Saturday, 15 September 2012

THE UNTOLD STORY OF NIGERIAN MULTI BILLIONAIRE PASTOR, MATTHEW ASHIMOLOWO

Pastor Matthew Ashimolowo began Kingsway International Christian Centre ( KICC), when as an Assistant Pastor in Foursquare Gospel Church in Nigeria, he was sent on a mission to plant a satellite branch in London. But decided to set up his own church instead.


Thus, from a humble beginning in September 1992, with 11 members at a rented hall in Holloway Boys, North London, Ashimolowo led KICC has grown to over 12,000 members which reportedly is the largest Pentecostal church in the United Kingdom. It also has branches scattered in Lagos and Accra, Ghana.

 While still at Holloway Boys School, the membership grew and the church had to move to Hackney Town Centre after which they bought a building at Mare Street. This building later couldn’t accommodate the congregation any longer. Therefore, they moved to 57, Waterden Road, London.

The church is multi-cultural with over 40 nations adequately represented. The ministry actually shot into limelight in 1997 when it purchased eight acres of land at 57, Waterden Road, East London for £2.7 million debt-free despite the cut throat competition from leading companies such as Sainsbury and well known property development companies. However, the ministry later sold the property they had occupied for nine years to the 2012 Olympic Committee. They had to vacate the site by November 2006 in order to make way for the proposed development for the 2012 London Olympics.

They only moved out finally in 2007 and the last programme held at the old site was the International Gathering of Champions with many International guest speakers on parade. The church has now moved to Hoe Street, Walthamstow, awaiting planning consent a ¤ÉNnopment of a 10,000-sUzter auditorium with office comple at Beam Beach in the Thames Gateway.

 The church was managed by a pastoral board which included Ashimolowo and his wife, Yemisi. But the pastoral board was dissolved in 2002 over allegations of tax evasion and mismanagement leveled against Pastor Ashimolowo by the British Charity Commission. He was accused of living in a rent-free house owned by a charity organization established by him, and using the charity’s credit card to buy a timeshared property in Florida, United States of America.

 A timeshare is an arrangement under which joint owners have rights to a property to be used as a holiday home. Ashimolowo was said to have received £120,000 as a birthday gift and spent £80,000 on a Mercedes Benz. The charity commission’s investigations also concluded that the church had mismanaged its £8.5 million income and that its leaders’ personal interests conflicted with their duties. It was alleged that the assets of the amiable clergy’s charity were not used for the purposes stated in its registration.

 In addition, the pastor and his wife were alleged to have received tithes totaling £384,000(N96 million) between October 1992 and September 2000. Of this £338,334 was paid into the account of one of his companies for ‘ pastoral services’. The church was eventually taken over by receivers, who found boxes containing cash, cheque and invoices being loaded into a car.

Thus, the charity was handed the control of the church, making it a charitable company rather than a trust. However, in an address to his congregation, Ashimolowo admitted that the church made a couple of mistakes in its transactions but insisted no fraud was found. He said if fraud had been found, the church would have been closed down rather than reopened under a new administrative structure.

 In spite of the crisis, Pastor Ashimolowo has been able to project KICC as a viable brand through his messages via television, radio and publications. He is an author, who has received accolades and was the winner of the Nigerian Booksellers Award for Tongues of Fire.

 He currently hosts Winning Ways. This is KICC’s television programme which is aired daily on Premiere Radio (London), KICC TV which is a cable station and on Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), which has a potential audience of over 200 million.

 The other channel through which he has established KICC as an international brand was his annual International Gatherings of Champions (IGOC). This is a yearly conference hosted by Pastor Matthew Ashimolowo. It is actually two years older than KICC itself. The IGOC has been an avenue where known preachers like Bishop T.D Jakes and Bishop Eddie Long ministered to huge congregation. The gathering in August 2008 had an attendance of 140,000 worshippers.

 IGOC is renowned for equipping Christians with the insightful and practical knowledge they need to live successfully.

 Ashimolowo was born in Kaduna on March 17, 1952, to Muslim parents. He is the fourth among five children. As the son of a military officer, his father was constantly transferred on official duties and that meant his family was also on the move. His Muslim name was Ahmed. After his father died in the Biafra war, at the age of 22, he got saved in a drunken state, after which he went to a Bible school in Lagos to further his career as a minister of the gospel.

After the Bible school, he began as an assistant pastor in Foursquare Gospel Church, after which he was moved to UK, where he started his own ministry. He is a strong advocate and a voice in the Pentecostal Christian community in United Kingdom. He is a constant feature on God’s Channel TV, TBN, Daystar, and other TV networks.

 He serves on the board of Premiere Radio Station, which is UK’s premier Christian radio station.

The amiable clergy, who has authored over 50 books, is married to Pastor Yemisi and they have two lovely children.

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