Business Woman Accuses Prophet Of N5m Scam | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Business Woman Accuses Prophet Of N5m Scam

Posted: Jul 11, 2015 at 12:52 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

“You cannot say that anyone is gullible for parting with money to fix a problem until you face a similar situation and act differently.”  

That was how a businesswoman, Ms. Rita Okoro, described her condition as she narrated how a Prophet, whom she described as her ‘spiritual father’, allegedly defrauded her and her family of over N5 million on the false pretence that he would assist them secure the release of their brother who had been detained by the police in Lagos since January 15, 2015 on suspicion that he was an informant to a kidnapping gang.

The said Prophet is the General Overseer of a Pentecostal ministry (names withheld) in Ogba, Ikeja, Lagos.

According to Ms. Okoro, her predicament started in January following the arrest of her brother, one Afam Nriezedi, by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Lagos State Command of the Nigeria Police and the refusal of the police to either charge him to court, grant him bail or allow his family access to him.

She said that after the family had tried everything possible to secure Afam’s release to no avail, they approached the Prophet in whose church they then worshipped, for assistance, “believing and trusting him as a true Prophet and our spiritual father”.

She said the prophet “accepted to assist, assuring us that it was a ‘small problem’ compared to previous more difficult cases he had helped other people to solve.

“He (Prophet) immediately brought out his phone and called somebody he told us was a top police officer at the Force Headquarters, Abuja. He then told us that he needed to travel to Abuja to see the top police officer and assured that he was in a position to assist us to transfer our brother’s case to Abuja and make it easier to have him released from there.”

She continued: “The next day he called and said that he had spoken with his police contacts in Abuja as well as a lawyer. He then demanded the sum of $4,500 which, he said, would cover his air fare and other logistic costs, as well as lawyer’s fee to secure the release of my brother.”

According to Ms. Okoro, in the desperation to secure the release of her brother, their family kept yielded to the prophet’s request.
“I deposited the sum of N1, 000,000 into the Prophet’s Zenith Bank account number (number also withheld as the initial sum on January 29, 2015.

“Following the Prophet pressure and warning that delay in making further payments would jeopardise the headway he had already made in his effort to secure the release of my brother I deposited another N300,000 on March 10; I deposited N1 million on March 16 and another N1 million on March 19. On different occasions, in the Prophet’s church and in his house, I also gave him the total cash sum of N1,700,000, which covered further expenses he incured during the several trips he made to Abuja in pursuit of my brother’s release.”
Ms. Okoro said she later found out that the Prophet did not do anything to aid her brother’s release.

According to her, on one of the days the Prophet spoke to her on phone to tell her he had travelled to Abuja, she ran into him in Lagos traffic.
She said it was at that point her family became convinced that the Prophet was taking advantage of their brother’s plight and exploiting their desperation to have him released as well as betraying their trust in him as a man of God and severed relationship with him and subsequently sought the intervention of the Network on Police Reforms in Nigeria (NOPRIN).

Okechukwu Nwanguma, National Coordinator of NOPRIN, said its investigation revealed that “the Prophet neither gave any money to anyone, not even the lawyer he claimed, nor even made any attempt to locate and/or secure the release of Afam from unlawful custody and suffering.”

Nwanguma said that after his organisation stepped into the matter, the Prophet called and informed Ms. Okoro that a police team from Abuja was coming to Lagos to take over her brother’s case and that the team would like to meet with the family. This, he said, contradicted the Prophet’s earlier position that the case was already being handled by Abuja.

He added that when a member of the Okoro family, Ngozi, a sister to Rita, met with the said Police team from Abuja at a hotel in Ikeja, they asked her to make a statement that Afam was arrested in a beer parlour, contrary to her initial statement affirming that Afam was arrested at a hospital in Ikorodu where he had gone for surgery.  “They also asked her not to mention that they gave any money to the Prophet in connection with the case”, Nwanguma said, adding that NOPRIN had demanded that the Prophet refunded all the monies he collected from the Okoro family.

In a letter dated June 9, 2015, NOPRIN gave Babalola two weeks to refund all monies he collected from the Okoro’s failing which it would recourse to other lawful means to retrieve them.

Efforts to get the Prophet to react to the allegation proved abortive, but a letter by his lawyer, Adekes Solicitors, dated June 15, 2015 had asked NOPRIN for time to “collate his documents”.

Adekes Solicitors added that their client was misled and asked for time within which a meeting would be held between the parties.
On June 24, 2015 NOPRIN replied Adekes Solicitors giving them until July 1, 2015 to arrange the meeting where the issues would be resolved.
However, following the expiration of its deadline to the Prophet and his lawyers’ failure to arrange the meeting, NOPRIN has petitioned the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) in a letter dated July 6, 2015 asking the commission to investigate the Prophet with a view to recovering the money he allegedly swindled the Okoros.