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Nothing will change our loyalty to T.B. Joshua – Worshippers

In the early hours of Monday, January 8, the British Broadcasting Corporation released a three-part documentary where former disciples of the founder of the Synagogue Church of All Nations, the late Prophet Temitope Balogun Joshua, popularly known as TB Joshua, accused the deceased prophet of various forms of physical abuse, manipulation, and performing fake miracles.

They had also accused him of allegedly raping women, and orchestrating forced abortions in the church.

Even before his death at the age of 57 in June 2021, two months after he was said to have suffered a stroke, the prophet had been plagued with many controversies.

The former disciples, in the three-part documentary which lasted for over 50 minutes each, also accused the prophet of covering up the real reason behind the collapse of the church’s guest house in 2014. Official data pegs those killed in the collapse at 116 of which 84 persons were said to be South Africans.

But despite the damning revelations by the late cleric’s former disciples from different nationalities including South Africa, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, and Nigeria, followers of the prophet seem unperturbed by the accusations.

* Business as usual

Contrary to the reactions the BBC documentary generated on social media platforms over the allegations, the Ikotun-Egbe area of Lagos State where the church is located buzzed with commercial activities when Saturday PUNCH visited the area on Wednesday. People went about their businesses as though they were unaware of the controversies that have trailed the man even three years after his death.

The different shops opposite the church selling different items like clothes, and drinks operated like nothing had happened. Music blared from a restaurant close to the church as some men walked in to have some bottles of beer to quench their thirst occasioned by the heat wave that followed a brief rain.

Also, a betting shop was packed full of young men. Nothing seemed off in the area. For residents of the area, it was life as usual.

Large photos of the late prophet and his wife were seen on T. B. Joshua Street which leads into the church.

Although services were only held on Sundays in the church, adherents of the late prophet’s doctrine were allowed to pray on the church street while the church itself remained locked.

Our correspondent saw some of the worshippers praying in front of the late cleric’s photos. While some were seen praying loudly on the street without their footwear, others were seen touching the faces of the deceased prophet and his wife displayed in a large banner on the street before beginning their prayers.

Only church workers were seen going in and out of the church.

Saturday PUNCH findings showed that there are two types of workers in the church: disciples, who worked directly with the late prophet and also lived in the church, and other workers employed to discharge responsibilities in different departments like sanitation, medicals, and food, among others.

A former worker, who did not want to be named, told our correspondent a weekly workers’ service was held every Tuesday.

In 2021, the church disclosed in a publication on its website that it received over 50,000 visitors weekly in the once-a-week church service that was held only on Sundays in its expansive church premises.

This was also corroborated by data released by the Nigeria Immigration Service which indicated that six out of every 10 foreign travellers who came into Nigeria were SCOAN-bound.

Also in 2018, a tourism expert, Gbenga Onitilo, during the Nigeria Travel Week, disclosed that “SCOAN in Ikotun receives the highest number of tourists in Nigeria. It is a city on its own.”

Our correspondent also gathered that the church offers accommodation to worshippers inside the church but at competitive rates in dollars which covers seven days, two meals a day, and other amenities.

Depending on the type of accommodation, the fees for a seven-day stay range between $800 for shared bunks and $4,000 for a five-star standard room. The VIP rooms at SCOAN cost between $12,000 to $15,000 per week, an online resource, destinali.com, revealed.

When our correspondent arrived in the area in the afternoon on Wednesday, the reporter was accosted by a man identified as Uche and his wife, who had assumed that our correspondent had come to stay for the week to attend the church’s service.

Beside him were others actively looking out for people who came to worship at the church but could not afford expensive hotel accommodations. Checks showed that hotels in the area cost around N15,000 per night.

The dark-skinned middle-aged man, who had apparently drunk alcohol from the smell of his breath, told our correspondent that nothing had changed since the BBC documentary was published as people still flooded the area searching for solutions to their problems at the church.

Our correspondent was taken to a hostel accommodation with bunk beds for six persons in a poorly aired and barely lit room at the rate of N2,000 per night.

Inside the room was another lady, Janet, who came from Abuja and had spent two weeks in the hostel in search of a miracle and said she was still hopeful for one.

Sharing her opinion in light of the recent allegations she said she was unmoved.

“That’s how it usually is, even right from when the ministry started. Just forget about what they are saying. Whether good or bad, anything social media, I don’t believe. Don’t be discouraged,” Jane told our correspondent thinking she was talking to a potential convert.

She added that she was committed to the church and followed it.

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“I always follow them on Emmanuel TV. We only do services on Sundays, before then, if you want to pray you walk around the church premises and pray.”

As our correspondent was about to leave the room, another worshipper arrived from the North to take part in the church’s activity.

However, Uche advised our correspondent to make her reservation early, warning that all the cheap accommodations close to the church would be fully booked before Sunday.

The President of Pilgrims Hostels Association of Nigeria, Ikotun, Adedayo Adekanbi, told our correspondent that though patronage had been low since the death of the SCOAN founder, the allegations against the late cleric would only cause curious people and worshippers to flood the area in no time.

He said, “Since T. B. Joshua died, things have been very slow but the wife is trying. People are still lodging but it is not like it used to be when the man of God was alive.”

“Although there is no programme currently going on in the church now when the general overseer announces any programme, you will see people trooping out en masse to attend.”

“All our agents are still lodging people. You know, it is a church of God. No matter the condemnation, the church has come to stay. I don’t believe in whatever people are saying to blacklist the man.

Also, a receptionist in one of the hotels located along the street of the church who identified herself as Jennifer described the allegations as “good business” for traders in the area.

“Any time you hear this kind of news, be prepared to see a large crowd of people coming here and it is good business for us too,” she added.

Worshippers unfazed

A resident, Mrs Folasade, did not hide her staunch support for T. B. Joshua when Saturday PUNCH visited her. At the entrance of her house on a street just opposite the church was a large imposing but fading photo of the late cleric. To further show her devotion to the man and his doctrine, she had what looked like an identity card bearing T. B. Joshua’s face.

The elderly woman happily brought out the ID card which was partly covered by the wrapper tied to her chest when our correspondent asked if she was a member of the church.

“You don’t even need to ask,” she said proudly as she pulled it out.

Despite the negative report, Mrs Folasade is among the countless worshippers who believe the late Ondo-born prophet could have done no wrong.

She said, “It is not the first time that we would hear those kinds of things about our pastor. It won’t stop us from being loyal to him. This Sunday (tomorrow), you will see for yourself whether the news will stop you from receiving your healing so that you can confirm what we say about the church.”

Another worshipper, identified as Tope, claimed that the accusers were jealous of the SCOAN founder’s generosity.

Speaking with our correspondent, she said, “Those people (former disciples) were talking nonsense. I will continue to follow T.B. Joshua. Do you know what T.B. Joshua has done for foreigners?

“He built schools for them and trained their children in the best universities. They (the former disciples) just want to collect money. If the Synagogue decides to use one as a scapegoat, the lies will stop.

* I benefited from his kindness – Ex-worker

The late Joshua was widely known for his generosity. On several occasions on Emmanuel TV, he was seen giving cash, food, and scholarship gifts to indigent people.

One of such who benefited from his generosity but didn’t want to be identified  told Saturday PUNCH that she was a former worker.

Recalling her days in the church said, “On Tuesdays, we had workers’ service and that service alone was more than what some churches have on Sundays. Sometimes on that Tuesday, everyone was sure of getting something to go home with. It got to a point where it seemed like it was our way of life.”

She also revealed that she also was a recipient of one of his scholarship programmes.

Speaking further she said, “No one needed school fees and it got to him and he didn’t provide. Some of the people who took part in that (BBC) interview were people who made the process difficult.

“If he approved money to be given to someone as school fees and it went through them (the accusers), there was a 90 per cent chance that the real beneficiary would not get the full amount, that is if they would get any at all.

“My first-year school fees came from him. Some of those people accusing him were the ones who didn’t let me get the full sum I was supposed to get. He gave me N95,000 cash but I didn’t get the others because of the people who were in charge.”

According to her, the only allegation against the late T.B. Joshua that she could agree with was his anger issues.

“I lived in a discipleship for six months. The only part I agree with is that he had anger issues. When he got angry, everyone took cover. I even remember that once, he told the church to pray for him that he had anger issues.”

Another resident, Chima, who operates a tricycle in the area said though he was not a member of the church, he did not believe the documentary.

“The thing is that people are looking for ways to bring down the church but the church is progressing. Since the man died, a lot of people have been saying bad things about him.

“It is going to be three years since the man died and they’re bringing up these allegations. Who will answer them? If you are here to get deliverance, receive your deliverance and go your way,” he told our correspondent.

However, despite media reports quoting the church as saying that the individuals who spoke in the BBC documentary were not known to it, the Public Affairs Director of the church, Dare Adejumo, told Saturday PUNCH that SCOAN had not released any comment officially.

Asked if the church would ever respond, he said, “I cannot say exactly because they are still on it.”

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