau, that the body should stay.
They argued that the pilgrims welfare boards were not meant for government sponsored pilgrims, but to cater for the welfare of those embarking on pilgrimages.
They also said that though they supported that government should not use public funds to sponsor individuals for pilgrimages, there was the need to have a body that would see to the welfare of those that would want to travel on pilgrimage.
Delegates voted on this and the deputy chairman of the conference, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi ruled that those who supported the scraping won.
But a former Minister of Defence, Dr. Bello Aliru, said there was no clear winner on the issue. He said because of that, delegates should be allowed to go for division.
Akinyemi agreed, but many delegates disagreed and expressed displeasure over the turn of events.
They said since the matter had been decided, it was wrong for the issue to be raised again as done by the former acting chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party.