Ex-disciple Gareth reflects on the SCOAN tragedy

Workers and visitors were housed in this unfinished building before it collapsed.

Workers and visitors were housed in this unfinished building before it collapsed.

I am sickened by the horrific loss of life at SCOAN. My heart bleeds for the injured and those who have lost loved ones. The responsibility for these deaths is with TB Joshua – he sees himself above the law and this tragedy is an awful culmination of his meglomania.

Nigeria, let justice be done. Bangladesh (hardly the bastion of transparency) handled the case of the Rena Plaza building collapse much better – a case was filed against the owners THE NEXT DAY. Why haven’t cases been filed against TB Joshua and SCOAN? Why are journalists and politicians even discussing the “unknown aircraft”?

Lets look at some of the bizarre events following the tragedy:

NEMA officials were prevented from accessing the site for 3 days.
This is criminal in itself. Why would it happen? TB Joshua see’s himself above the law and wanted to control the story. He was far more concerned about his appearance than the potential to save lives. Press and cameramen were also driven away for the same reason. Why on earth would you fight away the press and rescue officials unless you had something to hide?

TB Joshua denied the above with a cryptic statement. But who’s word do we take? Several independent witnesses or TB Joshua? My experience with TB Joshua has taught me to never take him at his word – always look at the actions. There is a huge difference between what he says and what he (or his followers) do. For example: “The church members however remained hostile to journalists despite the apology by Mr. Joshua“.

“A building, not the church auditorium as was reported, “The few people that were there are being rescued…”
This first “official” statement is wrong on so many levels. They knew there were many people in the building including large South African groups. They knew those people were missing. They knew because all of those visitors had paid to stay at the church. This statement is TB Joshua trying desperately to control the story – again with absolutely no regard to the victims or their families. He was more concerned that people thought his church auditorium had collapsed. The statement doesn’t even make sense – this is proof positive that it was directly from TB Joshua. If you’ve ever heard him speak, you know that he speaks in cryptic half sentences.

The Sunday Church Service continued as normal
I just don’t understand this. How can TB Joshua, all dolled up with make-up have a service as if nothing had happened. While people were still trapped just metres away! The service should have been cancelled to ensure the emergency services could operate effectively. But TB Joshua wanted to try and control the story. Sunday was his chance to try and blame Boko Haram and UFOs.

I could go on, but I’m sick. Lives are lost and this man is playing the media.
Please shout for justice to be done.

Pressure mounts on Nigerian authorities to #arrestTBJoshua

SCOANThe final death toll for the SCOAN building collapse is now at 115. The building was illegally constructed, with a further 3 floors added without approval. Furthermore – it now transpires that the building didn’t even have “Occupiers Liability Insurance”, something that is required by law for public buildings.

Section 65(1) of Insurance Act, 2003 provides that “Every public building shall be insured with a registered insurer against the hazards of collapse, fire, earthquake, storm and flood.”

Despite having blatantly broken the law in a way that killed 115 people, and maimed many more, TB Joshua remains a free man. A growing number of people believe this is unacceptable and are putting pressure on the Nigerian authorities to demonstrate that TB Joshua is not above the law.

Open letter from 5 Nigerian academics

5 Nigerian academics signed an open letter saying it was time to arrest and prosecute TB Joshua because:

Mr. Joshua has done everything humanly possible to cover up the truth about this tragedy. First, in the first three days after the incident, he illegally barred officials of the National Emergency Management Authority (NEMA) from accessing the site and rescuing survivors. Second, while this illegal interdiction was in effect, Mr. Joshua attempted to dictate the narrative and deflect possible culpability by blaming the incident on a mysterious ‘small plane’ which had purportedly hovered above his church complex moments before the collapse. Third, as public anger mounted in South Africa, Mr. Joshua declared the dead ‘martyrs of faith’ and sought to change the subject by promising to ‘take his teachings’ to the country every month for the foreseeable future. Fourth, an audio recording has just emerged of Mr. Joshua paying a gathering of journalists N50, 000 each in exchange for suppressing the truth and privileging his version of events. The recording, whose authenticity has not been challenged, was released by Mr. Nicholas Ibekwe, a Premium Times correspondent who was present at the meeting.

They then turn their attention to the Nigerian authorities

If Mr. Joshua has comported himself as one above the law, it is precisely because the Nigerian state has offered him every license. [...] The site should have been barricaded by the relevant authorities—the police, town planning, etc.— to secure evidence, given that the presumption ought to be that even if it is not immediately clear that a crime has been committed, something definitely has been remiss in the entire tragedy. Getting to the root of the matter should be the only concern next to solicitations for the welfare of the survivors.

They conclude

Mr. Joshua is a person of interest, not for his callousness, but for his cynical and persistent attempts to obliterate the truth and pervert the course of justice.

Lawyer accuses Lagos state of giving TB Joshua preferential treatment

Human rights lawyer Samuel Ilori points out that

Section 74(1) of the Physical Planning and Development Law of Lagos State states inter alia that at any time there is a collapsed building within the state. Wherever it is discovered that there is a negligence on the part of the owner or the developer, that land will be confiscated and whoever is at the other side of the law will be prosecuted. [...] Every other collapsed building in Lagos State have been taken over immediately evacuation has been done. So all these time that they are trying to buy for the man, we are not going to wait. (source)

Illori wants TB Joshua charged with culpable homicide, because “he knew very well that that foundation that contain two storey building cannot take six storey building, yet he allowed it to go on”. He has written to the Lagos state governor, giving him 7 days to take necessary action:

Failure to which we will be left with no other option than to approach the competent court of jurisdiction for an order of mandamus for your good office to implement the law you signed in 2010 without delay. (source)

Families of South African victims intend to sue

A South African man who lost his sister in the tragedy has written an open letter calling on other families who lost loved ones to unite and:

  1. Advocate for the banning of TB Joshua from visiting South Africa and SADC,
  2. Advocate for the betterment of the lives of the children orphaned by the heart-breaking but deliberate collapse of that building,
  3. Educate individuals and communities on early identification of tendencies of being possessed working in partnership with the faith community,
  4. Unite and advocate for the de-registration of Emmanuel TV by ICASA
  5. Advocate for the suspension of what’s left of the ‘diplomatic ties’ between Nigeria and South Africa until an investigation is concluded on the collapse of that building and conviction of TB Joshua (as the person who bears the ultimate responsibility for his church) is done,
  6. Institute civil claims against TB Joshua.

The BBC are reporting that at least one other family has joined his cause, and they are preparing to take legal action against TB Joshua.

ANC Youth League say TB Joshua should be denied visa for South Africa

Nine days after the disaster, when TB Joshua finally started showing sympathy for the dead, he pledged to visit South Africa every month in honour of the victims. We would be very suprised if he kept his word, especially after he so quickly forgot his pledge to personally take annointed water to Ebola affected countries. However, if he does follow through with the pledge, the ANC Youth League are doing everything in their power to ensure he isn’t allowed to enter the country:

“TB Joshua should not be allowed to come to South Africa until we know what happened to our fellow countrymen at his church, We will make sure we engage with the department of international relations and co-operation to make sure they do not issue him with a South African visa.” (source)

Conclusion

It will be very interesting to see what happens over the next few days, and there are encouraging signs that the pressure is being felt by the authorities, there are reports that the investigation is moving forward and that the outcome could be TB Joshua being charged with culpable homicide. There is a part of us that has sympathy for the government, prosecuting him will not be easy given the huge number of dedicated followers he has. Already some are saying that even if he is imprisoned, this will only put him in the same category as the apostles who were also imprisoned (though I don’t recall any being imprisoned for causing the death of 115 people). However difficult this situation may be, it is hard to see any justification for the closed door meetings with Lagos governor, the president visiting to “commiserate” with TB Joshua, or the fact that services are still going on at SCOAN despite evidence that other buildings are illegally constructed. Let’s pray that justice is done, and the bereaved families get the answers that they are seeking.

Victims of the SCOAN building collapse

The current number killed by the collapsed building at SCOAN is 115. Many families have been devastated, at least two young children are now orphans after losing both their parents. Many are now suffering major injuries that may impact them for the rest of their life, including amputations and gangrene.

There is a time to kick up a fuss and demand justice is done, and there is a time to mourn with those who mourn. Let’s pray for those who have lost loved ones, and those who are injured. We encourage you to leave messages of condolence in the comments.

TB Joshua bribe recording – FULL TRANSCRIPT

We’re not sure who to credit this transcript to, since it is duplicated across many sites on the internet. It seems fairly accurate.

TB Joshua – I want to thank you very much for your patience and for your time. In fact if i finish talking to you now, you will see,just pass through over 2 thousand people I’m attending to. They are from all over the world .No single Nigerian. I’m attending to them.

So I asked them to give you a copy of the cassette. There is 750 thousand which at least, it will be 50 thousand each for fuel. To buy fuel for your car.

(Speaks to his staff). I think you have it there, so you hand over to them. Then the cassette,they need one,one cassette.

Journalist – But man of God, we were expecting that  you would come up with an official statement .

TB Joshua – I have said it, you know i’ve talked to you(Is your camera recording..you know it’s not nessecary. It’s a private issue )

Journalist – The one in the church was not audible enough. We need something substantial for us to air

TB Joshua – Ok but you know we have to leave the security people to do their job. I don’t want to interfere, I don’t want a situation where i will become a hindrance. Because the country ambassador of America,the UK,they have sent me a letter and i greet them. South Africa Ambassador are here,Ghana Ambassador, they are here. They want to see their people. It is a very complicated issue.

Unknown Journalist – Sir say something, A sympathy comment

TB Joshua- No no no,it is too early now .Lets finish the whole thing. Have you been there?

All chorus -Yes

Unknown Journalist – So sir are we expecting you to call us back

TB Joshua – By the grace of God and i will be very happy if you can help me correct some of the things that is inside the papers

Journalist – We commiserate with you the church, what we expect is if you can’t give us a later day maybe you can give us an official statement outside the official one. You know when there is no information outside, people will continue to give rumors

TB Joshua- Which official statement do you want me to give

Journalist – We know investigation is ongoing. At the moment we know some lives have been lost, some people are in the hospital .

TB Joshua – why cant you talk of those who have been rescued You should have started from life first

Journalist -eh eh like so commiserate with them

So some people have been rescued, some people unfortunately have gone.

TB Joshua – I want to assure you that alot of people got rescued there. Many of them are even at the prayer now. Some people that are in the hospital are recovering

Journalist – SO can we say you are wishing them quick recovery and you are sympathizing with them ?

TB Joshua – Can’t you hear what I said in the church,I talk of the hero and Martyr. I talk like a man of God. I can’t talk of death inside the church. You know people will begin to say oh I salute the martyr

Journalists – Thank you sir,God bless sir .yes sir..

TB Joshua – SO WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO WRITE NOW

Just like you said…journalist chatter. as he greets them

Audio recording of TB Joshua bribing journalists

An investigative journalist called Nicholas Ibekwe has revealed today that in a press briefing TB Joshua offered all the journalists present a N50,000 bribe, to “help me correct some of the things that are written in the newspaper”.

Ibekwe claims he was the only one to turn down the bribe, and better still – he has released an audio recording of the meeting. It is difficult to understand the whole conversation, but it is unmistakably TB Joshua speaking, and we were able to glean the following points.

Audio recording: http://audioboo.fm/boos/2496625-audio-proof

0:28 – this appears to be discussion about the size of the bribe, 50,000 and 70,000 are mentioned. Ibekwe claims he was offered N50,000.

2:05 – TB Joshua says something like “I would be very happy if you would help me correct some of the things that are in the news”

2:20 – the journalists ask for an official statement, TB Joshua responds “what official statement do you want me to give?” A female journalists says “We know investigation is ongoing, but lives have been lost….” at this point TB Joshua cuts her off with a joke and gets everyone laughing.

3:35 – journalists say “thank you, thank you” as if they are being given something, TB Joshua jokes “so what are you going to write now?” Everyone laughs.

If you understand anything in the recording we’ve missed, or think we’ve got anything wrong, please leave it in the comments.

What is clear from the recording is that TB Joshua shows absolutely no remorse for the fact that a building in his church has killed more than 80 people. He sees it as a massive inconvenience to him, but not a tragedy. Frequently he turns the whole thing into a joke. It is also worryingly obvious that TB Joshua has the journalists (or at least most of them) feeding from his hand.

Ibekwe has said on twitter that since releasing the recording, his family are being harrased. Let’s pray for his protection and for more journalists and government officials to have the bravery to stand up to this corrupt church.

#ArrestTBJoshua

An investigation is undergoing into the cause of the catastrophic building collapse at SCOAN last Friday. Lagos State claim to have no record of the 4 additional floors ever being approved, SCOAN are yet to provide evidence to the contrary. A former Lagos State Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Mr. Bolaji Abosede said “Lagos should check its record and once it is found out that the church is negligent; the government should confiscate the land, no double standard. If the owner of the building did not apply for approval or professionals were not involved, then he is liable for the disaster.” (source)

Every day, more bodies are being pulled from the wreckage. Today the body count stands at 50, and there are still many unaccounted for.

It is time for the authorities to prove that popular “men of God” are not above the law. TB Joshua’s illegal building work has killed at least 50 people, his followers initially attacked rescue workers and journalists, and now he is spinning some yarn about a mysterious aircraft remotely demolishing his building. TB Joshua is a criminal, and he has blood on his hands. Join the campaign to #arrestTBJoshua now!

Twitter’s reaction to TB Joshua’s UFO conspiracy

While TB Joshua’s followers are fastening down the hatch, the rest of the world blinks in disbelief at his ridiculous conspiracy theory.