A fraud victim, Obinna Ezenwaka, has explained to the Lagos State Special Offences Court how a Lagos-based prophet, Cletus Ilongwo, hypnotised and defrauded him.
Ilongwo, the Presiding Pastor of the Power of the Holy Ghost Evangelical Ministry, is facing 11 counts bordering on fraud.
He was arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission before the court for allegedly defrauding Ezenwaka, a former member of his congregation, of the sum of N59.7m.
The anti-graft agency had alleged that the prophet received the said amount from Ezenwaka on different occasions in 2016 on the pretext of helping him to purchase a property located at 165c Diamond Estate, Amuwo Odofin, Lagos.
According to the EFCC, Ilongwo collected the sum in tranches through his Zenith Bank account 1003455899.
Ezenwaka, while being led in evidence by the prosecutor, Ahmed Yerima, said the prophet hypnotised him with various items ranging from the blood of a ram, a cross-like chain, oil and spiritual perfumes, to successfully defraud him.
He stated, “Sometime in April 2015, a neighbour took me to the prophet’s church and after a particular Sunday, he gave me an appointment to see him, because he wanted to know the reason why I came to the church. I told him that some people owed me and they were not willing to pay and that I wanted him to help me pray so that I could recover my money.
“He asked me to write the names of the debtors in the sequences of seven, nine, 14 and 21, which I did; another day, he gave me another appointment that the Holy Spirit ministered to him that I was going to recover my money to the last kobo and I left.
“One Sunday in October 2015, he gave me another appointment. He introduced me to two of the church members, who were close to him, Samuel Amaefule and Maxwell Adiele. He said I should be working with them and that God would answer my prayers and that I would recover my money.
“The two members got close to me; they visited me in my office and home to deliver any message from the prophet and each time I was with them, any business-related discussion I had with my customers over the phone, the two of them would tell the prophet and when next I see him, he would start giving revelations about the transactions, making it to look as if he was making a true revelation.
“In the third week of January 2016, the prophet asked me to come to the church that God had a message for me; when I got there, he took me to where they were selling rams and said God asked him to make a sacrifice on my behalf and he paid for the ram.
“We bought the ram and went back to the church; he asked me to write the names of my debtors in the sequences of seven, nine, 14 and 21 in red ink. I gave him the names and he called the two members he had introduced to me earlier and a man from the North called Talif Aliu, whom he said works with the Nigeria Customs Service.”
Ezenwaka added, “He (the prophet) killed the ram and used a bowl collect its blood and persuaded me to bathe with the blood, but I declined and he said I should not doubt the message of the Holy Spirit, so I bathed with the blood. After bathing, he gave me the head of the ram and told me to follow him to a place in the church’s premises where he dug the ground and buried the head of the ram with the names of my debtors.
“He asked me to take the remains of the ram to my landed property in Lagos and also asked the two members to follow me to bury the torso of the ram and that I should come back two weeks later.”
Ezenwaka stated that after two weeks, he went back to the prophet, who brought out a landed property document and asked him to help him (Ilongwo) get a loan from the bank where he worked.
He added that he told the prophet that he was not qualified for a loan in the bank and that after several pleas from the prophet without him yielding to his request, Ilongwo went into his house and brought out a cross-like chain, claiming it was God who asked him to give him the chain so as to get promotion in the office.
The fraud victim noted that the prophet poured oil on him, sprinkled a spiritual perfume on him and gave him a stick tied with a red cloth and a padlock.
Ezenwaka added, “After all this, he asked me to go, and the next morning while I was in a meeting in the office, he called me on the phone and asked me to come and see him immediately.
“When I got to his church, he requested the money again and I told him I couldn’t get it, but he promised to pay if I could raise it as he had found a Chinese company that wanted to buy the property from him.
“He asked me to kneel down that he wanted to pray for me and I did; he gave me a chewing stick with a red cloth tied to it and he asked me to chew the stick in his presence. He gave me a powder that I should rub on my face and whenever I asked him the reason for all these, he would tell me that they were directives of the Holy Spirit and that I should not doubt them. It was at this point I lost consciousness.
“When I went back to the office, I started transferring money to the account number he provided and whenever I called the prophet that my customers were asking for their money, he would tell me to look for the money elsewhere to pay them.
“The prophet kept promising to refund the money and he kept borrowing from me and I kept giving him. Whenever I told him about how my customers were disturbing me for their money, he would ask me to come and do sacrifices so that they would not disturb me again.
“He told me to write their names and that I should not tell anybody about it, not even my wife; and when he noticed that I was gradually regaining my consciousness, he threatened that I was going to die if I told anyone. He claimed that was the message from God.”
The victim added that when he did not get any refund from the prophet and his customers kept disturbing him for their money, he reported at the Special Fraud Unit of the police and the prophet was arrested.
Ezenwaka, who noted that when the prophet was granted bail by the police, he kept threatening him, said when the police refused to do anything about the case, he approached the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and Ilongwo was invited for questioning.
The presiding judge, Justice Sherifat Solebo, adjourned the case till February 4 and 19 for cross-examination.