On Saturday, March 1, 2014, a joyous crowd of 823 people gathered at the Benin City Assembly Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses to mark a milestone in Nigeria. Since 1999, when the arrangement to build Kingdom Halls in lands with limited resources began, Jehovah’s Witnesses have built 3,000 Kingdom Halls in that country.
The meeting featured a brief history of the work involved in providing meeting places for congregations in Nigeria since the 1920’s. At first, private homes and rented halls were used. The earliest record of a place in Nigeria used exclusively for meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses is of a hall built in the city of Ilesa, about 1935. Between 1938 and 1990, the number of congregations increased almost 200-fold, from 14 to 2,681, and many of them struggled to find places to meet. Some Kingdom Halls were shared by six congregations. Elsewhere, the number attending was too large for the hall—people had to stand outside and listen to the meetings through the windows. Meanwhile, many congregations still met in private homes and school classrooms.
In 1990 the branch office of Jehovah’s Witnesses began to support the construction of halls by providing loans through the Kingdom Hall Fund. By 1997, Regional Building Committees had helped 105 congregations to build or renovate their halls. The years 1997 to 1999 saw 13 halls constructed that typically took between 7 and 15 days to complete.
Even this increased pace of construction was inadequate to keep up with the growth in the number of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Nigeria. In April 1998, the branch office estimated that 1,114 Kingdom Halls were needed in the country.
Speaking at the special meeting in Benin City, Don Trost, a member of the Nigeria Branch Committee, told the audience: “It was a monumental task! We wondered, ‘How will we ever complete it?’” Starting in 1999, the question was answered as Kingdom Hall Construction Groups of six to eight members assisted congregations around the country. Using simplified designs, they have built an average of 17 halls every month for the past 14 years.
After commending the audience for what had been achieved, Brother Trost pointed out that there is still much to do. During 2013 the average number of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Nigeria increased by over 8,000. “To meet the future growth, another 100 Kingdom Halls will be needed every year,” he said. In 2013 there was a peak of 351,000 Witnesses in over 5,700 congregations in Nigeria.