Church member tackles pastor over extortion, alleged N30m debt

A once robust relationship has turned sour between a church member and the pastor as the member, who joined the church after being healed of constant headache, has taken the cleric to court in order to recover about N30m allegedly extorted from the member by the man of God writes Comfort Oseghale. The small bungalow that is hidden behind several small shops and uncompleted buildings on Raji Razak, Aboru, Lagos, does not look like any other thing but a normal family residence. That is until one takes a peep through the open door and discovers religious trappings associated with churches.
Femi Onifade, a one-time member of the Ori Ba Mi Se Cherubim and Seraphim Church at Raji Razak Street, Aboru, is currently in a tough battle with the church's pastor, Samson Oladele, to recover some money, which Onifade alleged was extorted from him.
I met Oladele in 2000 when I was taken to his church by a friend. At the time, I was a successful businessman and was not much of a church goer. I had a headache, which had persisted for a while; so, when I told a friend of mine, he took me to After the cleric washed Onifade's head with some water, which at the time seemed to clear his constant headache, the visitor became a regular member of the church.
I started worshipping there often and developed a close relationship with Oladele. At a point, I even moved into his house with my kids; I had sent my wife packing then," he said. The friendship, which lasted a period of eight years, gradually took a toll on the finances of the businessman. "Oladele would ask me for money under various pretext. I signed several cheques in Oladele's name and even rented a boys' quarter at Victor Fagbemi Street for him at a point. I gradually started to neglect my business until 2008 when I eventually came to my senses," he said.
The businessman alleged that things actually came to a head when the pastor tried to sell off his (Onifade's) property in 2008. "You know, while I lived in Oladele's house, I entrusted most of my documents to him. He had them in his custody. In fact, I didn't know that he had sold off my property at Berkeley Estate, Abule-Egba, until I made a report at Panti about how Oladele had been extorting money from me," said the pastor's friend, who alleged that he lost about N30m in the course of the years he stayed with the cleric. "I don't know what came over me that period; I just was not myself. A man, who had nothing when I met him, now owns a five-bedroom bungalow at Idowu Rafiu Street, Aboru. Meanwhile, I am trying to pick up the pieces of my life both financially and emotionally," he said.
He said that he had reconciled with his wife and the couple now live together.
Oladele, who was not at his church when SATURDAY PUNCH visited, declined to make comments when he was contacted on the telephone. "Onifade has been making a lot of accusations and saying all manner of things. I'll rather not say anything," he said. A member of the church, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, claimed ignorance of the face-off between the cleric and the businessman. "I know Onifade. He used to be a member here although he wasn't a frequent worshipper. I am not aware though of any problem Onifade might have with the pastor. Besides, Oladele is in the best position to answer things himself," he said.
When it appeared Onifade might not be able to recover the money that had been allegedly extorted from him, he had headed for the Ebute-Meta Magistrate's Court to press home his effort. "The police were only able to recover about N990,000 until Oladele stopped paying. I had to take the only legal means left for me to recover my money by taking him to court," he added.