The advent of COVID-19 has given new currency to the word “pandemic”, and since the start of 2020 people’s eyes around the world have been opened to the fact that we are experiencing a multiplicity of simultaneous pandemics. Currently, everyone living in Nigeria is aware that there is a pandemic of incompetence, incapacity, nepotism, tribalism and mediocrity at all levels. As a result, all national indicators point to a failing state. A case in point is the recent prison break from Kuje which took place in the very heart of the country’s seat of power. However, this article is about a very different type of pandemic; the type who chose to ravage the flock of Christ and the unsuspecting members of the public.
Recent events, particularly in Nigeria, have shown that Christianity worldwide is facing a pandemic of unimaginable proportions. It is the pandemic of “men of God”, or prophets; and the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) is running out of answers to deal with the growing threat of false pastors and teachers, false prophets and charlatans who prey on the innocent and simple-minded.
Two recent events have spoken very strongly about this issue and the urgency to act decisively cannot be taken for granted. The first was the murder of a young woman by an Abuja-based pastor and his son. According to the story, the young woman was killed and her body was cut into several pieces and thrown into garbage bags. The other event was the story of 77 Church members, including adults and children, being hypnotized by their pastor, who promised them that the rapture would take place in September 2022. The crimes committed by these men and women of God include, but are not limited to rape, human trafficking, drug trafficking, human sacrifice for money and power, money laundering and counterfeiting. . Unfortunately, the evidence is overwhelming and it happens in even the most unlikely places.
These men of God are entangled in a myriad of cases of sexual misconduct. Some have been exonerated for lack of evidence, such as the case of Pastor Biodun Fatoyibo who was accused of rape by the wife of popular Nigerian musician, Timi Dakolo, and also accused of sexual misconduct by others in his church, including Else Walter. . Or, the case of South Africa-based Nigerian pastor, Tim Omotosho, who was charged and found guilty of assaulting around 30 young women in Quazulu-Natal. Or, the case of the pastor of Life and Power Bible Church, Ogijo, Ogun State, who was accused by a congregant of rape during nighttime deliverance prayers. There are also cases of human trafficking and money laundering involving men who occupy pulpits, claiming to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. Men of God, like Pastor Marvelous Odalo, who was arrested in Edo State for trafficking a 22-year-old woman to Russia for prostitution. Or, the case of Pastor Sunday Adeyemi and his wife who were arrested in Ughelli, Delta State, for trafficking a Miss Oghenefejiro Obotakpore to Libya.
In July 2021, Pastor Sabastine was arrested in Kontagora, Niger State, along with three other men for possession of counterfeit N1000 banknotes worth N15.8 million. There is also the case of Pastor Kelechi Vitalis Anozie, who was arrested in Enugu State, following a tip from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for $182,000 advance fraud. carried out against two American citizens.
Earlier this year, Christians across the country were deeply embarrassed by the high profile arrest of Rev. Ughochukwu Emmanuel Ekwem, by the Nigerian Drug Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) at Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos, with 54 cannabis sticks wrapped around it. his body. Meanwhile, he was on his way to Kenya for a three-week crusade. They deified themselves in the eyes of the members of their congregation to such an extent that men wear their faces on bracelets and necklaces, and call their names rather than calling the name of the one who shed his blood on the cross.
It is very discouraging that the litany of cases has not compelled CAN to take decisive action. It is true that the CAN has disavowed a few charlatans teaching faulty doctrines, but it has refused to develop clear mechanisms to weed out the wolves in the midst of the herd and deter potential rogue Overseers General (GOs). During a speech in 2017, former President Olusegun Obasanjo highlighted the fact that the Church is now involved in white-collar crimes through negligence and acquiescence; it has become an active player in providing cover for the concealment of criminally acquired assets and proceeds of corruption. Along the same lines, the General Overseer of the Ministry of Sufficient Grace and Truth, Bishop Seun Adeoye, remarked in February that the acts attributed to false pastors in Nigeria are worse than the chaos caused by bandits. Clearly, the Bishop was speaking on behalf of millions of Nigerians who have been burned by these men of God. Clearly, nothing would change this narrative until measured steps were taken to bring the beast back to these men and women of God. These people have such an ungodly appetite for money. Can you imagine where a prophet would ask his congregation to pay 310,000 naira for the kidnapping?
The CAN must act, it must work in agreement with the government to reduce the activities of these people to a strict minimum. In my opinion, he should push for a moratorium of at least 10 years for the opening of new churches; and prospective church founders, or GOs and their pastors must possess a minimum of a bachelor’s or postgraduate degree in theology. It may sound simplistic, but it would make these men think again. In the UK churches are treated as charities and as such their books are open to public scrutiny, so should be here. Pastors may not be permitted to use Church funds for personal needs at will. Even if they are the GOs, they must be salaried and pay their taxes like everyone else; and those prodigious personal gifts they receive should also be examined. Each Church must agree to a reporting mechanism and full and regular disclosure of Church accounts to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Crimes Commission (ICPC) for purposes accountability and transparency.
Nigerian pastors should live in such a way that, like Jesus, they can say “the devil has come, and he has nothing in me” (John 14:30); or, like Paul, they can say, “I coveted neither silver nor gold nor clothes of anyone” (Acts 20:30).
By: Raphael Pepple