No fewer than 25 persons have given eyewitness accounts bordering on allegations of sexual assault, physical abuse, faked miracles and trauma -allegedly suffered in the hands of a late Nigerian pastor, Temitope Joshua, aka TB Joshua, BBC reports Monday.
Joshua, one of Africa’s most influential religious leaders and richest pastors, had the world at his feet during his lifetime.
He was the founder of the Synagogue Church of All Nations, a 12-storey building, situated in the Ikotun area of Lagos State, where he lived alongside many of his followers.
Joshua was popular for his miracles – which ‘delivered’ people – followers and visitors – of any ailment, ranging from cancer and HIV/AIDS to chronic migraines and blindness.
The healings performed by Joshua caught the attention of a far-reaching global audience among evangelical churches throughout Europe and Africa in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Many of his followers were drawn by his philanthropy, but most came for his so-called miracles.
PUNCH Online reports that the clergy, born in 1963, died on Saturday, June 5, 2021, a week before his 58th birthday.
The cause of his death was not revealed.
However, a statement by the church said the clergyman spent his last moment on earth in the service of God.
However, the BBC said it conducted a two-year investigation, in collaboration with an international media platform – Open Democracy, which involved more than 15 BBC journalists across three continents.
The report stated that former insiders estimated that Joshua made tens of millions of dollars from pilgrims and other money streams – fundraising, video sales, and stadium appearances abroad.
The investigation centered around allegations of sexual assault, physical abuse, solitary confinement, and fake miracles, amongst others.
“More than 25 eyewitnesses and alleged victims, from the UK, Nigeria, Ghana, US, South Africa and Germany, have provided accounts of what it was like inside Joshua’s compound, with the most recent experiences in 2019.
“Testimony from dozens of survivors suggests Joshua was abusing and raping young women from around the world several times a week for nearly 20 years.” the report noted.
One of the victims who was part of the ‘disciples,’ an elite group of followers who served and lived with Joshua inside his compound; 21-year-old female Briton, Rae, gave a recount of her experience.
She was, at that time, studying graphic design at a university in Brighton, UK, in 2002.
A close friend of Rae, Carla, recalled how they both travelled to Nigeria in search of a mysterious man who could seemingly heal people with his hands. He was a Christian pastor, with a black beard, in white robes. His name was TB Joshua. His followers called him “The Prophet.”
Rae and Carla planned to visit his church, the SCOAN, for just one week. But Rae never came home. She had moved into Joshua’s compound.
“I left her there,” says Carla, tears flowing freely. “Never will I ever forgive myself for that.
“For me, it was like she died, but I couldn’t grieve her,” Carla revealed.
Rae, in her account, stated that she was gay and thought being healed by Joshua would solve her predicament.
She narrated, “I was gay and I didn’t want to be,” she says. “I thought: ‘Well, maybe this is the answer to my problems. Maybe this man can straighten me out. Like if he prays for me, I won’t be gay anymore.’”
Rae described the moment she stepped foot into the Synagogue, saying, “I had a really involuntary reaction. I just broke down in floods of tears.”
She stated that at that point, Joshua singled her out to become a “disciple.”
She had thought the clergyman would “cure” her sexuality and learn under his tutelage, but to her imagination, her thought never materialised.
“We all thought we were in heaven, but we were in hell,” adding, “And in hell terrible things happen.”
Rae narrated how she went through psychological trauma for two years, during which she was forbidden from leaving the compound, and nobody inside was allowed to talk to her., adding that she attempted to commit suicide five times.
Many of the victims said it happened frequently – as much as two to four times a week – for the duration of their time in the compound. Some described violent rapes which left them struggling to breathe or bleeding.
Many believed they were the only ones being assaulted and did not dare share what was happening to them with the other disciples, as they were all encouraged to report on each other.
Rae noted that it’s “extremely difficult to understand how somebody can go through psychological abuse to the extent that they lose their critical thinking.”
“I was basically in total isolation… I had a complete breakdown. I tried to commit suicide five times,” she said.
After spending 12 years inside Joshua’s compound, Rae returned to England.
She had slipped away from the disciples while travelling with the church on a tour to Mexico, stating, “He made a huge mistake, he lost control of me.”
Rae stated that it was only after she left that she realised that her family and friends had been sending her emails. She had never received them.
“On the outside, I look normal, but I’m not. This story is like a horror story. It’s like something you watch in fiction, but it’s true,” Rae said while she recalled the tragic trauma and the impacts it’s had on her.
She expressed her disappointment that Joshua didn’t wait to face the consequences of the atrocities he had committed before his death.
“TB Joshua dying before facing justice for the atrocities he committed, has been deeply frustrating. It’s only added to the gross sense of injustice felt by all of us as his victims,” she noted.
BBC stated that it contacted SCOAN with the allegations in the investigation. They did not respond to them but denied previous claims against Joshua.
“Making unfounded allegations against Prophet TB Joshua is not a new occurrence… None of the allegations was ever substantiated,” the church stated.
The BBC stated that former followers have previously tried to speak out about abuse, but say they had been silenced or discredited by SCOAN, while two said they were physically assaulted.
When the BBC’s Africa Eye was filming outside the church, a security guard shot above the heads of the crew after they refused to hand over their material, the report noted.
A Nigerian, Bisola, who was also a ‘disciple,’ stated that she was raped multiple times by the late clergyman.
Bisola, who spent 14 years inside the compound, added that she was asked to recruit virgin girls into the disciple fold under threats of violence.
“TB Joshua asked me to recruit virgins for him… So that he could bring them into the disciple-fold and disvirgin them,” she revealed.
Bisola told the BBC that courting Westerners was a key tactic employed by Joshua
“He used the white people to market his brand,” she said.
The report stated that many of the young people who left their home countries to meet Joshua in the early 2000s didn’t pay for their tickets.
It added that Church groups across England raised funds to send pilgrims to Lagos to witness these miracles – and Joshua contributed Scoan money himself, senior former church insiders said.
Later, once the church was well established, Joshua charged high prices for pilgrims to come and stay.
A broadcast journalist in Namibia, Jessica Kaimu, narrated that she was raped by Joshua at the age of 17, in the bathroom of his penthouse, within weeks of her becoming a disciple.
She stated that Joshua wasn’t moved by her screams, saying, “I was screaming and he was whispering in my ear that I should stop acting like a baby… I was so traumatised, I couldn’t cry.”
Kaimu noted that she was raped for five years throughout her stay as a disciple.
A woman who craved anonymity stated that it happened to her twice before the age of 15.
“It was so painful, he violated me. Words cannot properly express it. It scarred me for life,” she said.
The report noted that there were accounts by four of Joshua’s male personal servants who were given the job of clearing up the physical evidence of this abuse.
“We’d never… seen anything like that before,” said a journalist who covers African religion, Solomon Ashoms, adding, “The mysteries that he had, the secrets that he carried, [were] what people followed.”
Another victim, Victoria (not real name), stated that she spent more than five years in the compound, adding that some victims were often hand-picked by Joshua from the church congregation.
While recounting her ordeal, Victoria said she was picked out while attending the church’s Sunday school, and says she was raped in Joshua’s private quarters a few months later, after her parents entrusted her into his care.
She was later recruited as a resident disciple.
Victoria said Joshua ordered some of his most trusted Nigerian disciples to help identify new victims, identifying the group which was informally known as the “fishing department.”
A former South African disciple, Sihle, narrated that she had three forced abortions in the church.
Sihle said, “You are given a concoction to drink and you get sick. Or they put these metal pieces in your vagina and they extract whatever. And you don’t know whether they’re [accidentally] pulling out your womb.”
The investigative report noted that the disciples served Joshua’s every need, from massages to helping him dress, and spray his perfume when he entered the room.
They also placed plastic gloves on his hands so he could eat his food without touching a crumb.
A man once regarded as Joshua’s number two in the church, Agomoh Paul, who left after 10 years in the compound, revealed that the whole miracle thing was scripted.
“That guy [was] a genius. Everything… [he did was] planned out,” Paul stated.
A major part of this planning was the faking of the “miracles” said Paul, which he noted he oversaw.
He and other sources say that those “cured” had often been paid to perform or exaggerate their symptoms before their supposed healing took place.
In some cases, they say, people had been unknowingly drugged or given medicine to improve their conditions while at the church, and later persuaded to give testimony about their recovery. Others were falsely told they had tested positive for HIV/AIDS and that, thanks to Joshua’s ministrations, they had now become virus-free.
Paul also noted that Joshua “wanted to control everybody, everything. What he was really scrambling for [was] the control of people’s minds.”
The disciples said they were made to work, without pay, for long hours each day – running all aspects of the megachurch. All say sleep deprivation was routine, with lights left on in the dormitories at night, the report stated.
The church, which is still in operation today, is led by his widow, Evelyn.
In his lifetime, Joshua attracted dozens of politicians and celebrities to his church.