The rising cost of maintaining four private jets has forced flamboyant Nigerian pastor, Bishop David Oyedepo, to set up a commercial airline that uses four airplanes that had hitherto served as part of his private fleet.
Last year, as staff costs, fuel prices and landing fees escalated, Bishop Oyedepo had contemplated selling two of the jets. But when no buyers were forthcoming, he turned to Plan B: to set up Dominion Air and put the jets to commercial use.
A senior church source told Saharareporters that each of the jets cost Bishop Oyedepo some $1,000 per hour in parking fees and maintenance.
Oyedepo, whose specialty is “prosperity ministry,” has amassed a huge personal fortune with vast holdings in real estate as well as investments in education. Last year, he achieved international notoriety when SaharaReporters highlighted a Youtube video in which he slapped a hapless young woman who said she was not a witch but “a winch for Jesus.”
Bishop Oyedepo, who is called “Papa” by his church members, is also planning to build a multimillion dollar college in upstate New York, according to a source familiar with the pastor’s desire to expand his business empire across the world.
Already Bishop Oyedepo owns one of the most expensive universities in Nigeria – Covenant University – where students are banned from using mobile phones or wearing “sinful” dresses to class.
Oyedepo has become stupendously rich by collecting tithes and hand-outs from wealthy congregants, many of them public officials whose source of wealth is questionable. Forbes magazine recently estimated that the bishop is worth $150 million. Ironically, most members of Bishop Oyedepo's congregation, especially indigent worshipers who are ferried from the slums of Lagos and other cities in American school buses converted to “Holy ghost” transportation, cannot imagine much less afford the luxurious lifestyles reserved for the bishop and his household.
Most Nigerians, including members of Bishop Oyedepo's congregation, live on less than a dollar a day.
A source involved in the setting up of Dominion Air disclosed that the airline will offer executive jet services that would charge users up to $10,000 per hour. The source said that Oyedepo has plans to purchase additional aircraft to expand his profile in the aviation business.