Redeemed Church Pastors In N600m Scam

Four years after its conception by some members of an Abuja parish of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, a housing scheme for members of the church has taken the appearance of a fraud in the hands of three pastors and two sidekicks.
Peter Imonhiosen, Adeola Oluwafemi Johnson and Cosmas Mbanu, all pastors of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, RCCG, Mr. Sunday Adeagbo, a lawyer, and  Mr. Femi Shobola were arrested last month by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, following a petition that accused them of diversion of funds paid by church members for a housing scheme. CONTINUE AFTER THE CUT

Back in 2009, members of the Resurrection Chapel, a parish of the Redeemed Church of God in Lugbe, Abuja, were presented with the prospect of owning property in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT. The project was initiated by a group, which calls itself Excellent Men Fellowship. The group kicked off the process of acquiring plots of land from the Federal Capital Territory Development Authority, FCDA,
The Excellent Men Fellowship, EMF, which is made up of adult male members of the Resurrection Chapel and led by one Pastor Bisi Akande, urged the entire congregation to support the scheme which they did. But before the process was completed, Pastor Akande was transferred from the parish and his successor was Pastor Imonhiosen, whom he turned over the bank statements for the contributions to.
Shortly after Akande’s departure, the FCDA granted approval for and allocated parcel of land for an estate at Pyakassa in the Abuja Metropolitan Area Council, AMAC. By early 2010, the acquisition was completed and the church called a meeting to give members who had paid an update.
At the meeting, which held in March, 2010, subscribers were told that each of them was entitled to a plot measuring 600 square metres and each subscriber was to pay N250,000 net of all taxes. Subscribers were directed to pay into an account at the defunct Oceanic Bank (which has since been swallowed by EcoBank). Within a short time, the account started bulging with money.
Crisis began to brew shortly after Imonhiosen, under whose tenure the land was handed over to the church, was transferred to another parish and was replaced by one Pastor Adeleye. Imonhiosen was said to have been piqued by his transfer. Sources within the church told this medium that Imonhiosen, abetted by Shobola, EMF President, and Johnson, the chapel’s assistant pastor, who doubles as the Chairman of the Resurrection Chapel’s Land Board, launched a plot to wrest the control of the scheme from the church.
Church sources said the handing over notes Adeleye got from Imonhiosen were devoid of information on the  scheme. Adeleye’s efforts to take over the leadership of the scheme, as it is customary, were thwarted by Shobola and Johnson.
Adeleye was angered by Johnson’s involvement in the plot to take the scheme from the church and responded by sending him on transfer to a “small” RCCG parish in the Kuje Area Council of the FCT. It did not achieve Adeleye’s aim, as Johnson, Shobola, who still remained at the parish, and Imonhiosen hung on to the scheme. Shobola proceeded to register the scheme as Redeemer Excellent Men Housing Foundation, an entity with trustees, at the Corporate Affairs Commission. It was issued a Certificate of Incorporation No. CAC/IT/ NO. 0502. Shobola and his cohorts, naturally, emerged as members of the Board of Trustees. This was done with neither the knowledge nor consent of subscribers, whose contributions were used to procure the land. With this move, the pastors and church leaders removed the project from the control of the church.
Their whims began to dictate the direction the project would take. The first sign of this came via the alteration in the previously announced size of the plots. From the 600 square metres initially promised, the size was reviewed to 500 square metres.
In 2011, the pastors invited subscribers to another meeting, where it was announced that the cost of the plot allotted had risen to N1.5 million. The steep rise was attributed to what the pastors claimed was the high cost of infrastructure facilities planned for the estate. All the former allocation letters were again withdrawn, with a promise of reallocation upon payment of the new rate.
At one of the meetings between subscribers and the management committee, Pastor Johnson informed them that his committee had spent N162 million on the estate. He claimed that N80 million went into the acquisition of the land, while N82 million was expended on perfecting the title. These claims were not accompanied by any proof.
He then pushed his luck too far when he told allottees that they entered into a contract with the management committee upon the acceptance of their allocation papers and warned them against speaking to the press on matters relating to the estate. He then told those who believe they have better ideas in the management of such a scheme to go and set up theirs.
With that, subscribers flew into rage, yelling and violently demanding evidence in support of the claims made, especially that of infrastructural development and the matter spilled into public domain via the press.
Following media reports, the General Overseer of RCCG, Pastor Enoch Adeboye, dispatched a team led by one Pastor Pitan Adeboye from the church’s headquarters to investigate the matter and audit the accounts of the project. Adeboye also directed that a caretaker committee be set up to take over the management of the scheme.
The leadership of the church in the North implemented Adeboye’s directives and set up a caretaker committee under the leadership of Pastor Amos Dele Babade, Provincial Pastor of FCT Province 4, with Mr. Sule Paul, a legal practitioner and church leader, as secretary. With the sacking of Imonhiosen, Johnson and their gang members, the caretaker committee recovered some of the scheme’s properties. These include a brand new Toyota Hilux truck, certificate of incorporation used to severe the scheme from the church as well as documents relating to the project land and bank statements.
However, the caretaker committee displeased subscribers when it announced that funds had been sourced to pay off those who missed out on plots, as directed by Adeboye. Subscribers angrily asked how the borrowed funds would be repaid and by whom since the church had washed its hands off the scheme. They also wanted to know how money realised thus far was spent by the sacked board before real progress could be made. They feared that successful subscribers at the housing scheme would later be asked to contribute more money for the repayment of the loan and as such, demanded to know how and where the funds were sourced and at what terms such would be repaid.
This necessitated another meeting, which was attended by a Deputy Inspector-General of Police from the Force Headquarters, who was invited by the caretaker committee to forestall the outbreak of violence.
At the meeting, the caretaker committee explained how members of the ousted management committee frustrated its efforts to resolve the crisis by their introduction of an outstanding bill of N75 million, which they claimed were owed to contractors for work done on the estate. The new bill was submitted by Imonhiosen’s team after the caretaker committee said it had secured N40million for the reimbursement of those who completed payment, but were not given plots.
The caretaker committee accused the sacked board members of deliberately frustrating the church’s genuine efforts to take over and resolve the issues at the scheme and suggested the arrest of Imonhiosen and his gang.
The police duly obliged. But upon their arrest by policemen from the Lugbe Police Station, the caretaker committee handed back all the recovered items, including bank documents, to the sacked board without any explanation.
This irked the subscribers, who accused the church leadership of abetting the pastors. Thereafter, the subscribers set up a committee to fight their corner. The subscribers’ committee challenged the caretaker committee’s handling of the issues and demanded a copy of the investigation report as well as the audited report sent from the church’s headquarters.
Threats of legal action followed, prompting a disclaimer from the church.
•Another section of the estate. Where are the infrastructural developmentOn 15 May 2013, the disclaimer published in THE PUNCH warned the general public that RCCG Region 10 has no hand in the Redeemer Excellent Men Housing Foundation (the new name the project was given) and warned that the church has no liability for the activities of the operators of the scheme. The disclaimer, signed by Sule Paul’s law firm, also warned that the use of the name of RCCG on the letterhead and receipt of the scheme as well as on the signboards of the scheme’s various sites, was done by the operators in their bid to misinform the public. The church, however, kept the Toyota Hilux truck it recovered from the ousted committee.
It was on account of the dissatisfaction with the way the church leadership has handled the matter that some subscribers petitioned the EFCC. The petition, signed on behalf of over 200 subscribers by their lawyer, Rotimi Adalumo, accused the ousted board of embezzling about N600 million through series of accounts opened and managed by Pastor Johnson and his friends.
It called on the EFCC to compel them to render full and detailed account of their stewardship from 2009, when the scheme came into being, and retrieve the original land documents of the housing scheme from the church officials.
Acting spokesman of the EFCC, Wilson Uwujaren, confirmed receipt of the petition, but declined further comments because the allegations are still being investigated.
An investigation or even prosecution of the accused may not deliver the reprieve that subscribers desperately seek. This is because the Federal Capital Development Authority deems the estate an illegal development and has marked it for demolition. This development has provoked further questions on the N82 million the pastors claimed was spent on regularising the title to the land.
As at press time, Pastor Johnson, who had earlier been fingered in an N8 million scam at his former post in Calabar, has been released on administrative bail. So have Imonhiosen, Adeagbo, Shobola and Mbanu. They have been directed to report daily at the EFCC pending conclusion of investigations.

Source: PM News

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