The Ikeja Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence court sentenced founder of iReign Christian Ministry, Feyi Daniels, to life imprisonment for “raping a church member” on Friday, 26 January.
The Judge, Justice Rahman Oshodi, found the Lagos-based pastor guilty of rape and sexual assault of a female worshipper and held that the pastor be remanded for the rest of his life at the Kirikiri prison in Lagos.
Oshodi said that the prosecution established beyond doubt the ingredients of the two offences against him by a 19-year-old church member and a 23-year-old assistant pastor. According to him, Daniels is a liar and does not have any regard for truth.
In his own defence, the pastor who pleaded not guilty, testified that he believed three out of the four women who accused him of sexually assaulting them conspired to turn against him.
The prosecution lead counsel, Babajide Boye, established that the defendant had a ‘personal relationship’ with the four women.
Boye alleged that the defendant had counseled one of the women, given the amount of N100,000 to another for hospital treatment, paid school fees for a third, and related with a fourth as a leader in the campus fellowship affiliated with his ministry at Akungba-Akobo in Ondo State.
However, Daniels denied giving money to any of the women for treatment. He said, “I believe all three ladies turned against me, but not (name withheld) because she later apologised to me.”
When queried why the accusations from the ladies were all sexual in nature, the defendant said he didn’t know.
Boye also accused the defendant of using his position as a Pastor to manipulate persons, particularly young women who came to him for counseling.
“You are a man of God. Are you not? A powerful man of God. You were trained to counsel, and you use wisdom and the leading of the spirit to manipulate,” Boye asked.
Again, the pastor denied the allegation, saying, “I am not a powerful man; I am a pastor. I do not use power to counsel people; I am not a manipulator.”
The Prosecutor continued, “You visited your Akungba fellowship centre, and when she (one of the alleged victims) saw you, she hissed. Were you not surprised as a pastor?
“No. She was disgruntled because I couldn’t help her financially,” he responded. He also denied tampering with WhatsApp messages between him and one of the alleged victims.
The prosecutor during trial tried to tender four statements reportedly written by the defendant while he was in police custody at various intervals last year.
“There are contradictions between the defendant’s testimony and the contents of the documents. We seek to use them to impeach his testimony. We rely on section 232 of the Evidence Act, that evidence even though obtained improperly is still admissible and we urge the court to admit the same,” Boye said.
The defence counsel, Adebayo Adegbite, raised objections to the admissibility of the statements. He argued that the statements were not made by the defendant and that the pastor was made to signed them under duress.
“The statements are a mixture of confession and denial. We leave it to the court to determine whether they amount to a confession. Right from the start of this trial, the defendant has denied the charges, that’s his plea. The documents weren’t made voluntarily. Even if there were contradictions, he wasn’t the maker of the documents, they were written by the police,” Adegbite stated.
In his ruling, Justice Oshodi admitted the documents. The judge said, “By section 9(3) and (4) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Lagos State (2021), the presence of a video testimony of the suspect is desirable but not compulsory. I will admit the documents and later consider the evidential value to place on them. The objection of the defence is hereby overruled.”
The Lagos State Directorate of Public Prosecutions, Ministry of Justice in March of 2023, ordered the arraignment of the Lekki-based pastor, over the alleged rape of an assistant pastor of his church and another lady.
Oluwafeyiropo Daniel is the founder of I Reign Christian Ministry, Ikota, Lekki, he was popular on social media last year for making prophecies about the outcome of the 2023 general elections.
His sentencing is an indication that victims of sexual violence can justice and has further encouraged victims who are hiding to step forward and report the perpetrators. It has also restored some level of trust in the judicial system of the country.
Many women suffer in silence for fear that the perpetrators would be allowed to walk free when reported or would be questioned and blamed for being a victim. His church members still believe the judgement would be overturned.
Author: Kangmwa Gofwen
Lagos Bureau Chief, Nigeria