By CHIOMA OKEZIE-OKEH and NGOZI UWUJARE
You know about a tale of two cities. Well, here is a tale of two strange pastors: one named Idoreyin Effiong Akpan and the other, Prophet Chibuzor Nwachukwu. They are all married and have children. They live and minister to congregations who respect and adore them. They don’t belong to the same church, denomination, or ministry, though. Neither do they come from the same ethnic group or live in the same city in Nigeria. They are just united by the fact that they are called and seen as revered men of God who, like Caesar’s wife, should be seen to live above moral board in all they do and say, because lesser mortals look up to them.
But recently they did something that placed a big question mark, in the eyes of well-meaning people, on their ministerial calling as well as a sense of propriety or morality. While Nwachukwu, founder of Divine Joy International Ministry, Igando, Lagos, is being accused of hypnotizing one of his elders’ daughter said to have a fiancé waiting for her somewhere, with a plan to turn her into his second wife and leaving his wife and children out in the cold, Pastor Akpan of Foundation of Pillar Church, Calabar, who incidentally is also being accused by his wife of keeping a suspicious immoral relationship with one of his church members’ daughter, in his own case, went a step further to allegedly sell his two children for N300,000. The incident and monetary transaction which is said to have been taken place at the office of the Imo State Criminal Investigation Department, Owerri, is, right now, causing some ripples in Calabar.
The accusation and denial
Welcome to a strange world. Not all pastors, not all men of God are like that, for sure. But as the saying goes, sometimes there could be bad eggs in every crate of good ones. Take the case of Prophet Nwachukwu, for instance, who is being accused of hypnotizing Chioma, the 26-year-old daughter of one of his church elders, Patrick Abaziem, and swearing that he will not leave her until death does them part. Though in a chat with Saturday Sun, he vehemently denied the hypnotism and abduction charges coming from the lady’s father, insisting that they are in a love relationship, pure and simple and that he intends to marry her as his second wife, he is at loss, to explain to his elders and congregation, what part of the Bible, justifies his action. The result is that it has put his wife and family in a big dilemma, as you read this. The question then becomes: are they, in all honesty, to support or not to support a relationship they know may end up kicking them out of the matrimonial home?
Chioma’s parents said to be active members of the church are alleging that the prophet who is married with four children is out to destroy not only the life of their daughter by deceiving her into becoming his second wife but also the peace of their home. According to the state police command spokesman, CSP Muyiwa Adejobi, the founder of the church, Nwachukwu went to Igando Police Station to report that the lady’s family is accusing him of abduction. This Prophet Nwachukwu flatly denies. Expressing his frustration, the father of the girl, Elder Patrick Abaziem told Saturday Sun that his daughter who has a fiancé already waiting to get married to her was hypnotized by the prophet. And, this is why they are fighting to release her from his grips before it’s too late.
Abaziem’s story and lamentation
His story: “I joined that church about four years ago and was appointed an elder. I normally coordinate church service when the Prophet is not around. Along the line, I left in 2019 because I was not comfortable with some things going on there. I later returned after the elders of the church pleaded with me. I have a beautiful daughter who is a student at Maritime School at Magbon, Badagry. About six years ago, she got pregnant and had a son for one of the students. But, luckily, the young man agreed to marry her. And, to show his seriousness, his family came and presented a keg of wine which I accepted. The man and his family have been catering for my daughter and her son since then. He even rented an apartment for her close to the school.
“Meanwhile, the prophet employed my daughter as his secretary in the church. I noticed an unusual movement between him and my daughter. Three Sundays ago, I drew his attention to my observation and advised him as an elder to remove her as his secretary to avoid temptation. But he told me that he is above temptation. The following day, he came to my house and asked me if I see anyone that wants to marry my daughter would I accept? Knowing where he was going, I told him that I have an in-law already and that my daughter has a son for the man. He got angry and said that he wants to marry my daughter. We were shocked as Christians and asked him about his wife. He said that if his wife makes noise about it he would evict her from the house. This is a woman with four children for him. The following day my daughter left the house and we assumed that she moved to the flat that was rented for her by her fiancé.
“But when we discovered that that wasn’t the case we started panicking and reached out to the Prophet. My wife reached out to his wife. She said that it is a well-known fact by everyone in the church and that she is hoping that we would hold our daughter back. We all gathered at the church to look into the matter. My daughter who is still working as his secretary was also there.
“Suddenly, the wife of the Prophet went to the altar and started swearing. She accused my daughter of seducing her husband. She said that it is the reason her marriage is shaking. My daughter went to beg her and said that the Prophet took her to Badagry beach where they took a blood oath that they would remain together forever. After that confession, she disappeared. The following day, the Prophet reported the matter at the Igando Police Station, human rights department and we were summoned. When we arrived, he accused us of threatening his life because he told us that he wants to marry our daughter. The policewoman asked him if he is not married. He kept quiet but his wife who was also there answered: ‘I am his wife and I have four children for him.’
“They took his statement under caution and kept him behind the counter and we left. He managed to bail himself that day and came back. I have told this man to leave my daughter alone. You have your wife and children and my daughter has her own fiancé. He said that he is going to marry my daughter because my in-law is not serious. He said he will marry her whether I like it or not. The men leader called me and said he heard what was happening. It was through him that I learned that my daughter is not his first victim as he has also slept with church members’ wives.” Saturday Sun could not independently confirm this allegation.
According to Mr. Abaziem, the church elders, embarrassed by the unfolding shameful drama that could affect the church’s public image, summoned them for the settlement of the problem. “It was on a Sunday. I came with some family members and friends to bear witness for me since it has become a police case. After church service, the elders called him for a meeting. Initially, he refused, arguing that the matter is between him and my family. I refused. Finally, he agreed to be part of the meeting.
“During the meeting, I begged him to face his wife and leave my daughter alone. I said he is a man of God and should not encourage adultery. He said he is angry that my wife and I accused him of sleeping around with church members. He bragged that he decided to use his power and money to get my daughter and there is nothing anyone can do about it. He said this in the presence of everyone.”
Asked why he accused the man of God of hypnotizing his daughter and how he knew he was hypnotized in the first place, he said: “It is clear that it is not normal because I do not see why my daughter would choose a married man to the father of her son who is willing to marry her. If it is wealth, the Prophet has nothing to offer her. In the course of our meeting to find a solution to the problem, my wife kept begging him to leave our daughter alone. At a point, when he was about to storm out of the meeting, my wife tried to stop him by standing in his way. The Prophet pushed her aside. I moved in quickly to prevent him from beating up my wife. Thereafter everyone left. But later that day, policemen came to my house and served me a letter of invitation noting that the Prophet said that I fought him in the church. I went there the following day and they detained me. I paid N5000 for bail. Since then we have not seen our daughter, Chioma, except at the police station.”
Told that Chioma is an adult who is old enough to make decisions for herself, Abaziem said that he is aware of that but as a father, he knows that the Prophet is out to destroy his daughter’s life and future. “I have only two children and Chioma is my eldest,” he explained. “I love her so much and wish her well. I know that she will regret her action in the future and I don’t want that to happen. The Prophet claims to be a man of God. But I wouldn’t know why he has decided to deceive my daughter. He has a wife and four children who live with him. I am only fighting to save my daughter from the man who is deceiving her in the name of God.”
Men’s leader, Prophet’s wife’s angles to the story
Affirming Abaziem’s claim, the church men’s fellowship leader simply known as Friday said that originally he heard rumour about the immoral relationship between Chioma and the Prophet but did not take it seriously. “I joined the church three years ago and when I heard the rumour, I confronted the Prophet,” he said. “I told him that nobody is above temptation and that he should do something about it. The most embarrassing part of it is that it is the daughter of a member of the church. He got angry and asked me to mind my business. It was then that I called Mr. Abaziem and told him what I observed. When I learned of the blood oath that he took with the girl, from his wife, as elders we summoned a meeting. The aim of the meeting was to beg the Prophet to reverse the oath so that Chioma can go back to her father’s house. But that meeting broke up when we couldn’t reach a consensus. We ended up at the police station because we were all summoned by the police at Igando Police Station. If he is a real man of God, he should not be involved in such activities.”
On Wednesday, February 10, 2021, when one of the Saturday Sun reporters visited the church to get more facts on the case, she was told that the Prophet was not around. But not long after, his wife came out and was greeted by her children who were just coming back from school. She asked the reason for the visit and was told. She explained that she just returned from a trip. “You can see that I am barefooted and those kids that I hugged are my children,” she said. “The Chioma of a person is not living in our house. She was at the police station that day.”
Asked what she knows about the case, she answered, “I do not know because I was not there. Please, my husband did not abduct Chioma. If he comes back, I will tell him that a journalist came to look for him,” she said with a mischievous smile as she walked back into the compound. A female resident who overheard the conversation chipped in: “That woman is suffering and smiling. She was chased out of the house and came back today. Go inside, the Prophet is in the house.”
This was soon proved to be the case when a text message was sent to the Prophet requesting an answer to some issues raised. He replied, “Meet me at the Police Station tomorrow (meaning Thursday) by 11 am.” Assured by the reporter that she would be there, he followed it up with a question: “What do you want from me?” Contacted also through her phone, Chioma confirmed that she has a case at the police station. “If you want to know anything, come to the police station. I hope you know that I am an adult and have the right to make decisions,” she noted.
Drama at Igando Police Station and the police position
Though it was supposed to be an 11 am appointment Saturday Sun got a hint that the meeting had been shifted to 9 am. Few minutes to the time, Prophet Nwachukwu, casually dressed, walked into the place in the company of a beautiful young woman later identified as Chioma. He paused, gazed at her for a few seconds, and then planted a kiss on her forehead. That one is for those who feel angered by a matter they know nothing about, he seemed to say. Then he quickly placed a call and was overheard saying to someone at the other end of the phone: “I am at the police station, about to see the DPO. Kindly, come quickly.”
One of our reporters who were observing him closely sent a message to him requesting an audience with him. On receiving the text, he read it and smiled. He then showed it to the people milling around him and said in Igbo: “O nweghi onye ga-napu m Chioma (No one can take Chioma away from me).”
At this juncture, the lady hugged him from behind after reading the text too but was cautioned by a policewoman who reminded her that the station is observing social distance. Then the DPO stepped out from his office to beckon them into his office. After the meeting, the Prophet who had earlier agreed to present his own side of the story said he has his constitutional right not to discuss anything with the press. Pressed further to talk, he added that he does not mind whatever may be published in the paper concerning the case.
Somewhere at the station, Chioma’s younger sister was seen crying profusely behind her mother while she tried to console her. She momentarily stopped and walked up to Chioma and the Prophet’s entourage. Chioma stopped to talk to her sister with her hands in a prayerful position as if she was begging her to take it easy.
“The lady in question 26,” Adejobi said when asked what the police intend to do about the case. “She was invited and she confirmed that she was not abducted by anyone. They settled the matter and everyone left. On February 3, the pastor rushed to the police station again to allege that the lady’s parents came to the church to harass him over their daughter. We don’t know what the parents are dragging. Someone that is more than 18 is an adult. She can think and make decisions for herself. If she is going to the Pastor’s house with her consent, there is no crime committed there. From our investigation, the girl is an adult and can think for herself.”
Story of the sold children
But not so the two children: Greatness, 2, and, Abraham, one-and-a-half-year-old, belonging to Pastor Akpan, 33, and his wife, Mfon. They were not old enough to think for themselves. So, their father and two other persons, one Esther Ekong, 60 and another accomplice, Madam Love Sunday Umoren, at the moment, at large, decided to think for them. In the end, they decided they were worth selling for N300, 000. Many residents are said to be trying to make meaning out of the incident which is said to have occurred sometime in October 2020.
Ironically and surprisingly, the transaction was said to have taken place inside the State Criminal Investigation Department of the Imo State Police Command, Owerri, where the two children were handed over to buyers. The Cross River State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Sikiru Akande, told Saturday Sun that the ugly incident was later reported at Atakpa Police Station, Calabar. Thereafter, the case was immediately transferred to the State Criminal Investigation Department, Cross River State Police Command to look into. The suspect, Pastor Akpan was arrested on October 22, 2020, while one of his accomplices, Ekong, was arrested in January 2021. The prime suspect, Madam Umoren who hails from Essien Udim Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State is said to be still at large.
Pastor Akpan confesses, admits culpability
Pastor Akpan who hails from Ikot-Ekpene Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State admitted culpability in a chat with Saturday Sun. Asked why he, a man of God, did the unthinkable, he explained: “I got married to my wife in 2016. I have two children, Greatness and Abraham. I am one of the pastors at Foundation of Pillar Church, Calabar. I started my pastoral work in 2019. I and my family lived on the church premises from March till September 2020, before I got one apartment. My wife is stubborn and has no patience. She abandoned me and the two children for two months on the church premises until I got an apartment at No. 7, Ansa Street, Calabar.
“But on October 8, 2020, about a month after we packed in, I took my two children from the house in the presence of my wife. I took them to Madam Esther’s house. She assisted me to feed them with Indomie and egg. I told her that I was looking for someone to take good care of them and she promised to introduce me to someone in Owerri, Imo State. That was how she took me to Owerri to meet the agent, one Madam Umoren. She took us inside the State Criminal Investigation Department office at the Imo State Police Command Owerri. The agent introduced me to one of the lawyers that were there and they gave me a document to sign, which I did. I was given N300, 000 and shared the money. I took my own share of N150, 000 and Madam Esther took N100, 000 while Madam Umoren was given N50, 000.
“After that, I left Owerri for Calabar. But when I got home, my wife asked me about the whereabouts of my children. I lied to her that I took them to the person who will take care of them. She wanted to know who the person is and where they were taken to. When the pressure became too much, I confessed to her that I have sold them. To convince her, I showed her my portion of the money paid for their purchase. She became angry, no, mad, and started quarreling with me. She held on to my clothes and insisted that I must take her to see her children. In anger, I used a cutlass on her. She fell down and went into a coma.
“Our neighbours reported the matter at Atakpa Police Station, Calabar. That was how the police arrested me. I confessed to them that I sold my children. I led them to Madam Esther’s house in Calabar. They arrested her too but Madam Umoren is yet to be found. I have handed over my own share of N150, 000 to the police.”
Accomplice confirms Akpan’s story
Ekong who hails from Eket Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State in her confession, confirmed most of what Pastor Akpan said: “I know Pastor very well,” she said. “He brought his children to my house. One of them was sick and I quickly bought drugs for him and later prepared Indomie and egg for them. But later he told me that he needed someone to take good care of them. That was how I took them down to Owerri. I called one of our agents, Madam Love who took us to the State CID office where we struck a deal and handed over the two children to the buyer. We were paid N300, 000. My own share was N100, 000 and Pastor went back to Calabar. But some weeks after, I was arrested in Calabar by the police.”
Akpan’s wife narrates her ordeal
Pastor Akpan’s wife, Mfon, 26, and the children’s mother confessed that she is yet to recover from the shock. The woman who hails from Uyo Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom told Saturday Sun how the tale of the unexpected unfolded. “I got married to my husband in 2016,” she said. “I am a teacher by profession. It was in October 2020 that I saw my husband take our children away from the house. But after waiting for him for one week without seeing them, I got apprehensive. Then he later came back without them. I just lost it when I didn’t see my children. I asked him where they are and he started speaking in tongue. I couldn’t understand what he was saying. I ran to my neighbour to help me ask him where were my children are. We started fighting and he used cutlass on me. He nearly killed me and I think he wanted to kill me. It was at that point, that my neighbours reported the matter at Atakpa Police Station.
“But it was not true that he told me that he sold the children. What happened is that it was when the police seriously interrogated him that he confessed to me and them that he has sold the children. Asked how much he sold them he said N300, 000. Before this incident, I once had a serious quarrel with my husband when I suspected he was having an affair with Madam Esther’s daughter. But when I confronted him, he denied it. This was what prompted me to abandon him and stay away from the church premises when he refused to get his own apartment. He is not a responsible man, a pastor in the church for that matter. Given what he has done, I don’t want to go back to him again. All that I want is my children.”
CP Akande who revealed that police detectives are still trailing Mrs. Umoren and will, eventually catch up with her, added that investigation into the case is ongoing. The suspects, he said, will be charged to court to face the wrath of the law as soon as the investigation is over and done with.
•With reports from LAWRENCE ENYOGHASU and VERA WISDOM-BASSEY