Controversial Lagospastor and General Overseer of Synagogue Church of All Nations, Prophet Temitope Joshua, is currently at the centreof a crisis rocking one of the country’s foremost civil society groups, Committee for the Defense of Human Rights, (CDHR).
T.B. Joshua is alleged to be making subterfuge moves to attract CDHR’s support in the on-going criminal trial instituted against his church by the Lagos State Government at an Ikeja Divisional High Court over a 2014 building collapse which reportedly killed 116 people in his church. It was gathered that the controversial preacher who is one of CDHR financial backers had solicited the assistance of the national body of the right group in his attempt to be acquitted of charges preferred against the church and its engineers. The Lagos State government had sued the church and its engineers in 2015 for criminal negligence, after a coroner’s inquest found that the church failed to secure government approval before adding four additional floors to a two-storey guest house in its premises. The national body of the CDHR, which has allegedly benefited from T.B. Joshua’s benevolence in the past, had directed its Lagos branch to stage a solidarity rally in support of the church at the court premises. This directive was however turned by the Lagos branch of the right group which insisted that it would do nothing of such. This development, it was gathered, has therefore re-opened the fratricidal crisis between the Lagos State chapter and the national body which had detailed cases of victimization, financial impropriety and indiscipline against the executives of the state chapter. But the Lagos State chapter of the association accused the national body headed by Malachy Ugwumadu of a witch-hunt because of its refusal to mobilize members to support the founder of The Synagogue Church of All Nations, T.B Joshua, at the church’s on-going criminal trial in a Lagos court. On Tuesday 13th June 2017, the chapter responded to an invitation by officers of the State Criminal Investigation Department, Panti, by staging a rally outside the Police Department’s premises insisting they would not succumb to intimidation by the national body. The following day, the executives of the Lagos chapter of the CDHR received a notice from the national body restricting them from using the “entire facilities” at the national secretariat, including the office spaces allocated to Alex Omotehinse, the chairman, and Muyiwa Kushimo, the secretary who was recently suspended. The crisis between the parties began in mid-2016 when the Lagos chapter suspended its treasurer, Abiodun Nwafor, after she accused its leadership of financial recklessness. Nwafor had alleged that the state chairman, Omotehinse, was receiving money from the public and spending the said money without informing her office. She also accused Omotehinse of reprinting the union’s forms; selling them; issuing fake receipts and receiving monies to his pocket without proper account. She further alleged that her predecessor, Judith Ogele, refused to hand over to her financial documents more than six months after leaving office. In response to Nwafor’s allegations, the Lagos chapter constituted a committee to investigate her claims. A second committee was constituted after the complainant rejected the findings of the first one and it reported that the allegations were unfounded and recommended the suspension of the complainant. But a review of the case by the Disciplinary and Compliance Committee (DCC) showed that the Lagos chapter committee which suspended Nwafor acted beyond its brief. The DCC also established that Ms. Ogele, the immediate past branch treasurer, refused to hand over the books of accounts, receipt booklets, and cheque book to her successor. “It appears in the eyes of the two committees and the BCC (Branch Coordinating Council) that the aspects of the complaint or allegations that were unfounded constituted the acts of indiscipline; that cannot be correct,” the DCC report, signed by Debo Adeniran, the committee chairman stated. “Even when the entire complaint is unfounded, it cannot, prima facie, amount to an act that violates the spirit or letter of the CDHR Constitution. “Or is it that what seems like a call for answerability or accountability amounts to an act of indiscipline in the interpretation of the committees and the BCC?
“We do not see any complaint here that is too extraneous or inappropriate. It puts to question how the committee arrived at a conclusion that the complaints were unfounded. “If it was held that the allegation of financial misappropriation by some officers was unfounded it does not constitute a fundamental breach of the CDHR Constitution by the maker of the allegation. “We reprimand impunity in strong terms. A situation where members of CDHR cannot complain of perceived wrongdoing or injustice for fear of victimization must not be encouraged but condemned absolutely.” While the DCC cleared Omotehinse of allegations of fraud and financial misappropriation, it reprimanded him against his direct involvement and dealings with finance. On claims by Nwafor that Kushimo assaulted her and hit her on the chest, the DCC said it was a “serious violation” of the spirit and letter of the CDHR held. “Kushimo’s conduct is an affront or attack on the respect for the dignity of the petitioner, especially as a woman; the act amounts to gross abuse and violence against a woman; a degrading treatment that is far from expectation by a Comrade,” the report said. In its final resolution, the DCC recommended that the indefinite suspension handed to Nwafor be set aside; Kushimo and Ms Ogele should be suspended for 10 months and six months respectively; and Omotehinse should pen letters of apologies to both the branch and Nwafor through the National Executive Committee. Recently, however, the police invited Omotehinse for an ‘interview’ in its investigation of a “case of conspiracy, fraud, stealing, threat to life and indecent assault,” following a petition by Nwafor. Speaking during a recent Lagos chapter’s rally, Omotehinse said the crisis in the CDHR began after he turned down a directive from the national president, Malachy Ugwumadu, to attend court hearings involving The Synagogue Church of All Nations. “The only problem we have is Malachy, because we refused to mobilize our members to be attending TB Joshua’s (church) trial every hearing,” Omotehinse revealed. “They called us that they need our members, at least 100 members, that they’ll be giving them N1,000 each, that every hearing date that we must be appearing with our members, and we should carry placards, that TB Joshua’s trial is persecution. “And we say it’s not possible for a group like us. Let him honour court first, if he honours court, if truly we discover they are trying to persecute him, we’ll rise for him. “Our members mobilized counsels to the court; even some of them that went with him were complaining that they were not properly briefed. But we, as a group, we cannot attend such trial. That’s why he became hostile, began to instigate members against us.” Omotehinse admitted that although T.B. Joshua is currently “the main financier” of the CDHR, his philanthropy, which included a donation of a bus in 2013, N9.5 million in 2016, and bags of rice at Christmas periods – was not enough to call out members. “We sympathize because of his philanthropy, but it does not mean that because you’re a philanthropist and we’re a beneficiary of your kindness, we’d now support you,” said Omotehinse. But Ugwumadu said the national body’s actions were based on the report of its disciplinary committee and had nothing to do with T.B. Joshua. “Don’t forget this is an organization led by Beko Ransome-Kuti, Professor Festus Iyayi, (both of blessed memories) and Femi Falana, the integrity of what we do is at the heart of the organization,” said Ugwumadu, a lawyer. “So all those things they are saying… it’s too cheap when a person will hear that. “It is on the basis of some very serious fraudulent activities that we now had to set up a disciplinary committee to try some of them, and it is in response to that they are now trying to turn the narrative and give the impression that there is anything other than the investigations against them. “They became violent and attacked some of our members who insisted they must obey NEC decisions. That is what led them to Panti, I mean; you don’t go to Panti to write about T.B Joshua, you go to Panti when there are criminal allegations under investigation against you,” he concluded.