Since the begining of the lockdown, there have been efforts by the government to reach out to the less privileged and vulnerable persons in the society. But several thousands have not benefited from the palliatives due to logistics, poor organisation, diversion and plain theft of the palliatives (both foodstuff and cash) by some unscrupulous government officials responsible for handling the assignment. To remedy this situation with their Widow’s Mite, Apostle Kenneth Chukwuemeka and his wife, Pastor Eunice Iferi Chukwuemeka, who have the heart of giving decided to put smiles on faces of people by sending cash to their accounts directly. They gave out sums of N2000, N5000 and N10,000 to hundreds of people in different categories in all the six geopolitical zones of the country, in obedience to the biblical injunction to touch lives with charity. Sunday Sun, spoke with Apostle Chukwuemeka in Lagos.
A person meeting you for the first time would naturally be curious. Please talk about yourself a bit.
I have been a businessman since my teenage years. At present I am the General Servant of Winning Power International Ministry with headquarters in Lagos. I am married to Pastor Eunice Iferi Chukwuemeka, who is a businesswoman, co-pastor of the church and the founder/president of Stop Hurting People Foundation, which is the charity arm of the church. We have four children – Elhannah, Daniela, Kenneth and Shiloh. Elhannah, who is doing her PhD in the United Kingdom, got married last November to Olabode Adekeye, a legal practitioner. They are both pastors and living in the UK.
As a cleric, are you worried that church members may not fully return to physical attendance of church services after getting used to virtual online worship?
No, I am not worried about their returning because eventually the gospel will always take full advantage of technological advancements. Change is constant. We will adjust accordingly. The Bible says in Deuteronomy 33:25 that as a man’s day so is his strength. In essence, the church will maximize the situation and come out with better ways of effectively preaching the gospel. Although we must admit that physical contact helps believers to sharpen one another and younger ones to have physical examples to follow in the process of maturing in the faith. I remember that in our developmental stages, the fact that you could be visited at any time by other believers helped us maintain discipline while maturing in the faith. The time of fellowship, follow-up and visitations helps a believer to stay in line until the best habits are formed and maintained. I believe that we learn more by imitation than by education. There will always be fellowships but I’m not sure we will have large church gatherings again until the COVID-19 pandemic is long over.
What propels your giving cash to as many you could contact on social media? How the idea originate?
We have been doing charity from our pockets for years on the platform of Stop Hurting People Foundation. We recently began to announce our upcoming charity events online especially on the foundation’s Facebook page. We started receiving calls from many places we had not thought of reaching before now. This coincided with recent emergence of people who were ready to financially support the cause. We decided to kill three birds with one stone: (1) reach people with help from anywhere through social media; (2) adhere to social distancing by sending money to people’s accounts instead of physically distributing foodstuff and other needs. These images we see of people falling over themselves and getting trampled, to receive food from charity and risking COVID-19 infection is saddening: (3) create and maintain needed accountability by announcing how much was received, who gave it and the individual beneficiaries. Everything is open to the whole world. The donor and everyone else will see how the money was spent. Stop Hurting People Foundation has been giving a minimum of N2000 to individuals from all the geopolitical zones in Nigeria. Our target is to reach 10,000 people in this season. Though we have exceptions such as some professionals who we deem fit to also bless this period of lockdown.
What is your evaluation of the palliative measures provided by the Nigerian government compared to what other countries did for their people?
Of course, what the Nigerian government is doing is a sorry comparison to what’s happening in other climes. The clean thing to do is give all Nigerians who need help at least an amount close to the minimum wage using the BVN. That will make it easier to endure the lockdown. Distributing food will cause people to grossly contravene the need for social distancing. The crowd will be uncontrollable and a lot of infections may arise, thereby defeating the purpose.
What do you think of the extension of the lockdown in Lagos and other states of the federation?
It’s okay if health officials find it expedient. The only problem is that it’s impossible to keep people at home without provisions for basic things like food, power and other basic necessities. I don’t understand how people are being disconnected for owing PHCN at a time like this. How will they pay light bills when they can’t work and government has not made provisions available? I know about reports of government making some provisions for a few million people. It’s laughable because you are dealing with a population of about 200 million people and providing about 3 million people with far, far less than the minimum wage. My point is that hunger may force people into crime, just to eat. Majority of Nigerians live on daily earnings. If they can’t go out in a day and you make no provisions for them in a lockdown, they may not strictly agree to stay at home. Some are already saying that it’s better to risk infection than die of hunger. I still suggest that government should use the BVN to at least send help to the people or explore the services of compassionate NGOs to reach out to the people, give them cash, not food to avoid any kind of stealing. When we started reaching out to people, we started with people around us but as we noticed that people from Nasarawa, Edo, Cross River, Imo, Anambra, Delta, Abeokuta and other states were sending in requests and appeals to our Facebook page we asked them to send their account numbers. I implore wealthy Nigerians to assist and feed at least one person a day. Government should give money to foundations that have fail-proof organised logistic systems to distribute to the people. Food is a major necessity; it’s senseless to protect the people from COVID-19 only to expose them to death by hunger and violence. What’s going on the streets of our cities is horrendous. The people who earn their living on a daily basis are struggling to find a meal a day.
How have you been spending your time during the lockdown?
The best part of this season is that I am spending more time with my family and it’s a very good thing because my wife and I are enjoying a lockdown honeymoon.