Nigerian Pastor Solomon Folorunsho Accused of Sexual Abuse Goes Unpunished

“He would send pictures of us or of the children, asking us to look sad. He was saying that white people are so emotional.”

solo 1

Benin City (Nigeria) (AFP) – In southern Nigeria, an evangelical pastor runs a sprawling camp billed as a refuge for thousands of children who fled the Boko Haram jihadist insurgency in the north.

Solomon Folorunsho, known as Pastor Solomon, says he is on a self-proclaimed mission to help humanity, creating the International Christian Centre for Missions (ICCM).

His camp in Benin City claims to provide accommodation, medical care and education for 4,000 children, “most of them orphans”, as well as 500 widows and missionaries, using funding from local institutions, NGOs and churches abroad.

solo 2
Pastor Solomon claims to have “seen Jesus”

But witnesses AFP interviewed across Nigeria — children, their relatives, former missionaries and social workers — paint a far darker picture of the pastor and the treatment of those in his care.

“At first he’s very subtle, quiet — like somebody who wouldn’t hurt a fly,” one former church worker said of the charismatic preacher.

“I loved him, I loved his charisma.”

But during months of interviews, witnesses detailed how those living at his 30-hectare (75-acre) facility frequently go hungry and thirsty and endure atrocious hygiene conditions.

All accused the pastor of physical abuse, while some accused him of sexual harassment

Pastor Solomon, aged in his 50s, admits having problems with food and sanitary conditions in the camp but denies any mistreatment.

“There is no bad treatment here. We don’t do abuse,” he told AFP.

“Feeding them is a challenge… but we don’t have anything to hide. We are helping humanity.”

Concerns about the camp have a long history. Three years ago, the UN children’s agency UNICEF sent an assessment team to the site, who filed a report with damning conclusions.

Pastor-Solomon-with-Governor-Obaseki
Pastor-Solomon-with-Governor-Obaseki

“Pastor Solomon runs this camp as if it is his ‘kingdom’. He controls the movement and actions of every person in the camp through a group of ministers and specially selected children,” the team wrote in the confidential report, seen by AFP.

The UNICEF investigators said what they saw, coupled with interviews with children, caregivers and NGO workers, prompted “strong concerns regarding the possibility that Pastor Solomon may be engaged in sexual activities, or at a minimum, displaying grooming behaviours with girls in the camp”.

Pastor-Solomon-with-Oshiomhole-and-his-wife

Witnesses said that around a dozen young girls work for the pastor as his personal servants and receive preferential treatment.

“A girl who refused to work for him was punished and starved. When he beat you, he wouldn’t stop until you bled seriously,” said Rahila, a 16-year-old girl who left the camp several months ago.

“He had names that he called different girls… He would comment on the size of my butt, and he would say our chests looked like pineapples or stuff like that,” she said.

All the witnesses’ names have been changed to protect their identities.

Other children and adults said that those who upset the preacher were treated brutally.

“I was always hungry, there was never enough food or water. When we complained we got beaten with anything he could lay his hands on,” said 12-year-old Hauwa.

“No one leaves Pastor Solomon without a scar — whether it is psychological or physical,” a former follower told AFP after hesitating at first to talk about his ordeal.

Convincing people to talk about their experiences with Pastor Solomon is a painstaking task. Some have refused to speak out for 20 years.

solo 4

“Most of the girls were coming from poor homes. They would sleep with him and in exchange he would pay for their school fees,” said a former female victim.

She said her going to the authorities about the abuse she experienced and witnessed was out of the question in a country where powerful men are rarely brought to justice.

She was also scared of juju, the traditional black magic widely feared by people in the region.

“I was scared to talk. He uses juju, people told me I would die.”

Evangelical preachers draw fanatical followings across the deeply Christian south of Nigeria. Pastor Solomon’s power stems greatly from his beliefs.

“He says he’s sent by God. To confront him is like confronting God himself,” a former church worker said.

Those who have served under him and lived in the camp say the pastor uses the fear of devil to keep people in line.

Oshiomhole-wife-bauchi
Pastor Solomon smiles and plays with Oshiomhole and wife

On the church’s website, in a short biography entitled “I Saw Jesus” — translated into six languages including Russian and Chinese — he claimed that he was saved from Satan by God himself.

– Foreign evangelical support –

Pastor Solomon’s International Christian Centre for Missions has expanded hugely since he founded it in 1990 with just a dozen young female followers.

In 1992, he set up the first “Home for the Needy”, taking in poor children whose parents entrusted them to his care on the promise of an education.

A former missionary said the pastor would sometimes misrepresent the children as orphans to raise sponsorship in Europe or the United States.

Ten years later, the church had grown to more than 200 branches, with missionaries and preachers working across southern Nigeria and funds coming from evangelical churches abroad.

“He was always browsing the internet to look for church organisations all over the world” to target for donations, the missionary said.

“He would send pictures of us or of the children, asking us to look sad. He was saying that white people are so emotional.”

But it was the Boko Haram jihadist insurgency more than 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) to the north of Benin City that caused a surge in the numbers at the camp.

As the violence displaced millions of people and grabbed global attention in 2013, Pastor Solomon’s group turned its attention to children in the conflict zone of northeastern Nigeria.

solo 6
NAS’ charity: From left— Pastor Evelyn Omigie; Pastor Solomon Folorunsho; Officer in Charge of National Association of Seadogs, NAS, medical, Dr. Joseph Oteri; Prince Omoregbe Erediauwa; Idawo Azeg and Egele Sani Osigwe

“The pastor’s people came (to Maiduguri) and convinced parents to send their children to Benin City where they would have a good education, with free food,” said Rakiya, who allowed five of her six children to go.

“At the camp, parents would be given bags of rice, bus fare, jerrycans of palm oil and the like. So when they returned to Maiduguri they would tell other parents ‘Benin is good’,” she said.

No records are publicly available about how many children were brought from northern Nigeria to the camp.

Pastor Solomon told AFP that the Nigerian army and the intelligence service “have a copy of the register”, but this could not be verified.

UNICEF and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) wanted to set up a program to reunite children from the camp with their families, but were denied access to their identities.

“At this time, camp management has been unable/unwilling to provide this information,” UNICEF said in its report.

UNICEF maintains that it passed on the report to local authorities in 2016 to make them aware of the “concerns”. But nothing appears to have been done.

adams_oshiomole assassination
Adams_Oshiomole 

On the contrary, Pastor Solomon had full support from the then regional governor, Adams Oshiomhole, now head of Nigeria’s ruling party, the All Progressives Congress.

“With the former governor, we once had a good relationship,” Pastor Solomon told AFP. “When parents wanted to get their children back, he would give them money, he would give them a gift.”

Today, while denying any accusations of maltreatment, the pastor admits that the huge influx of children placed a major strain on the camp and that the church struggles for money.

Camp workers have told local media that to feed the estimated 4,000 children and 500 adults at the camp costs hundreds of dollars a day — and that does not include medicine, water, education and clothing.

“We also have a problem with hepatitis, measles, chickenpox and scabies; we don’t have enough accommodation for them, this is a big challenge,” the pastor acknowledged.

Witnesses said that children sleep on mats on the ground in huge hangars without adult supervision, relieving themselves in the forest, complaining of hunger and thirst and not washing, and that many have died in the disease-ridden conditions.

children 1

While conditions keep deteriorating at the camp, some European and US evangelical groups still send donations and materials to Nigeria.

The congregation of German pastor Gunther Geipel — who describes Pastor Solomon as a “friend and brother” — is one of them.

Geipel dismisses the allegations against the pastor as “tales” from “jealous people”.

“I cannot imagine that this is true,” he told AFP.

AFP put the allegations against Pastor Solomon and his camp to Edo State minister for social affairs Maria Edeko, who took up her duties several months ago.

UNICEF
UNICEF NIGERIA 

She said she had never heard of the UN report or accusations of abuse and poor conditions at the camp but insisted they would be investigated.

She confirmed the authorities did not have access to the camp registry.

“From now on, I can assure you that my ministry will be on top of the situation. We need monitoring,” she said. “It’s our responsibility.”

 

Nigerian Police Rescue People Chained in Prayer House

The 58 year old told police he had been running what he described as a healing ministry since 1986 and that the people had been chained to prevent them from escaping.

Nigerian policeNigerian police say they have rescued 15 people kept chained in an illegal so-called prayer house in the country’s biggest city, Lagos. The victims were men and women between 19 and 50 years old with some said they had spent five years in the facility.

They were brought there by relatives who believed spiritual treatment could help cure their mental illnesses, drug addictions and other conditions.

mad-e1473866257605

“Police are working closely with other agencies of government to provide adequate medical attention and shelter to the victims,” police spokesman Bala Elkana said.

The police raided the house in the area of Ijegun after receiving a tip. The man who ran the facility, and called himself a prophet, was arrested.

map1

The 58 year old told police he had been running what he described as a healing ministry since 1986 and that the people had been chained to prevent them from escaping. This is the latest raid on such privately run facilities, where people are often kept in deplorable conditions, the BBC’s Mayeni Jones in Lagos reports.

Pastor Tim Omotoso Accused of Rape and Other Charges of Sexual Misconduct

The pastor is accused of trafficking more than 30 girls and women who were from various branches of his church

Twins-647x395

Former Idols SA contestants Neliswa and Anele Mxakaza have finally spoken out against their former pastor, Timothy Omotoso.  Last year the Nigerian-born pastor made headlines after he was charged for human trafficking and rape and later discovered to be in South Africa illegally due to fraudulent papers The senior pastor of the Jesus Dominion International Church was accused of keeping young female congregants of his church in a house in Umhlanga in Durban and sexually assaulting them.

t1
 Pastor Timothy Omotoso

During his court case early last year, Neliswa and Anele – who were members of his church and lived with him – came out in his defense and even claimed they loved him.  Now the twins have issued a statement and revealed they always knew about the abuse that went on in the house in Umhlanga.

“We have lived in his house in Umhlanga for about a year, it was the worst experience ever,” they said. “We were actually pushed to please the man, we were told that God will punish us if we ever say anything against [Pastor] Omotoso. We lived a life full of threats and fear.”

Sexual comments

It is not clear whether these twins were sexually violated or not because according to DRUM they asserted that they were not sexually violated and that he only made sexual comments directed at them. 

“He would make comments about certain parts of our bodies in front of all the other girls. He would also ask us personal questions about whether we’re having sex with our boyfriends.”

She added that this made them very uncomfortable, which is why they eventually decided to leave the house because they feared they would eventually be assaulted.

“We were made to believe Omotoso is the closest person to God and we can never have a relationship with God but only through Omotoso,” the statement further read.They added that they believe their spirits were controlled by the pastor and they could see all the wrongs, but were never bold enough to speak out.“We were even asked to go do newspaper interviews to protect Omotoso,” they said in the statement.

Speaking about the abuse they faced in the pastor’s house, the twins said they saw everything that happened to all those women who’ve spoken out against the alleged rapist. There have since been 18 additional charges of sexual misconduct brought against Omotoso.

Pastor-Tim-Omotoso
Pastor Tim Omotoso

 

Rape allegations

“The rape allegations were not new to us when Omotoso was arrested – it’s something we knew long before he got arrested.

“The girls would talk immediately after it happened in the house and when one was called to the upper room we knew what was going to happen to them, we were made to keep quiet and never say anything.

“Even when we had left the church we were still not free to talk, we were afraid something bad will happen to us or our families,” they said.

Attorney comment

Omotoso’s newly appointed attorney Peter Daubermann said that he is unsure how these allegations by the twins will affect the case at this point.

“We have not heard anything about these new allegations yet, so it is too soon to tell how it will affect our  moving forward,” he told DRUM.

NPA communications manager Tsepo Ndwalaza was not immediately available for comment. The twins were contestants on season 9 of Idols SA.

According to News24, Omotoso and one of his co-accused appeared in the Port Elizabeth Magistrate’s Court on Monday. The case was postponed to March 7 because a third accused wasn’t present.

Tim-Omotosho-in-police-net
 Tim Omotoso in police custody in South Africa

The pastor is accused of trafficking more than 30 girls and women who were from various branches of his church, and as of today remains incarcerated awaiting trial.

Omotoso’s website is still active and can be found here.

woo
 Blind worshipors of Timothy Omotoso

Church Worker Threatens To Drag Christ Embassy Pastor To Court for Sexual Misconduct

“It has been more than nine months now since Nwanguma was promised that her case would be looked into. Yet nothing had been done in that regard,”

Mrs. Brenda Nwanguma, a worker with Inner City Mission for Children (ICM4C), under the Christ Embassy Church canopy, is threatening to drag the church and Pastor Kenechukwu Kanu aka Kaycee to court.

CHRIST-EMBASSYNwanguma, a member of the Christ Embassy Church, is demanding for justice in respect of alleged workplace harassment, intimidation, blackmail, and libel. Nwanguma’s lawyer, Samuel Akpologun, had already petitioned the church.  Nwanguma is threatening to take the church and Pastor Kaycee to court if nothing was done to address and back.

Earlier this year, Nwanguma, a mother of three, had accused Pastor Kaycee of sexually harassing and victimizing her.

While Nwanguma accused Kaycee, a father of two, of sexual harassment, Kaycee countered by calling her a “loose woman who has slept with at least two to three men here. Her husband doesn’t know her. He should go and put his house in order. I’m a man of the cloth. There are certain things I shouldn’t say.”

Nwanguma had further accused Kaycee of having a penchant for sexually harassing and even succeeding in sleeping with women in the organization.

Nwanguma noted that it was because she rebuffed Kaycee’s sexual advances that led to her being victimized.

She has decided to take the matter to court after endlessly waiting to hear from the committee constituted by the church to look into the allegations she raised.

Part of Akpologun’s petition states: “It is our brief that on April 3, 2017, our client, Brenda Nwanguma, who is a staff in your organization, made a complaint to the Head of Administration of the said mission, Pastor Ifeoma Chiemeka, through electronic mail on the following; sexual harassment.”

She said that Pastor Kaycee, who is the head of the operation of this said mission, under which our client has worked as a staff, had been sexually harassing our client by making demands to have carnal knowledge of her in return for facilitating her transfer from a department with an oppressive boss, to another department.”

The lawyer further stated that because his client turned down Kaycee’s sexual advances, the cleric resorted to victimizing her by posting and transferring her twice, within the space of a month.

Akpologun noted: “The first vindictive transfer was made on January 3, 2017, whereby she was transferred to the Media Sub-department to act as a librarian. The second transfer was made via mail dated January 25, 2017. She was moved to the School Pastoral Care Unit to act as the pastoral care coordinator, thus effectively bringing her under the same boss, about whom our client had earlier complained.”

Speaking on discrimination, intimidation, and blackmail of his client, the lawyer noted that when his client was forced to report the situation to the Director of the Mission, Mrs. Omoh Alabi, the director allegedly refused, neglected, or omitted to respond to Nwanguma’s complaint. She also allegedly did not take any step to address or investigate the grave allegations contained in the email sent by Nwanguma to her on January 26, 2017.

judge_pounds_gavel_guilty_lg_blk

Akpologun claimed that Omoh blackmailed and intimidated his client until she had to apologize to Kaycee and sent a copy of the letter of apology to Omoh before she was given an audience.

Thereafter, Omoh asked Nwanguma not to resume at work until “high authorities” had looked into her case and determined where exactly she would be working.

“It has been more than nine months now since Nwanguma was promised that her case would be looked into. Yet nothing had been done in that regard,” stated Akpologun.

The lawyer further stated that it was also his brief that since Omoh asked his client to stay away from work, his client had not been given any further instruction or information.

He also argued that his client’s salary, since she was asked to stay away, had been unduly withheld for no just cause for nine months now.
He added: “When on April 28, 2017, the situation was reported to The New Telegraph; the management of the Mission convened a panel, invited our client and promised to look into her case after receiving evidence from her. She was further instructed to stay away from work till the outcome of the panel. Since then, till date, the said management has neither got in touch with our client nor paid her salaries due.

“It is our further brief that Pastor Kaycee caused a libelous publication to be made in the said New Telegraph Newspaper against our client. In the said publication of April 28, 2017, Pastor Kaycee falsely and maliciously alleged that our client is an adulterous woman, who had slept with more than two staff of the Mission. We have the instruction of our client to demand as follows; that the salaries of our client for the months of February to November be paid within 14 days.”

“That the report of the panel held in May 2017, be made available to our client through our office. That you either investigate the libelous publication made by Pastor Kaycee or prevailed on him to make a public apology for same which said apology must be published in the New Telegraph, where the libelous publication was made. That our client is restored to her job forthwith. Otherwise, we may be compelled to advise our client to seek necessary legal redress in the court without further notifying you.”

Photo Courtesy Telegraph Online

 

“Fellow Nigerians abducted us and sold us as slaves in Libya” Returnees Says

A 25-year-old woman, Esosa Osas, who was in Libya for six months, said she also met many Nigerians selling their countrymen.

Nigerians based in Libya are selling their fellow countrymen, as revelations indicated that Libyan nationals are buying and selling migrants as slaves.

This emerged as more Nigerians are repatriated by the International Organisation for Migration with the backing of the European Union in an ongoing exercise that has seen 1,295 retrieved from Libya in November alone.

Since the beginning of 2017, IOM-facilitated repatriation has brought back 5,578 Nigerian migrants, who were trapped in and outside prisons across Libya.

On Thursday night, 150 migrants from mostly Edo and Delta states arrived the country aboard a Buraq Airplane at the cargo terminal of the Murtala International Airport, Lagos. It was two days after 239 migrants had also been brought into the country. 

Nigerian migrants

Nigerians

One of them, 26-year-old Odion Saliu, a hairdresser from Edo State, said she was kidnapped and handed over to a Nigerian, who forced her to call her mother.

According to her, her mother in Benin paid N200, 000 but she was again sold by the same Nigerian for 3,000 dinars (about N794, 000).

Saliu explained that the Nigerians spoke Pidgin English and some Nigerian languages.

She said, “When I was kidnapped with others and held for some weeks, the Arabs asked if I wanted to be taken to a Nigerian and I readily said yes. I was very happy that I was going to someone from my country. But it was a lie.

“The Nigerian they took me to locked me in a cell and told me to call my mother and ask for N60, 000. The man said he would sell me to a connection house if my family did not get the money. I called to inform my mother and the trafficker who facilitated my journey from Nigeria.

“But the trafficker spoke with them on the phone and told them the amount they demanded was too small. They increased it to N200, 000. My mother paid into an account after they provided her with the account number over the phone.

“The Nigerian said if I wanted to cross the sea, I had to pay him again. But when we got to the seaside, he sold me again.”

Another Edo State indigene, Sunday Anyaegbunam, left Nigeria along with his wife in April, as they journey for nine-days through the desert, they were sold twice by Nigerians.

According to him, when their Nigerian “burger” (trafficker) sold them to another set of Libyan traffickers at Agadez, Niger, the traffickers sold him and his wife to a Nigerian who took them to Sabha, Libya, where they were separated in different cells.

“We were made to contact our families on the phone and I had to ensure the payment of N400, 000 for my release and N300, 000 for my wife,” Anyaegbunam said.

African-Slaves-Libya

Like others, he could only identify the Nigerians trading in their countrymen in Libya through the Nigerian languages they spoke and their accent.

He said, “The Nigerians selling people in Libya are more wicked than many of the Arabs. I have never seen people so heartless as the Nigerians who bought and sold me.

“There are many of them in Agadez and Sabha, who are making so much money from selling their own people. But there are other West Africans (Ghanaians)doing the business too.

“When you approach them and say, ‘Please, my brother, help me.’ They would tell you, “No brother in the jungle.”

A 25-year-old woman, Esosa Osas, who was in Libya for six months, said she also met many Nigerians selling their countrymen.

“You dare not talk to them, else they would beat you and lock you up. They sell women for 5,000 dinars and men for N4, 000 dinars. I noticed that the connection houses were also controlled by Nigerian women.”

All these accounts were corroborated by 35-year-old Harrison Okotie who lived in Libya for three years until his repatriation.

“Nigerians and Libyans are doing the business like they are one big happy family,” he said.

However, Most of the migrants who arrived Nigeria on Thursday were from Edo State.

Officials of the state’s task force on illegal migration were on hand with luxurious buses to transport their people back home.

A member of the task force, Mr. Okoduwa Solomon, told NewsAfriq that his team had made six such journeys to the airport within the last one month to take their indigenes repatriated from Libya back home.

He said, “The first process is to take them through counselling, then we profile them.

“After that, we put them in a home that the state government has provided for the returnees. The Edo State Government is paying each of the returnees from the state a stipend.

They are going to undergo a training in agriculture, poultry, fishery and others to make them useful to themselves and the system.”

Officials of the National Emergency Management Agency coordinate the reception of the returnees at the airport.South West Zonal Coordinator of the agency, Mr. Yakubu Sulaiman, said the returnees would be lodged in a hotel where they would have the chance to clean up before their journey back home.

Meanwhile, President, Women Arise and Centre for Change, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, has called on the Federal Government to use all diplomatic channels to prevail on the Libyan authorities to ensure the dignity of our people. 

She said in a statement on Friday that it was an embarrassment that Nigerians who were treated like royalty in the past were being dehumanised in a foreign land.

“We must build a country where our people have opportunities to prosper and lead useful and productive lives and will only travel on leisure and business and not as illegal migrants desperate to live anywhere other than Nigeria,” she added.

Mass Trials of Over 6,600 Boko Haram Suspects Accused of Slaughtering Christians and Children Begin

The United Nations Children’s Fund reported on some of Boko Haram’s most disturbing practices in August, when it warned that there has been an alarming rise in the number of children being used as “human bombs” in attacks.

(PHOTO: EMMANUEL BRAUN/REUTERS)Nigerian soldiers hold up a Boko Haram flag that they had seized in the retaken town of Damasak, Nigeria, March 18, 2015.

The mass trials of over 6,600 suspects believed to be members of Islamic radical group Boko Haram have begun in Nigeria, and are being carried out in secret by civilian court judges at a military facility in Kainji town.

As BBC News reported, close to 20,000 people have been slaughtered in Boko Haram’s insurgency in the country, which began in 2009.

The terror group has slaughtered Christians, Muslims, children, and many other civilians in their war against the government, with a driven mission to eradicate Christianity from the country.

Up to 1,670 people suspected of being part of the terror group are being tried in the coming weeks, with another 5,000 people awaiting trial after that.

The Nigerian army said that the terrorists have lost significant ground in the country over the past year, with kidnapping victims, such as the Chibok Christian girls who were taken in April 2014, finally being rescued.

Some human rights advocates have warned that the secrecy of the trials could undermine efforts for justice, however.  

“Does the judiciary have the capacity to give so many people charged with very serious offences a fair trial? Have the authorities really captured a quarter of their combat strength? Are they taking into account the fact that a lot of those who committed violence for Boko Haram did so under duress? All these are red flags and very concerning in terms of the broader strategy,” said Ryan Cummings, a South Africa-based expert, according to The Guardian.

Only 13 Boko Haram suspects to date have been put on trial, official figures have said, with nine convicted of aiding the Islamic radicals.

Christian groups have long called for Boko Haram members to be brought to justice.

Laolu Akande, then the executive director of the Christian Association of Nigerian-Americans, told The Christian Post following the 2014 Chibok girls kidnapping:

Boko Haram has been kidnapping little girls who are Christians, trying to turn them into sex slaves, trying to convert them by force. Their strategy is to marry the girls and kill the men. So what they have done by kidnapping these female students, it is another demonstration of the impunity with which Boko Haram has been running its terrorist activities.

“We are just totally, completely appalled that the Nigerian federal government continues to show itself totally incompetent to bring these people to justice and to halt these very pernicious, despicable activities.”

The United Nations Children’s Fund reported on some of Boko Haram’s most disturbing practices in August, when it warned that there has been an alarming rise in the number of children being used as “human bombs” in attacks.

“Children have been used repeatedly in this way over the last few years and so far this year, the number of children used is already four times higher than it was for all of last year,”

UNICEF said in a statement.

“Since Jan. 1, 83 children have been used as ‘human bombs’; 55 were girls, most often younger than 15 years old; 27 were boys, and one was a baby strapped to a girl,” it added.

“The use of children in this way is an atrocity.”

[written by Stoyan Zaimov]

‘No dichotomy between southern and northern Muslims’

“there is no dichotomy between southern and northern Muslims.”

An eminent Islamic scholar, Fadilat Sheikh Dairu Bauchi has reiterated the strong bond that exists among Muslims, especially in Nigeria, saying,

“there is no dichotomy between southern and northern Muslims.”

Bauchi, who was in Lagos as guest speaker at a special programme organised by Nasrul Lahi L Fatih Society, (NASFAT) to mark the 57th Independence Anniversary of Nigeria, said his visit to NASFAT was an indication that a firm love exists between the southern and northern Muslims.

In his speech which was delivered in both Hausa and Arabic languages, translated into English, the renowned cleric advised Muslims to further seek unity, love and collaboration with fellow faithful irrespective of their residence, tribe, ethnicity or location.

The scholar commended NASFAT for using the platform to enhance the image of Islam within and outside the country.He ended his speech by praying fervently for Nigeria’s unity, growth and development.

The Acting Chief Missioner, NASFAT, Imam Mahroof Onike AbdulAzeez expressed the society`s appreciation to the erudite Islamic cleric for accepting NASFAT`s invitation.

He later assured him that NASFAT would continue to work in fostering peace and unity between the Ummah and the entire Nigerians.The highlight of the special event was the presentation of the society prayer book and other souvenirs to the highly revered Shiekh by the leadership of the society.

Two most wanted cult leaders killed in Imo State, Nigeria

The slain suspected criminals were identified as Tochukwu Egbelu, aka black face; and Enyia Iwu, aka Sparo. The police said they were the leaders of the Iceland cult, which had been credited with the killing of over 20 people and the destruction of over 30 houses.

Two men, said to be most wanted cult leaders and kidnappers in Imo State, were on Thursday gunned down by the operatives of the state police command. They were killed during a shootout in the Nwagbaubi forest in Assa community, in the Ohaji/Egbema Local Government Area.

The slain suspected criminals were identified as Tochukwu Egbelu, aka black face; and Enyia Iwu, aka SparoThe police said they were the leaders of the Iceland cult, which had been credited with the killing of over 20 people and the destruction of over 30 houses.

The state Police Public Relations Officer, Andrew Enwerem, told our correspondent that three other members of the gang escaped with gunshot injuries. Enwerem, a Superintendent of Police, said the deceased had been on the wanted list of the command for a long time.

Black face and Saparo, as well as other persons who are currently on the run, have been on the wanted list of the command. “They are responsible for the killings of Inspector Silas Obaji and Corporal Asuquo Nama sometime in April. “The hoodlums equally masterminded the beheading of one Chinweuba of Obile community in September. They are of the Iceland Confraternity,” Enwerem added.

The police spokesperson said the success was as a result of the commitment of the state Commissioner of Police, Chris Ezike, to stamping out kidnapping and cultism in the state.

According to Enwerem, one locally-made short gun with five live cartridges and one single-barrelled gun were recovered from the slain cult members.

“It was during a gun duel with police operatives deployed by the CP that the two men died” he said.

The traditional Ruler of Assa community, Eze Emmanuel Assor, said peace was gradually returning to his community..

The traditional ruler disclosed that the news of the death of the two cult members sparked off jubilation in the community, adding that indigents of the community, who had been on the exile, had been returning to their homes.

Assor said property worth over N700m had been destroyed since 2010 when the Deygbam and Iceland confraternities started supremacy war in the two communities.

[written by Chidiebube Okeoma, Owerri]