Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Pastor in Nigeria arrested over allegedly swindling followers of $1m

A Nigerian pastor has been arrested over allegations he fraudulently got people to part with their money.

Theo O Ebonyi, well-known in Benue state, is accused of swindling his followers and others out of more than 1.3bn naira ($930,000; £740,000).

He was detained and freed on bail last year, but this has only just been made public, the anti-corruption authority spokesperson is quoted as saying.

Mr Ebonyi said the news was "fake" information spread by bloggers.

He did not comment on the allegations against him.

Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) allege Mr Ebonyi asked his victims to pay a $1,300 fee each to access a $20bn grant from the US-based Ford Foundation.

It, however, says that the foundation did not offer such a grant.

"Investigations by the EFCC showed that the Ford Foundation had no arrangement, grant, relationship or business with Ebonyi," the agency said in a statement.

"The foundation pointedly disclaimed him and his NGO stressing that it had no link whatsoever with them."

The EFCC also alleges that Mr Ebonyi, who runs Faith on the Rock Ministry International church, used the fraudulently acquired funds to buy five properties.

He is set to be charged in court after the investigations are finalised, the EFCC says. It is still unclear exactly what charges he will face.

In a video statement Me Ebonyi posted on Facebook around the same time as the EFCC announced his arrest on X, he said the news of his detention had been made up by "bloggers... trying to use my body to make money... that is a very big fake news... it's not true".

But EFCC spokesperson Dele Oyewale told Punch newspaper that Mr Ebonyi was on bail having been arrested and then released last year.

"He had been arrested over a long period of time, but because of the investigation that we were doing, we did not issue any statements," the spokesperson is quoted as saying.

By Gloria Aradi, BBC

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