T.B. Joshua: Prosecute SCOAN leaders, stakeholders urge Nigerian government

STAKEHOLDERS have called for the prosecution of leaders of the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) for allegedly covering up atrocities its founder Temitope Balogun Joshua committed, as revealed in a documentary by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).

They made this call during a panel discussion and a screening of the 90-minute documentary on the preacher’s alleged crimes by the BBC in Abuja on Monday, January 8.

The panellists, including Ghanaian journalist Anas Anas and Esther Alaribe, described the findings as a wake-up call, while some others in attendance called for the prosecution of leaders of the SCOAN.

Speaking on the issue, human rights activist Abiola Akinyode-Afolabi decried the inaction of the government in the face of previous allegations of abuses against the late pastor and demanded that the church leaders be held accountable for the crimes committed.

“This is not only about Joshua. It is happening everywhere. Whether in the mosque, church or anywhere. The violations are going on. And for me, what this has brought out is the enormity of the kind of crime that is going on in the communities and the fact that the state is also conspiring.

“The man walked free on the streets of Lagos when he was a criminal. When so many allegations were made against him, the state decided to look away. If he is not held accountable, the state should be held accountable for this. There are councils; they are registered by the Corporate Affairs Commission. People need to be compensated and the council of the church must be held accountable. Beyond him, there were other people in the church who saw what he was doing,” she said.

The BBC investigation, published in collaboration with the international media platform Open Democracy on Monday, revealed that Joshua raped, tortured, and compelled many of his members into forced abortions, among other human rights abuses he perpetrated.

The investigation, conducted over two years, began shortly before Joshua’s death, with about 25 former church members and disciples narrating their ordeal at his hands.

His victims were of various nationalities , and one of them, a British woman identified as Rae, said she was 21 when she first became Joshua’s disciple after leaving Brighton University in 2002.

She spent the next twelve years of her life living in Joshua’s residence with other disciples, where she was subjected to various forms of abuse, including some sort of solitary confinement.

Another ex-disciple Abisola, who spent 14 years living in Joshua’s residence, also alleged that she was raped throughout her stay.

In 2014, a guesthouse located within the church where worshippers from various parts of the world often stayed collapsed, killing about 116 people.

Joshua had attributed the collapse to an aeroplane hovering above the building minutes before it fell.

However, ex-disciples disclosed that the collapse resulted from a structural defect. Families of those who died in the process were offered huge sums of money by the church and warned against speaking to the media about the incident.

Those who refused the money were threatened until they were forced to accept.

Some survivors tried to report his actions to security operatives in Nigeria and abroad, but these yielded no result.

Stakeholders at the event also urged religious bodies such as the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) to begin to hold their members accountable for their actions.

What can CAN do?

Speaking at the event, Archbishop of The African Church Peter Ogunmuyiwa disclosed that CAN and NIREC had limited capacity to address such issues. He said the body was not legally equipped to regulate or penalise religious institutions.

He urged the government to investigate the allegations and noted that religious bodies wished that errant leaders would be punished.

He said the excesses by some religious leaders would not be contained until the government comes up with legislation to stop them.






     

     

    “As of today, there is nothing we can do. These types of issues worry us. But there is little we can do because we do not have laws backing us to act. I believe that if it is possible, let there be legislation to regulate so that people will not just be behaving anyhow. You can’t just come up today and say you are a pastor.

    He also said the possibility of a posthumous trial should be explored to serve as a deterrent to other religious leaders involved in similar acts.

    Allegations such as these against Joshua were on for years before his death, but he was never prosecuted for them.

    In addition to his popularity on the global scale, Joshua also enjoyed goodwill from many well-placed Nigerians, including politicians. Following his death in 2021, the Nigerian Senate held a minute’s silence in his honour during plenary.

    Ijeoma Opara is a journalist with The ICIR. Reach her via [email protected] or @ije_le on Twitter.

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