by Adesina Tosin Nathaniel
Recently, the media was awash with news of the arrest of a South African based Nigerian Pastor, Timothy Omotosho, the founder of Jesus Dominion International Church, Durban, South Africa. Omotosho started his ministry in England before moving to South Africa in the year 2001 and has grown his church of 50 members to thousands. Dubbed the “miracle worker” he has been credited with healing all sorts of sickness and performing miracles. But that CV was tainted with his arrest for human trafficking last week.
The Police alleged that Tim Omotosho trafficked about 30 girls from different locations within SouthAfricaa to a house in Uhmlanga, Kwazulu-Natal where he exploited them sexually. I watched the confessions of some of the girls on South African TV in a documentary themed “The Assignment” It was a horrific documentary that brought tears to my eyes.
As expected, there were various opinions for and against his arrest, but the opinions did not deter the Police from arraigning him in court for the offence. In the course of his arraignment he pleaded not guilty. Subsequently, he was denied bail and the case was adjourned to the 3rd of May.
There is a big lesson for Nigeria to learn as a country in the ongoing trial of Tim Omotosho for the alleged offences. From the investigations by the police to his arrest and arraignment, everything was a show of class and professionalism. The man was not subjected to media trial as found in Nigeria despite his status as a Big Time Pastor in South Africa. With thousands of members in his church, the state did not shield him from prosecution as found here. South Africa’s justice system and rule of law is one Nigeria needs to emulate.
If Tim Omotosho had committed these alleged acts in Nigeria, I am 100% sure he wouldn’t have been arrested let alone being arraigned. His media adviser would have taken to the press to blame it on mischief makers and blackmailers, if that did not work they would give it an ethnic coloration if that failed they will make it political. He will hire ten SAN’s and the SAN’s would have obtained an order from a magistrate court in Sokoto to prevent Police from arresting him in Ibadan. There would have been protests by his church members alleging Blackmail by the powers of Darkness and the case would have died a natural death with the victims living forever with the scar!
But that was not so in South Africa. for every act committed there is an equal and commensurate punishment. It was in South Africa that Henry Okah was convicted for the Independence Day bomb blast that rocked the capital city of Nigeria during the presidency of Goodluck Jonathan. He was in South Africa at the time of the blast but the long arm of the law caught up with him and he was convicted. His brother, Charles Okah’s case is still dragging slowly for over 4years in Nigeria with no end in sight.
Nigeria sure has lots to learn from the South African justice system. Our government needs to learn how to stand in the gap for victims of any human right abuse irrespective of who committed the act.
In the year 2013, a lady named Ese Walter alleged that the senior Pastor of common wealth of Zion Assembly, Pastor Biodun Fatoyinbo had a sexual relationship with her outside the country and when she couldn’t bear seeing the man preaching every Sunday, she had to speak out to clear her conscience. The Pastor in the usual style of a Nigerian claimed it was blackmail and said God asked him to keep quiet about it that there will be a robust reply soon. Four years after, we are yet to get the robust reply and Ese Walter is no more a Christian as she finds it difficult to see the same man that slept with her leading thousands of worshippers.
In this case there was no investigation by the security agencies, the state also feigned ignorance of it and we’ve continued to act as if all is well.
As if that was not enough, on the 12th of September 2014 a guest house located in the premises of Synagogue Church of all nations Ikotun-Egbe belonging to Pastor TB Joshua collapsed. Over 100 souls, most of whom were foreigners, with South Africans the most hit were killed. The event was so shocking, it put Nigeria on the world news for days and months. But who paid for the lost souls? NO one. TB Joshua enjoyed the protection of the state from President Goodluck Jonathan.
The Lagos State government set up a coroner’s inquest into the incident but TB Joshua refused to appear before it till date. He would rather blame the evil ones and one small airplane for the collapse. In fact, the plane was so small that it couldn’t be captured by the radar of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency. The rest as they say is history!
I can give countless examples of how the state has frustrated justice and failed to support victims of abuse and other vices in Nigeria. Is it the Stephanie Otobo-Apostle Suleman saga? Is it the Bishop Akan Weeks Church collapse that claimed lots of life in Akwa Ibom that he also blamed on the power of darkness?
One thing common to these cases is the role played by the state in preventing the dispensation of justice to the culprits. The state isn’t interested in it no matter the publicity the event generates so far the individual is a public figure. Succinctly put, if you are a public figure in Nigeria say Pastor, imam, business tycoon among others you have a license to commit crime and get away with it . South Africa has shown to Nigeria that everyone is important and you will reap whatever you sow irrespective of your status .
And before you think Omotosho was being persecuted because he is a Nigerian, the answer is a capital NO! South Africans too had a first-hand experience of the sound justice system in the country. A case that readily comes to mind is that of Olympic Gold medalist Oscar Pistorious. Despite bringing glory to his country as a paralympian, he was not spared when he killed his girlfriend and he was convicted at the end of the day. Can that happen in Nigeria? Your guess is as good as mine.
Until the state starts supporting victims of human rights abuse and other vices and stops its interference with justice to end that Nigerians in general believe in justice for the oppressed rather than calling it blackmail, justice will be far from the victims and the accused will always prevail.
Nigeria should learn from South Africa and promote a society where sinners don’t go unpunished!
Justice is a right; it must be enjoyed by everyone.
Adesina Tosin Nathaniel is a Forward Looking Nigerian Youth