DEFRAUDING IN GOD'S NAME
The recent conviction of one Pastor Michael Inyang and four others, for fraud, by a Lagos High Court clearly attests to the surreal twists in the lives of some religious preachers who defraud their flock in the name of God. The soothing balm in this particular incident is that in the end, the long arm of the law caught up with the fraudsters.
Pastor Inyang, who runs a church known as Christian Millionaire Club located in Lagos, and four members of the church, were last month sentenced to various jail terms by Justice Olubunmi Oyewole. They were found guilty on all 17 charges against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Pastor Inyang was sentenced to four years imprisonment.
Their conviction is typical of the saying that whatever a man sows, he reaps.
There has always been this ringing, yet unheeded message that religious leaders should strive at all times to lead by example. But painfully, many of them lead a conceited and deceitful life. They defraud their flock under false pretences, albeit in God's name. Indeed, this has become one of the biggest challenges religion faces today. Many of those entrusted with the teaching of God's word have lost the moral high ground to pontificate to the rest of their congregation, so much so that many of them are no better than 'wolves in sheep's clothing.'
According to reports, Pastor Inyang had since 2006 used the name of God to persuade his victims, all members of his church, to part with their money. They were assured of a 'bountiful harvest' both here on earth and in heaven. Part of Inyang's trickery was to lie to his flock that his millionaire club is affiliated to a renowned Christian body in the United States. In that regard, he told his victims that whatever they contributed as either offering or tithes would be rewarded in manifold terms, beyond their imagination before the end of year. Many believed him and some reportedly sold their choice property and emptied the proceeds to the club. Some allegedly borrowed money from banks and invested it in the club.
Pastor Inyang's life was said to have suddenly changed for the better, as he was reported to have moved from his one-room apartment in Egbeda, a suburb of Lagos, to a duplex in a choice area in Lagos Mainland. Then followed a string of state of the art cars to match his new status. But it was not for too long as his transgression was exposed by his victims, who had petitioned the EFCC on how they were duped in the name of God. The graft agency moved in in 2007 and, after completing investigation into the matter, arraigned the suspects before Justice Oyewole who found them guilty as charged.
We commend both Justice Oyewole and the EFCC. Surely, there are a lot of phoney preachers lurking all over the place looking for flock to deceive. Indeed, the number of such 'religious leaders' who are lusting after the wallets of their members rather than striving to save their souls has assumed a frightening dimension. We urge both the judiciary and the EFCC to crackdown on such fake preachers. We also caution Nigerians who easily fall victim to fake religious leaders like Inyang. Nigerians need to change their mindset about wealth. In most cases, our belief system and get-rich-quick mentality make many worshippers pliable and easy to manipulate. Money is good, but we must be careful not fall prey to fraudsters, including those dubiously operating in God's name.