A Benin-based Nigerian pastor has been accused of sexually abusing the children in his ICCM camp.
Pastor Solomon Folorunsho
Pastor Solomon Folorunsho, a Nigerian cleric who is based in Benin has been accused of harrassment.
The pastor who said he is on a self-proclaimed mission to help humanity, creating the International Christian Centre for Missions (ICCM), is facing accusations of physically and sexually abusing children seeking refuge in his church’s camp, according to a report by the Agence France Presse, AFP.
The camp he runs in the ancient city claims to provide accommodation, medical care and education for 4,000 children, “most of them orphans”, as well as 500 widows and missionaries, using funding from local institutions, NGOs and churches abroad.
But witnesses according to an AFP report — children, their relatives, former missionaries and social workers — paint a far darker picture of the pastor and the treatment of those in his care.
“At first he’s very subtle, quiet — like somebody who wouldn’t hurt a fly,” one former church worker said of the charismatic preacher. I loved him, I loved his charisma.”
But during months of interviews, witnesses detailed how those living at his 30-hectare (75-acre) facility frequently go hungry and thirsty and endure atrocious hygiene conditions.
Pastor Solomon, aged in his 50s, admits having problems with food and sanitary conditions in the camp but denies any mistreatment.
“There is no bad treatment here. We don’t do abuse,” he said
“Feeding them is a challenge… but we don’t have anything to hide. We are helping humanity.”
Concerns about the camp have a long history. Three years ago, the UN children’s agency UNICEF sent an assessment team to the site, who filed a report with damning conclusions.
“Pastor Solomon runs this camp as if it is his ‘kingdom’. He controls the movement and actions of every person in the camp through a group of ministers and specially selected children,” the team wrote in the confidential report, seen by AFP.
The UNICEF investigators said what they saw, coupled with interviews with children, caregivers and NGO workers, prompted “strong concerns regarding the possibility that Pastor Solomon may be engaged in sexual activities, or at a minimum, displaying grooming behaviours with girls in the camp”.
Witnesses also revealed that around a dozen young girls work for the pastor as his personal servants and receive preferential treatment.
“A girl who refused to work for him was punished and starved. When he beat you, he wouldn’t stop until you bled seriously,” said Rahila, a 16-year-old girl who left the camp several months ago.
“He had names that he called different girls… He would comment on the size of my butt, and he would say our chests looked like pineapples or stuff like that,” she said.
"He had names that he called different girls… He would comment on the size of my butt, and he would say our chests looked like pineapples or stuff like that,” she said.
All the witnesses’ names have been changed to protect their identities.
Other children and adults said that those who upset the preacher were treated brutally.
“I was always hungry, there was never enough food or water. When we complained we got beaten with anything he could lay his hands on,” said 12-year-old Hauwa.
“No one leaves Pastor Solomon without a scar — whether it is psychological or physical,” a former follower told AFP after hesitating at first to talk about his ordeal.
Convincing people to talk about their experiences with Pastor Solomon is a painstaking task. Some have refused to speak out for 20 years.
Authorities in Edo have begun investigations into the allegations.