The most potent combination to set off a scandal are money, power/influence and sex. Where these elements are present, scandals are never far away and nobody, not even those addressed as “Men of God”, is insulated. This is why the church in Nigeria, like in many other places, regularly erupt in wounding scandals and controversies. Newsbreak serves you the 10 biggest church scandals in Nigeria’s contemporary church history
Christ Embassy And Stolen Money
He looks and dresses like a matinee-idol, but Christ Embassy founder, Pastor Chris Oyakhilome, is a negative headline-generating machine.
The church itself is viewed with suspicion by the larger Pentecostal family, which prefers to exclude him from the Pentecostal Federation of Nigeria, a situation that has not noticeably hurt his church’s crowd pulling power. Scandals tend to hug Oyakhilome the way his designer jackets do his body.
Last year, he was the subject of a marital meltdown when his pastor wife, Anita, initiated divorce proceedings against him in London. He is also regularly accused of stage-manageing miracles, a development that led to the halting of his Atmosphere of Miracles on national television by the National Broadcasting Commission.
Christ Embassy was, however, hit by arguably its biggest scandal in 2003. That year, a cashier with the Lagos Sheraton Hotels and Towers stole his employers’ N39million and donated it in instalments to the church. On account of his generosity to his ministry, the church wrote the cashier a letter of commendation personally signed by Oyakhilome, who concluded it with” God will notice you”. But it was the police that noticed the cashier and got him arrested to the embarrassment of the whole church. A few months later, another church member donated stolen N10million to the church.
The member also stole from his employers. The development inspired a cover story by TheNEWS magazine titled “Pastor of Thieves”
COZA’s Multiple Sex Scandals
Until 2013, the church was mostly known to residents of Abuja, where it is located. Its founder and leader, Pastor Biodun Fatoyinbo, had built an large army of followers in and around the Federal Capital Territory. But that year, the fresh-faced pastor and his church hit the limelight nationally when a church member, Esse Walters, came up with a wounding allegation that she had a romantic relationship with Fatoyinbo. The church member, who claimed she was forced out to speak by the guilt eating her up, also said the pastor asked her if she wanted alcohol before their first sexual encounter.
To the allegation, Fatoyinbo promised a “robust response,” which the public is yet to hear three years after. Similar allegations of ministering between the thighs of church members followed. Reticence from the pastor also followed.
Benny Hinn’s $4m “Stealing” Crusade
American evangelist, Benny Hinn, is unlikely to have very fond memories of his 2005 visit to Nigeria. Hinn, who arrived Nigeria aboard his Gulfsteam 111 jet hoping to see six million worshippers per day over three days, as promised the local organising committee of the crusade, left the country a distraught man.
For the three days the event lasted at the Redemption Camp, a total of about one million people attended. Hinn sank $4million into the crudade. Jon Wilson, Vice President of Benny Hinn Ministries, said $3million was spent on the provision of accommodation and technical infrastructure, while $1million was gulped by the local organising committee.
“Four million dollars down the drain,” Hinn blurted out of the final day of the crusade. He was also quoted as saying: I’m not happy at all. We expected a larger crowd because we were told that we would have millions of people in attendance at this crusade. This crusade that cost our minstry $4million should have cost $2million.”
The scandal sparked accusations and counter-accusations among members of the local organising committee headed by Bishop Olanrewaju Obembe of El-Shaddai Bible Church and forced the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria to expel him and others who served on the committee, of which most members said they were not aware that money was provided for them to work with.
The Winners Chapel Civil War
In 2004, Bishop George Adjeman, head of the Ghanaian arm of Winners Chapel founded by Nigeria’s Bishop Oyedepo, decided it was time for the church in Ghana to stop acting as a vassal to the parent church.
Adjeman attempted a breakaway, complaining that the Ghanaian arm was sending $60million to Nigeria monthly. He also complained that he had worked for Oyedepo for 18 years and had nothing to show for it.Oyedepo moved to curtail the rebellion by ordering the church in Ghana to dismiss Adjeman.
The church was split down the middle. The executives of the church transferred Adjeman, but he refused to leave. The matter resulted in litigation with an Accra court prohibiting members of the church from congregating on the church premises or anywhere in the country.
Lord’s Chosen’s N317m Dispute
Ten years ago, a bitter war erupted between Pastor Lazarus Muoka of the Lagos-based Lord’s Chosen Charismatic Revival Ministry and a former member, Pastor Nnamdi Ofoegbu, who had gone to set up his own stall- Christ Chosen Generation Revival Ministry.
Ofoegbu was demanding the sum of N317 million from Muoka, which he claimed he invested in the church at inception. He described the sum as an an investment based on an unwritten agreement between them and took the matter to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC. “What I am asking for is the fulfillment of the agreement we both entered into, an investment into the work of God, for which there will be profit and returns. We both agreed that I invest my life savings and that we are going to reap it many fold when the time comes. I believed him and I invested all that I had including the one that did not belong to me. When the time of harvest came he started finding faults with me to embarrass me and frustrate me out of the church,” Ofoegbu alleged. Not surprisingly, Muoka rejected the allegation and took his case to the police, alleging that his life was being threatened by his accuser.
Ashimolowo’s Financial Misdemeanours At the Kingsway International Christian Centre
Headquartered in London, the church and its founder had a run-in with the UK authorities in 2002 and 2005, forcing Pastor Matthew Ashimolowo to relocate to Nigeria. Investigation into the matter centred around the church’s charity, The King’s Ministries Trust. The Charity Commission of England and Wales turned in its report in October 2005, with unflattering revelations that there was serious misconduct and mismanagement in the administration of the charity. At the beginning, it was considered that the charity’s assets were at risk and its control was placed in the hands of KPMG.
Ashimolowo was found to have been responsible for approving payments and benefits to himself and his wife totalling more than £384,000. It was also found that he and his family had received benefits from the Charity that included free accommodation for himself and family and £80,000 car and made personal purchases using the charity’s Visa card, including the purchase of a timeshare apartment in Florida for £13,000. Similarly, it was found that over half a million pounds was paid out to Ashimolowo’s private companies, which were operated from church property and had unclear business relationships with the charity, while Ashimolowo acted as both a trustee and a paid employee of the charity. He was ordered to repay £200,000.
Deeper Life Wedding Dress Saga
Aside occasional jokes about the strictness of its doctrines and the widespread belief that its founder, Dr, W.F Kumuyi, once ordered members of the Deeper Life Christian Ministries to throw away their television sets, the church hardly attracts attention. But one day in June 2013, the church and its publicity-avoiding leader were the subjects of savage online derision.
The church, or more accurately, Kumuyi, found itself in the gunsight of critics when photographs of Kumuyi’s daughter at her wedding ceremony showed the bride wearing a conventional wedding dress, something his father’s teaching opposes. The daughter had her hair partly covered, wore earrings and make-up, while the sleeves of her dress were short and transparent-all forbidden by the church.
Critics rounded on the father, who was accused of making one rule for church members and another for his own kids, provoking embarrassment in industrial quantities.
Internet forums whooped with joy, as commenters were convinced they had found a hypocrite. The man offered to resign his headship of the church, but was prevailed upon. He would later tender an apology over the matter.
Household Church Of God: Kris Okotie’s Divorce, Marriage, Divorce
Kris Okotie’s Household Church of God has licit claims to being Nigeria’s hippest church. Founded by a Okotie, a retired pop star, and attended by a bevy of pop stars and the hip generation, it is a fertile ground for scandals and controversies, the biggest of which have been the collapse of Okotie’s first marriage, second marriage to a divorcee with children and the quick collapse of the second marriage. In between the marital meltdowns was a widely publicised feud with his Chris Oyakhilome who, on account of his friendship with the maverick TB Joshua, he branded a shaman. There was also the not exactly small allegation of meddling in the marriage between hip-hop star Soul E and his celebrity partner Queen Ure. And of course, the claim that God told him he would be Nigeria’s president in 2003; a claim that got Pastor Tunde Bakare to say he probably meant the president of Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria.
Synagogue Church Building Collapse
Even for a man accustomed to controversy, Prophet TB Joshua of the Synagogue Church of All Nations was mightily embarrassed by the tragic collapse of a hostel in his Lagos-based church in September, 2014. The tragedy claimed over 80 lives, mostly South Africans. Joshua’s response was to first blame it on blame that flew over the church just before the incident, a claim he attempted to reinforce by releasing CCTV image of the plane.
While addressing the press on the incident, he also got into some trouble for offering each journalist present N50,000 as transport fare, something construed as an attempt to shape the narrative. What followed was the hollow claim that he predicted the incident and told his followers what to do. Presumably, that included assaulting emergency officials and journalists by his church members.
RCCG: Adeboye’s Jet
For a man widely admired for his simplicity-no snazzy suits, foreign accent and pulpit theatrics-Pastor EA Adeboye got many red-eyed in 2009 when the news broke that he had joined the nation’s league of jet owners bought by the church at a speculated cost of N4billion.
It sparked an almighty controversy in the traditional and new media, sharply dividing the public into for and against columns. Critics said he was leaving the class of humble pastors for the class of the gaudily ostentatious.