The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), in a recent three-part investigative documentary, has uncovered evidence of widespread atrocities and sexual crimes committed by late Pastor Temitope Balogun Joshua, popularly known as TB Joshua.
Joshua, who was the founder of the Synagogue Church of All Nations, a 12-storey building, situated in the Ikotun area of Lagos State, passed away in 2021, leaving behind a sizable worldwide following.
He gained popularity by performing miracles that “delivered” followers and visitors from a variety of illnesses, including HIV/AIDS, cancer, chronic migraines, and blindness.
As part of the investigation, the BBC interviewed at least 30 former members and workers of the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN).
The first segment of the documentary, released on Monday January 8, exposes the covert lifestyle of the deceased SCOAN founder, detailing instances of abuse, harassment, rape, manipulation, and staged miracles. Sources informed the BBC that although the church was aware of all the allegations, they never investigated them. They alleged that the sexual crimes spanned over two decades.
Survivors of TB Joshua’s sexual exploitation recounted how they were manipulated and silenced, even when aware that the relationship they had with “daddy” was abusive. These women were part of TB Joshua’s discipleship. Multiple women shared their experiences of being molested and raped by him. Some women who initially resisted his assault were threatened into submission, as revealed by one of the women in an interview with the BBC.
One of the victims, Rae, was a British lady who was 21 years old when she left Brighton University in 2002 to join the religion after being accepted. She was one of Joshua’s alleged “disciples” for the following twelve years, living inside his convoluted concrete building in Lagos.
Speaking to the BBC, Rae said, “We all thought we were in heaven, but we were in hell, and in hell terrible things happen.”
Rae claimed that Joshua abused her sexually and kept her in a kind of solitary confinement for two years. She also said that she made many attempts at suicide inside the property because of the extreme mistreatment.
With millions of followers on social media and a Christian TV programme named Emmanuel TV, the Synagogue Church of All Nations [SCOAN] has a large global following. Tens of thousands of pilgrims from Europe, the Americas, South East Asia, and Africa visited the church in Nigeria in the 1990s and early 2000s in order to see Joshua perform “healing miracles”. Within his Lagos property, at least 150 guests lived with him as followers, sometimes for decades at a time.
More than 25 former “disciples” shared compelling, corroborated narratives with the BBC about their experiences inside the church, with the most recent events occurring in 2019. They talked to the BBC from the UK, Nigeria, US, South Africa, Ghana, Namibia, and Germany. When they initially joined, many victims were in their teens. In a few of the British situations, Joshua coordinated with other UK churches to cover the cost of their transportation to Lagos.
Rae and a number of other respondents likened their experiences to belonging to a cult.
Namibian Jessica Kaimu said that her ordeal lasted for more than five years. She claims that Joshua first sexually assaulted her when she was seventeen years old, and that as a result of several rapes by TB Joshua, she had five forced abortions while she was there.
She said to BBC, “These were backdoor type… medical treatments that we were going through… it could have killed us.”
Other interviewees said they were constantly deprived of sleep and undressed, and beaten with horse whips.
TB Joshua was acclaimed one of the most influential preachers in African history upon his passing in June 2021. Rising out of poverty, he established an evangelical empire that was associated with scores of celebrities, government figures, and international football players.
During his lifetime, he did, however, come under fire after a hostel for Catholic pilgrims collapsed in 2014, killing 116 people at least.
Several former church insiders have never before stepped out to talk on the record, until now, through BBC’s investigation, which was conducted in collaboration with the global media platform Open Democracy. They claim that after years of trying to sound the warning, they have been mostly dismissed.
Many witnesses in Nigeria allege that after speaking out against the abuse and sharing films on YouTube with accusations, they were targeted physically and, in one instance, shot at.
In March 2022, when a BBC team tried to film the church’s Lagos compound from a public street, the church’s guards also opened fire on them, and they were held for many hours.
The BBC then reached out to SCOAN with the accusations in their conducted research. Although it refuted earlier allegations made against TB Joshua, it did not reply to them.
SCOAN wrote, “Making unfounded allegations against Prophet TB Joshua is not a new occurrence… None of the allegations was ever substantiated.”