By Esther Onyegbula
The peace of Akute, Ogun State was disrupted by aggrieved non-governmental organizations, NGOs, and women protesting the relocation of an orphanage allegedly being run by a pastor standing trial on a four-count charge of sexual abuse.
The protesters, led by Josephine Effah-Chukwuma, Executive Director, Project Alert, and Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, founder, Women Arise, were, mostly, lawyers, child right and women activists. They stormed Akute-Ijoko Road at about 12 noon displaying placards with inscriptions: “Say no to child abuse”, “This pastor is a pedophile”, “Orphanage or child abuse center”, “Justice for sexually-abused children”, among others. The protesters lamented that the founder of the orphanage had gone ahead to relocate it when he had not been cleared of the case of sexual abuse hanging on his head.
The protest was prompted by a text message about the relocation of the orphanage allegedly sent by the pastor. The text message read: “RELOCATION OF ORPHANAGE – Beloved, come rejoice with us as we celebrate God’s faithfulness in thanksgiving and dedication of the new place God appointed us at Akute-Ijoko Road on Saturday February 22, 2014, at 11am. Please pray and plan to attend. God bless you.”
The protesters alleged that the orphanage is a killer and “the people of this vicinity must know because we can’t keep allowing these abuses to go on”. They went on: “This place must be closed down. We will not keep quiet and allow a pedophile to truncate the future of our children.
All the children in this center are the future of Nigeria and if they are being raped by the pastor, it means that Nigeria has no future. We are also calling on the government of Ogun State and the people of Nigeria to make sure that he is brought to book. Every responsible Nigerian must ensure that the pastor is brought to book.”
They questioned Ogun State government on why the orphanage remained in operation and why the pastor was becoming more courageous to the extent of opening another orphanage under the watch of the state. “Ogun State has not shut down the orphanage in spite of the fact that the founder has a four- count charge of sexual abuse still hanging over his head. Until the law takes it’s course, until he is acquitted and the court of law declares him innocent, this orphanage should be closed down.”
Speaking during the protest, Okei-Odumakin noted that the pastor was relocating his orphanage from Akute because he is running away from the negative publicity he got as a result of the alleged sexual abuse of the girls at the orphanage.
“Investigations revealed that despite the fact that the Ogun State Ministry of Women Affairs instructed the pastor to stay away from the orphanage, he still frequents the orphanage. What system did Ogun State put in place to monitor and ensure that the pastor does not go to that orphanage?”
Josphine Effah- Chukwuma, Executive Director, Project Alert, said that Ogun State Government and the Ministry of Women Affairs have returned the two girls that cried out that the pastor was sexually abusing them to the orphanage. “Does it take a wizard or a blind person to know that you don’t return victims of a crime to crime site? Imagine those two under-aged girls returned to the orphanage on the grounds that they signed an undertaking that they wanted to go back. According to the laws in Nigeria, as long as they are under 18, you are not an adult, you don’t have the right to decide for yourself.”
The protesters demanded that the orphanage be closed until the suspect is acquitted by the court of law.
Although the pastor was not around, a jeep, reportedly owned by him, was parked inside the compound. Building work was apparently on- going at the site while hired chairs, a cake for the event and visitors trooped in for the event.
According to one of the invited guests, one Mrs Olagbemi, “I received a text message through my phone that the orphanage was relocating. I have known the pastor for about eight years now. Because I run a Bible club and children Evangelism Ministry, I usually visit the orphanage to give them what we have for the children. And we have been doing this for seven years. I am not aware that the first home was sealed by government because of alleged sexual abuse of children.”
Further investigation also revealed that the orphanage at Akute remained in operation with more than 26 children.