The story of Obinna Ezenwaka, a 36-years old former banker with Fidelity bank was better imagined. A degree holder in Banking and Finance from University of Nigeria, Nsukka, UNN, as well as a Masters degree in Business Administration from Birmingham University, London, he alleged that he was hypnotized and defrauded of N84 million by the pastor of a Lagos based church with headquarters at Soba village, along Lagos –Badagry Expressway.
According to him, he fell victim of the pastor while he was trying to recover the sum of N69, 800m Forex deposit belonging to one of the bank’s customers which he wrongly paid to another customer. He said that he was introduced to the prophet by a female family friend who assured him that the prophet would pray for him and the money would be recovered. He ended up paying the prophet N84m at different times he regained his senses and realized what had happened to him. He has now been sacked from the bank while the owners of the money which he wrongly paid to another person had dragged him to court. He has however sought the intervention of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to help recover the money he which he wrongly paid to another customer of the bank. He gave a vivid account of what transpired between him and the man he simply identified as Prophet Ilongwo, to our Crime Editor, Emma Nnadozie.
“Fidelity bank is well known in Forex business and all the staff of the bank were asked to open accounts for Bureau De Change customers. In 2015, a friend of mine who was also a customer of the bank and had been dealing in forex at our bank with me as his contact person and account officer, approached me for foreign exchange. I contacted my BDC operators who promised to get some money for me. I then paid a total of N69, 800 to the man and he promised to get me 300,000 dollars from what we calculated. However, at the end of the day, he failed to pay the required amount but kept making promises until I discovered that he had a problem with the person he paid the money to
Resort to ‘man of God’
“When all efforts to recover the money failed, I had to personally report the case to EFCC. While this was going on, my job in the bank was at stake. The owner of the money was putting pressure on me to recover his money or he would report me to the bank. At this stage, I was confused. However, what looked like a succour came when a female family friend whom I narrated my predicament to, promised to take me to a man she described as “a very powerful man of God” who would pray and the money would be recovered without delay. She took me to the Prophet’s church at Soba area in Abule-Ado, along Lagos-Badagry expressway. After I narrated my plight, the Prophet promised firmly that I was going to recover every penny of the money. That was how I started going to his church. But unknown to me, the prophet had some of his members who monitored worshippers and even their telephone conversations. Two members of the church were close to me but I didn’t know that they were passing every information about me to the Prophet.
Message from God
The Prophet kept on giving me prayer points with firm promises that I would recover the money but nothing happened. At a stage, I stopped going to the church. That was when those members close to me came and told me that the Prophet had a vision and that there was something God wanted to do for me. I was then invited to his house and I did not hesitate in going there at Amuwo-Odofin by Diamond Estate. When I got there, he started talking about prosperity and promotion in my office assuring that the years I worked in the bank without promotion would not be in vain. He kept making promises and because I trusted him, I was keenly listening to him.
Spiritual perfume and chewing stick to the rescue
“Then, he brought oil in a black bottle and sprinkled it around me seven times. He also brought something he called spiritual perfume and sprinkled it on my forehead. After that, he went upstairs and brought some documents which he said was the main reason he invited me to his house. He narrated how he needed loan from my bank to purchase one property worth N50m along Festac link road. When I told him that it was not going to be possible because it was not lending period for the bank, he demanded that I should try and get the money from customers of the bank known to me. I told him that it was not going to be possible but the next day he invited me to his house again and made me chew what looked like a stick with the assurance that it would help me get favours from my bank. I did not know everything I did again with him. That was how I started giving him money in millions. In many instalments, he duped me of about N84 million. I was transferring the money even from banks. Sometimes, he would drive to my office to collect a huge sum of money under one guise or the other with firm promises to pay back. I have all the documents. “This went on until the affected customers started disturbing me over their money. Two of them arrested me and when I called the Prophet’s attention to my plight, he continued to reassure me that it would be well soon. Significantly, there was a man who usually accompanied him claiming to be a customs officer. The prophet would boast that the man would be the next Controller General of Customs because of his prayers and he was using him to showcase his powers and extort money from unsuspecting church members.
Futile efforts to get justice
“When I realised what was happening to me, I dragged him to the Special Fraud Unit of the Police on January 30th, 2017 but shockingly he was released while the case file was sent to Abuja. That was how the case nearly turned against me because the police in Abuja turned around to start accusing me. I then took the case to the Economic and Financial Crimes commission, EFCC, in Abuja which was later transferred to Lagos for convenience. While all these agencies were foot-dragging over the case, I wrote another petition in June 2017 through Federal anti-Robbery Squad, FEDSARS, to Inspector-General of Police Tactical squad in Abuja. The day the team came to arrest him in his residence at Festac, there was a drama that nearly turned bloody. While the policemen were at his gate, he called the police in FESTAC and informed them that armed robbers invaded his house. Fortunately, when the FESTAC police team arrived to confront the so-called armed robbers, they turned out to be their colleges from Abuja and they did not take it kindly with him for mis-informing them. He was later released and no other steps were taken to prosecute him. I now turned back to EFCC. As soon as EFCC intensified efforts at giving me justice, the Prophet started making life very uncomfortable for me. That was after EFCC sealed up the house which he used my money to buy at Amuwo-Odofin. Unfortunately, after sometime, that same house that was sealed up started undergoing serious renovation and I took up the issue with my IPO in EFCC but he could not give me any cogent reason. Several times, I narrowly escaped being openly attacked by unknown faces. At a stage, I relocated to a hidden place just to save my life and that of members of my family. I reported all these attempts on my life to the Police but nothing concrete was done to bring him to book.
My plight While I was making efforts to get justice, my bank dismissed me from my job. How I fell victim to this unfortunate scenario with my academic background and exposure is what I cannot fathom. I am crying out now because many others including multi-millionaires, other men of God and some who claimed to be reverend fathers and sisters and highly placed individuals in Lagos and beyond have fallen victims to the devilish manipulations of this so-called Prophet and the sooner he was brought to book, the better. I have an impeccable record as a banker but look at how I lost my lucrative job. “ Concerted efforts made to speak with the prophet failed as calls made to his phone lines rang ceaselessly without response. When contacted, a man said to be his Personal Assistant still encouraged that we should continue to call him on phone. However, when contacted, an official of the Public Relations Unit of the EFCC who simply introduced himself as Sulaimon told Crime Guard: “We investigated a case reported by one Obinna Ezenwaka against one Prophet Ilongwo. We have filed the case in court after our investigations but they are yet to give a date for hearing. It will not be proper for us to arrest the prophet now until the court is ready to prosecute the matter. About the other issue of sealing the uncompleted building alleged to be from the proceeds of the missing money, we will investigate it.”