Nigerian-born, London-based Pastor Matthew Ashimolowo is the charismatic and well-advertised Senior Pastor and General Overseer of Kingsway International Christian Centre, (KICC) with headquarters in London and many branches all over the world. His church, no doubt, has been making exploits through his powerful and awe-inspiring messages. But that is as far as it goes, as years back, a very unpleasant and disappointing news that bordered on fraud and financial mal-practices was serially reported about this avant garde man of God. The fraud case, as damaging as it was then, on the propriety of Pastor Ashimolowo, soon fizzled out of circulation and a momentary respite was restored for the then embattled Matthew Ahimolowo.
The story emanating now has however shown that Ashimolowo’s fraud case of very huge amount involved, is being revisited by the British government, and this time around, fresh facts are at hand that could ultimately nail the pastor for what he is being accused of. The genesis of the story is not far-fetched. It would be recalled that when the City of London won the much-coveted bid for the hosting rights of the next Olympic Games years back, certain areas of East London were ear-marked for development and renovation. Unfortunately, the KICC church, headed by Pastor Matthew, amongst other properties, fell among those to be demolished. By way of compensation, owners of houses and properties in this area were paid off and very handsomely too. Pastor Ashimolowo, it was believed, made a staggering and whopping amount in millions of pounds, from the pay-off, and that was the beginning of his predicament in the hands of the British government. The money he made from the pay-off was so much that the KICC pastor, in no time created an enviable charity status for the church, through many questionable, charitable ventures and even went back, like an Oliver Twist, to the British government to ask for more compensation, which he allegedly got. Meanwhile, Ashimolowo has accordingly relocated his fast-growing church to another area in the London City, planting more vibrant branches with pastors and more church workers, while he still remains the pastor and founder of the Kings International Christian Centre, KICC-Worldwide.
With the attendant fortunes and miscellaneous monies coming in from both left, right and the centre, to Ashimolowo via his church, KICC, it was only natural for the British government to beam their searchlight on the activities of Pastor Matthew and his church, given the stupendous amount at his disposal, coupled with the expensive charitable courses he has severally championed and still championing. As it stands now, the British government is still carefully probing the books and scrutinizing the various spendings of Ashimolowo to ascertain the genuineness and legality of the income of Pastor Ashimolowo. This and many more are believed to have informed the British government’s decision to re-visit Ashimolowo and his KICC’s activities vis-a-viz financial impropriety as it were. The probing and scrutiny are still going on as you read this, even as Pastor Ashimolowo is said not to be at ease over the new development.
You will recall that about five years ago, this magazine extensively regaled you with how a massive fraud, allegedly perpetrated by Pastor Ashimolowo, was uncovered in London by the authorities. Then he was said to be fast making it into the Guinness Book of Records as probably the richest pastor in the word. This was an account of the enormous wealth and riches allegedly traced to the London-based pastor. We reported then that the embattled pastor was being paid more than £250,000 a year to run an evangelical and Pentecostal church which was at the centre of a messy financial scandal running into millions of pounds, through means that were allegedly at variance with the real intention of the church, which is about winning souls for God, at no expense or monetary consideration.
At that time, a London tabloid was reported to have screamed on its cover that Pastor Matthew Ashimolowo, then 54, earned between £250,000 and £260,000 from KICC for only the financial year ending September 2005, an amount many found too ridiculous for a pastor to earn in just one year.
As it were then, following the many suspicions of financial misdeeds by Pastor Matthew and KICC, the church was investigated by the Charity Commission, which surprisingly uncovered serious financial irregularities, two years back, and as penalty, Pastor Matthew, being its founder, was summarily ordered to pay £200,000 back to the Christian centre.
Investigators had found out that he used a church credit card to buy a timeshare in Florida, and got £120,000 to celebrate his birthday, just as he transferred hundreds of thousands of pounds abroad. In the same vein, the financial statements of the church was said to have shown that on KICC employee, name withheld, but believed to be Pastor Ashimolowo’s right hand man, also received an annual salary of between £250,000 and £260,000.
Back home in Nigeria, the punk hair-style wearing pastor, has been investing heavily in properties. On Opebi Road, Ikeja, Lagos he has a glass skyscraper which is conservatively put at a cost of N100 million. In Osun state, where he hails from, the charismatic pastor has been injecting millions of naira into the development of several hectares of land which is being proposed for a University campus. The place is called Land of Dreams. The Land of Dreams covers an extensive land mass of over five hectares and the rate at which work has been going on there is very fast and nearing completion for the University to take off in earnest, barring any unforeseen circumstances. He is also said to be a silent principal shareholder in many blue-chip companies and top banks in Nigeria and abroad.
But since the lid was blown on him years back and the recent one by the British Government, the man of God at KICC has been more frequent in Nigeria, investing heavily in the system, even with the inclement and unfriendly economic business climate in the country.
Against all these backgrounds, Pastor Ashimolowo’s fortunes still keep on soaring, with a monthly special service organized for him by his Lagos-based church in Maryland, Lagos, just as one of his members, speaking in his capacity as KICC’s lawyer said that the amount he is said to be collecting is even too small and that if for anything he wholly deserves it. He says there is no one way one can qualify or calculate the amount Pastor Matthew collects on a yearly basis, as he is not a staff under anybody, who is fixed to a particular salary over a period of time. It is even laughable that someone can sit down and conjure or peg a particular amount as Pastor Ashimolowo’s salary or income per year. How did they arrive at the figure, if they were not trying to be mischievous? It all about envy and unnecessary reproach of a man of God whose profile in the vineyard of God has kept on rising.
KICC was founded by Pastor Matthew Ashimolowo in 1992 with just 200 members. The church now has many branches in London alone, with other branches all over the world. In the headquarters in London alone, where Pastor Matthew superintends, the church attracts over 20,000 worshippers on its Sunday services with four sessions of different congregations. His collection of cars includes state-of-the-art machines like bullet-proof Hummer Jeep, Porsche Cayean Jeep, Range Rover Vogue Sport, not leaving out his super taste for power dressing in top notch designer wears.
The British Government will soon come out with its findings on Pastor Ashimolowo’s alleged financial misdeeds and if found wanting he will definitely go in for it.