Life goes on in Lagos, but much has changed
At the Synagogue Church of All Nations in Lagos, life goes on – after a fashion. Almost four weeks after the collapse of a guesthouse in which 116 worshippers, 80ofthemSouthAfricans, died, aservice for the elderly is in progress.
The street that runs parallel to the main church building is deserted. The typical crowds are absent. Police guards warily eye passers-by. All around, signs warn loiterers to keep away.
I am received by two media department officials who steal nervous glances at my phones to make sure our discussion is not being recorded.
The prophet, as adherents refer to TB Joshua, is unavailable for media queries because he’s at “prayer mountain” – a place he retires to for contemplation.
All that is left at the scene of the disaster is a mass of mangled iron rods and concrete.
But while it appears to be business as usual at the church, the same cannot be said for thesmallbusinesses that sprouted up around it to service the tens of thousands of visitors.
Nike Adewusi, whose husband runs an informal hostel, says businesses have been badly affected. “People still come around and lodge in the facility, but you cannot compare it to the days before the collapse, when it was booked all day and night.”
The cybercafés, canteens and airport taxi drivers have also been hit hard.
Neighbours say hundreds turned out on the Sunday after the collapse – mainly the curious and devotees who wanted to show solidarity with Joshua. But numbers have since dropped off. Neighbours and small-business owners think most of the foreign visitors have put their visits or faith on hold.
Following the collapse, Joshua and his church have come in for scathing criticism in the media, especially after it emerged church officials and guards had assaulted journalists and first responders, preventing them from accessing the site, and many Nigerians have called for his prosecution.
You cannot compare it to the days before the collapse, when it was booked all day and night