According to a report from Nigerian newspaper, ?The Nation?, up to 10,000 hospitality workers in the Ikotun-Egbe suburb of Lagos State are faced with imminent unemployment.
The Pilgrims Hostels Operators Association of Nigeria (PHOAN) said their troubles in the region are connected to the collapse of a guest-house belonging to The Synagogue, Church Of All Nations (SCOAN) last year.
The chairman of the association, Prince Adekanbi Adedayo John, explained: ?PHOAN is the biggest employer of labour in this area for over a decade. Our business thrived all these years because of SCOAN?s popularity, which attracted visitors from all over the world to the area. The church?s activities before the incident served as the economic livewire on which PHOAN and other smaller businesses relied on.?
However, since the incident last year, The SCOAN has reduced the number of its church services and no longer attracts the same numbers of foreigners.
To worsen matters, the church?s pastor T.B. Joshua has uncharacteristically been absent from church services and has not been seen in public since his crusade in Mexico in May 2015, fuelling suspicions he may be planning to relocate abroad.
A member of the group, Ozumba Sunny, lamented: ?The chances of turning Nigeria into a religious tourist haven have been put on the line by the church?s predicament and this has brought hardship to the people, who earn a living as food vendors, drivers, mechanics etc.?
Their concerns were heightened when Joshua directed that his birthday celebrations last month, which attracted over 5,000 foreign pilgrims to Nigeria in 2014, should rather be held in South Africa and Ghana.
Several new hotels which have sprung up in the area due to the church?s popularity are now struggling to find customers.
The Chairman of the group?s Board of Trustees, Kafaru Aminu, added: ?Many of us have been struggling to feed our families and pay school fees in the last one year yet we have huge bank loans hanging on our necks. We are on the verge of losing our investments and the only way this can be averted is if the fortunes of the church improve.?
However, Joshua?s supporters believe his recent absence is due to his being unjustly ?persecuted?, especially over Nigeria?s handling of the inquest into the building collapse.
Chief Justice Komolafe controversially ruled that the disaster was due to structural defaults, a verdict The SCOAN aggressively denied, insisting it was ?sabotage?.
?Nigeria, you have enjoyed this grace for too long but still tried to destroy it,? wrote a foreign fan on Facebook yesterday. ?Your actions have released TB Joshua to the world. Nigeria will regret the decision of Komolafe for many years to come.?
source Ihechukwu Njoku, a freelance journalist, wrote in from Lagos, Nigeria