TheCapital

 Breaking News

How Redeemed Church officials allegedly duped members of millions in housing scheme

How Redeemed Church officials allegedly duped members of millions in housing scheme
July 11
09:14 2017

When Oluyemi Ojudu, a civil servant, registered for a housing scheme initiated by a parish in one of Nigeria’s largest Pentecostal churches, the Redeemed Christian Church of God, RCCG, in Abuja, he thought it was the beginning of the end of paying exorbitant rent to landlords.

“It is the desire of everybody to be land owners. It is a dream of everyone in Abuja to have a place they can call their own and stop paying rent as tenants to landlords,” he told PREMIUM TIMES.

Land and other properties in Abuja are perhaps the costliest in the country. Many workers, desirous of owning properties in the city or surrounding neighbourhoods, often take part in housing schemes which allow them to make payments in instalments over a period of time.

In 2009, the Excellent Men Fellowship, EMF, a group in the Resurrection Chapel Parish of the RCCG, Lugbe, Abuja where Mr Ojudu lived, announced it was starting its own property acquisition scheme for married men in the church.

The scheme was also thrown open to members of the RCCG from other parishes as long as they are given letters of introduction from their pastors.

Ordinarily, Mr. Ojudu who worshipped at another RCCG parish in the Gwarimpa area of Abuja, would have hesitated before subscribing to such property scheme due to the frequency at which people were being duped. But this was one his church was organising. The church couldn’t possibly defraud its members, he thought.

He was wrong.

The scheme was a sweet deal. A 600-square metre, sqm, plot of land was valued at N1.5 million. Each subscriber was expected to pay an initial deposit of N250, 000 while remaining payment was spread over two years. Subscribers who pay up to N900, 000 would have their plot allotted to them.

Apart from the N1.5 million for the land, beneficiaries were also expected to pay an additional N500, 000 for infrastructural development in the estate after they might have started developing the plot allotted to them.

Mr Ojudu said he made a contribution of N1,000,000 and was given a ‘subscriber file’ with number 0744. But seven years after he made the payment, he is yet to get his plot of land from the promoters of the scheme.

A PROBLEMATIC START

The scheme kicked off with a flurry of interests from within the parish and the larger RCCG community in the Nigerian capital according to a PREMIUM TIMES investigation.

Beneficiaries were told to pay the initial N250,000 deposit into a Redeemed Church account named: RCCG-RC-EMHS (Project) with number: 0421201006911, at the defunct, Oceanic Bank (now Ecobank).

A committee headed by the parish’s presiding pastor, Bisi Akande, was tasked with making sure the scheme ran smoothly. Other members of the committee according to investigations were Mr Akande’s deputy, Adeola Johnson; a lawyer, Sunday Adeagbo; EMF President, Olufemi Sobola; an accountant, Cosmas Mbanu, and an Estate surveyor, Victor Ayeye.

The committee came up with a plan to purchase hectares of land in Pyakassa, a village on the outskirts of Abuja, and in VON Estate, Lugbe which was to be distributed into 600sqm plots to beneficiaries.

However, before the land was purchased, Mr. Akande was transferred to another parish and a new presiding pastor, Peter Imonhiosen, took over from him. The plots of land were eventually purchased during Mr. Imonhiosen’s tenure.

However, before the land was shared among the subscribers of the scheme, Mr. Imonhiosen was himself transferred to another parish.

Subscribers to the scheme who spoke to PREMIUM TIMES said the first whiff of trouble was when Mr. Imonhiosen left but failed to hand over the management of the scheme to his successor.

They became suspicious when they noticed that the committee’s meetings had been moved from the church’s premises in Lugbe to the Pyakassa site of the scheme.

SCHEME UNRAVELS

But not until some incredulous subscribers started asking why Mr. Imonhiosen was still in-charge of the scheme instead of handing over to his successor that they were informed that the scheme was not owned by the church but a private initiative started by some members of the church, who constituted the committee and passed it off as a church owned scheme to attract subscribers.

“We were all concerned as to why Mr. Imonhiosen would want to hold on to the account of the scheme. It was then crisis and fraud began as we began to see discrepancies in what we were initially told and the way money was being spent,” said a subscriber, Adebambo Adefarakan.

After they realised that the facade of advertising the scheme as church-owned had fallen off, Messrs. Sobola, Adeola (who has also been transferred to another parish in Kuje), Adeagbo and Imonhiosen promptly registered the scheme with the Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC, as Redeemer Excellent Men Housing Foundation without informing subscribers who had been led to believe it was initiated and managed by the church, PREMIUM TIMES learned.

But subscribers were in for more shock.

Picture of untarred road in the estate

The Committee started modifying and reviewing the original terms of the scheme such as asking subscribers to make additional payments.

The original letters of offer given to subscribers were revoked and new ones issued increasing the initial deposit subscribers are expected to make from N250, 000 to N500, 000. Furthermore, subscribers were given 21 days to complete the payment or forfeit their chances of being allotted a plot of land. In the new letters, the size of the plot of land was reduced from 600sqm to 500sqm.

“We never knew they had changed the name of the scheme. It was after the revoking and re-issuance of letters for payment that we started suspecting the activities of the committee and accused them of hijacking the whole scheme as they began to change the rules and regulations without consultations from the subscribers,” Mr. Adefarakan said.

Mr. Ojudu told PREMIUM TIMES that despite meeting the reviewed conditions, he and many other subscribers were still not allotted land.

Undeveloped plot of land in the estate

“I am not the only person who did not get any plot allocation in spite of fulfilling all the stipulated criteria. We are many. They first started sharing the plots they got from VON estates, before they moved to the one here at Pyakassa. Still they have not given many people their plots. They are claiming that some people did not meet the deadline or rules set up. In that case, they should return some of these people’s money to them yet they are not willing to do so,” he said angrily.

He said by the time the committee started sharing the lands, he had gotten a new job and had moved to Ekiti State. He said when he learnt that subscribers were being allotted plots again, he travelled to Abuja to ask for his but was told he now had to pay the ‘commercial price of N4 million.’

“Pastor Adeola said if I wanted to get a plot, I should come and purchase at the commercial price at which they were already selling for the general public. It was when I refused that I wouldn’t pay the commercial price,” he said.

Mr. Ojudu said he became disillusioned after the incident and stopped attending church activities after the authorities of the RCCG published a disclaimer saying they had nothing to do with the scheme.

Related Articles

0 Comments

No Comments Yet!

There are no comments at the moment, do you want to add one?

Write a comment

Write a Comment