The urbanization of Nigeria’s megachurches

Camps based around megachurches in Nigeria are slowly evolving into self-contained cities, providing services to members once reserved for the government, writes Ruth Maclean in The Guardian (September 11). The Redeemed Christian Church of God, a global Pentecostal denomination, has been especially active in its native Nigeria. The church’s headquarters set up “Redemption Camp” on the outskirts of Lagos for monthly and annual gatherings, but more recently it has become a permanent home for many of its members who live in 5,000 private homes. For years, members have owned houses to stay over conventions and monthly services, but increasingly families wanted to live full-time with people that shared their values in a place run by people who share those same values. Banks and other businesses have followed these settlers, leading to a “knock-on effect on surrounding areas: in some cases the price of land near Redeemed Camp has increased tenfold over the past decade,” Maclean writes. While residents have to be members of the church, there is no such requirement for doing businesses. Religious organizations are tax-exempt in Nigeria, but it is difficult to say where the income generating arms of these groups turn into profit-making enterprises.

The influx of business and the extension of voluntary groups into the camp include education ranging from nursery school to university level and a health center. Fast food restaurants and a supermarket line its Holiness Avenue. Banks are drawn to the infrastructure and revenue of the RCC, which draws on support from five million members throughout Nigeria and branches in 198 other countries. With a power plant, police station, and sewage system built by the church, it is not unusual for the government to send technicians to the camp to learn how such services are carried out. The camp is run by Enoch Adeboye, known as Daddy GO, a pastor who as a former mathematics lecturer constantly introduces new enterprises and teaches a version of the “prosperity gospel” where tithing is seen as leading to material blessings. Other churches are beginning to replicate the camp’s comprehensive ministry approach. Winner’s Chapel in the Ota region of southern Nigeria has started Canaanland, which consists of homes on manicured lawns along with banks, businesses, a university, and a petrol station.