They deserve pension – SSNIT tells Lighthouse as it begins investigations

THE Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) has launched investigations into complaints against the Lighthouse Chapel International (LCI) following the church’s failure to pay the pension contributions of six pastors who have resigned from the church.

The six former employees have also sued the church for failing to pay their mandatory pension contributions and abuses they say they suffered while they worked in there.

Before filing their case in court, the six had petitioned the head of prosecutions at SSNIT in a letter dated February 1, 2021, over the LCI’s failure to adhere to “basic” labour regulations.

While four of them had parts of their contributions paid, two of them did not have even one month of their SSNIT contribution paid. In fact, two of the pastors did not even have SSNIT numbers.

All the six say their employer did not pay their tier-two pension contribution, which is also mandatory, according to Section 63 of the National Pensions Act.  

L-R: Larry Odonkor, Emmanuel Oko Mensah, Edem Kofi Amankwa, Seth Sarpong Duncan, Edward Laryea, and Faith Fiakojo. They have resigned from Lighthouse and have sued the church for violating their rights

In a three-page letter to Lighthouse, sighted by The Fourth Estate, SSNIT said its preliminary investigations had confirmed that Lighthouse Chapel International was required to respect the law mandating employers to pay pension contributions for their workers.

“The LCI is an organization registered under Act 766 hence had a responsibility and obligation under the law to ensure that all workers were registered and contributions paid on their behalf at all times, whether they were in Ghana or outside the country,” part of the letter, dated May 5, 2021, said.

Before the case got to SSNIT, some of the affected pastors had tried to resolve the issues outside the attention of pension regulators. Bishop Larry Odonkor had engaged a labour consulting firm, Gamey and Gamey, to get the church to correct what he initially thought was an anomaly caused by oversight.

The CEO of the firm, Austin Gamey, spoke to a senior official of the church, who reportedly assured Mr. Gamey of getting back to him but never did. Other senior officials of the church were contacted but those attempts at resolving the matter proved fruitless.

Mr. Austin Gamey told The Fourth Estate that resolving the issue out of the earshot of a judge is always preferable. To him, sitting down for diplomacy is always better than standing in a docket for prosecution.

After a month of running into brick walls over his client’s concerns about his pension, Mr. Gamey wrote officially to the church, notifying the leadership of a potentially criminal failure in the non-payment of social security contributions.

Failure to pay pension is a criminal offence that has landed many individuals and organisations in trouble. In 2013, for instance, a former presidential candidate of the Convention People’s Party (CPP), George Opesika Aggudey, was jailed for the non-payment of pension contributions for his workers.

The letter Austin Gamey wrote to Lighthouse in July 2020, asked for a response within two weeks. It carried the usually mundane but veiled threat of “exercising our legal options.”

The church did respond, but it was after two clear months to a letter that had given the church a two-week ultimatum. Like the stonewalls of a lighthouse, the Lighthouse Chapel International remained unmoved by the threat.

The church said in its reply dated September 29, 2020, that it did not owe Bishop Larry Odonkor any social security contributions beyond five out of his nearly 18 years of service.

Larry Odonkor and five other former ministers of the gospel who had also resigned decided to escalate the matter.

“We had hoped it wouldn’t come to this,” Larry Odonkor said, “but we are prepared to fight for what is due us.”

They reported the church to SSNIT, which has begun its investigations and written to the church for a response.

In the case of Larry Odonkor, the church had said in its response to Austin Gamey’s letter that it did not pay his pension contribution for the period in contention because he had worked for the church either as a volunteer or in the Lighthouse Chapel International branches outside Ghana and the church was not obliged to pay his SSNIT contributions.

“The Lighthouse Chapel International Ghana is legally, financially, administratively, and governmentally independent organisation from other LCI ministries outside the borders of Ghana and only shares a spiritual relationship with the others,” the church said in the letter signed by its Human Resource Director, Mrs. Rebecca Addae.

But SSNIT has responded to the church’s claim of volunteerism, saying the church had an obligation to pay SSNIT contribution because “an employer and employee relationship had been established between the pastors and LCI, taking into consideration all the factors and circumstances relating to their engagement and the conduct of that relationship.”

The SSNIT letter listed a number of factors that the national pension body said confirmed that the pastors were entitled to the payment of their pension contributions.

The reasons include the fact that the church “decided when and where a pastor should be moved to at any point in time and took all decisions as an employer in the regulation of the activities of the pastors.”

“These pastors provided regular reports on every income and expenditure to the finance office in Accra in a format provided by the head office,” SSNIT said. “The leave days of the pastors were also scheduled by the Human Resource office of the LCI.”

In its letter to LCI, SSNIT has asked the church for a contributions report, which should state the salaries and SSNIT numbers of the affected pastors.

“This will afford us the opportunity to generate the respective outstanding indebtedness of social security contributions and any penalty thereof,” the letter ended.

While investigations are ongoing, the six former employees have also sued the church for “abuse and exploitation” they suffered when they laid halted their professions and took up a calling in full-time Christian ministry.

The case is yet to be heard at the Accra High Court.

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story shall not be republished or broadcast, in part or in full, in any form or shape without the express permission of the Editor-in-Chief.

You can reach the writer of this story, Edwin Appiah, via email at [email protected] You can follow him on @edwinologyLB

YOU MAY BE INTERESTED IN:

Darkness in a lighthouse: Pastors recount abuse and trauma (Pt.1)

Darkness in a lighthouse Part 2: “Suicide attempts, begging pastors”

Darkness in a lighthouse (Part 3): “Bishop Dag prayed for strength for me to divorce my wife” 

They deserve pension – SSNIT tells Lighthouse as it begins investigations

24 COMMENTS

  1. It didn’t have to come to this.
    Pride goes before a fall.
    A cult that prides itself on bring exclusive and private now has all their business in the streets.

    The Supreme Court will rule against the church. They’ve humiliated themselves but also shown that they don’t have the Spirit of Christ but the bullying and lying spirit of Lucifer.

    It’s a wow

  2. If the church had been the real church, we wouldn’t be seeing this in the public. Indeed judgment will begin in the house of God! May the loyalists be discerning kakraa!

  3. What a shame to read about…a whole church scamming its members of their contributions which is basic and yet we’re sooo pompous and arrogant thinking we’re above the law. Missionaries are crying in people’s countries just destroying people’s destiny in the name of working for God…lmao

  4. These guys must be given compensation for the trauma. It shouldn’t be too expensive to pay the pastors comfortable wages and benefits, especially where it’s them that help generate contributions for the church. If you know how much Light house makes every year in a certain country alone, you would wonder why and who holds all that money for themselves only, or a few favoured ones

  5. I’m a member of the church, I can say that what these men are saying is true.

    It is not Christlike to let men on whose backs you make money to beg you for their SNNIT.
    They tried to speak to the church for almost a year and no one would talk to them. Treating them as though they’re not human beings. Larry was told he was a volunteer so they don’t need to pay his SNNIT.
    Where is the love as a church? How did we get here, you try to bully people because you’re big, it will only cause anger in these men, they have broken their backs for you all their youthful lives, transfer upon transfer, leaving their wives with no profession and their children with no classmates, THEY ARE NOT ASKING YOU TO DASH THEN MONEY,THEY ARE ONLY ASKING FOR THEIR SEVERANCE AND YOU RUBBISH THEM .
    They didn’t just get up and brought it to social media, they’d been trying to talk to the church , THEY HAD COME TO THE PLACE WHERE THEY HAD SIMPLY HAD IT. After 20years they decided to just walk away with nothing, their benefits unpaid for and they were not trying to take the church on, they were just asking for their SNNIT so they can walk away quietly to start a new life and you deprive them of that ? THIS IS WRONG!!!!!!!
    GOD HATES OPPRESSION AND ABUSE which comes from stronger people.

    When the Labour lawyer, wrote to the church, the same attitude was given him, that’s just how the church operates and they have done it to people who have been sooo afraid to take them on .
    Let us stand for what is true as Christians and say that yes, we love our church but THIS IS WRONG AND NOT CONDONE IT cos if this is done to you, you would know know painful it is.

    • If Lighthouse has done anything wrong to the pastors may it be corrected. Wrong is wrong. However, with that being said I do not agree with it going to Social Media. How can you speak certain things against someone whom you once said is your spiritual father? Pray for that person and let God deal with him.

  6. I’m a member of the church, I can say that what these men are saying is true. This is not to betray any church. We are Christians and should be able to say that this is WRONG and not condone it.

    It is not Christlike to let men on whose backs you make money to beg you for their SNNIT.
    They tried to speak to the church for almost a year and no one would talk to them. Treating them as though they’re not human beings. Larry was told he was a volunteer so they don’t need to pay his SNNIT.
    Where is the love as a church? How did we get here, you try to bully people because you’re big, it will only cause anger in these men, they have broken their backs for you all their youthful lives, transfer upon transfer, leaving their wives with no profession and their children with no classmates, THEY ARE NOT ASKING YOU TO DASH THEN MONEY,THEY ARE ONLY ASKING FOR THEIR SEVERANCE AND YOU RUBBISH THEM .
    They didn’t just get up and brought it to social media, they’d been trying to talk to the church , THEY HAD COME TO THE PLACE WHERE THEY HAD SIMPLY HAD IT. After 20years they decided to just walk away with nothing, their benefits unpaid for and they were not trying to take the church on, they were just asking for their SNNIT so they can walk away quietly to start a new life and you deprive them of that ? THIS IS WRONG!!!!!!!
    GOD HATES OPPRESSION AND ABUSE which comes from stronger people.

    When the Labour lawyer, wrote to the church, the same attitude was given him, that’s just how the church operates and they have done it to people who have been sooo afraid to take them on .
    Let us stand for what is true as Christians and say that yes, we love our church but THIS IS WRONG AND NOT CONDONE IT cos if this is done to you, you would know know painful it is.

    • The church has long lost its love and compassion. The most shameful thing is seeing other bishops and members post those #IStandWithBishopDag stuff, when wrong has clearly been done these gentlemen and their families. Sad

  7. It’s been a while now since this whole thing started, we’ve been waiting for the church to come out and speak and still we’ve heard nothing.
    Do they really have anything to say? I DON’T THINK SO.
    They are a powerful institution and will not allow anyone to drag their name in the mud but it looks like the only thing they had to say were the videos of the pastors which only confirmed that they were loyal workers for Bishop Dag.
    WE ARE STILL WAITING FOR A RESPONSE FROM THE CHURCH TO SAY THAT ALL THAT THESE PASTORS ARE SAYING ARE NOT TRUE.

  8. May God open the eyes of anyone who calls him/her selves a believer to behold Christ. So many MOG/WOG of the 21 century have abandoned the great commission, if not we won’t be experiencing this kind of scandal in the body of Christ. Nevertheless, the word of God stands for sure. Him there4 who’s sitted upon the throne of grace/judgment , that sees the heart of men, will reward everyone according to their deeds. He’s the only one who knows the truth about this matter and He will judge accordingly.

  9. I don’t know what is wrong with our founders. How much is this ssnit contribution that LCI can’t afford that such a simple case should come his far? Honestly, I support the pastors. They have exausted all necessary avenues for peaceful settlement

  10. The reality has dawned on these 6 “men of God”. Now they have seen the light after they had been deceived for far too long. I thought they always felt their reward was in heaven?
    Is it because of their dismissal which made them see the light? I say this and will say it again, these churches have been set up to milk the society and everyone who goes close to them. They are all the same. Nobody, I repeat nobody has ever seen God yet people are deceived to think these so called priests are superhuman and see God. What an amateurish way of thinking? Sadly enough, even graduates to the phd levels all fall victims to these tricksters calling themselves priests. I rest my case.

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