It started with a vision allegedly seen by the Senior Pastor of the Chosen One To Rule Ministry, Asaba, Delta State, Chinonso Udemezue.
Sometime in January, 2018, Udemezue received a guest, a member of his church who had come to him for counselling along with her grandson, a 10-year-old boy, Gabriel (not real name). The family said they had been attending the church for over two years.
Gabriel’s aunty told our correspondent that her mother went to the pastor for spiritual counselling because he was a pastor they trusted.
“I lost my brother sometime ago and we did not want to lose my nephew too, that is why my mother went to the pastor for counselling and prayers,” she said.
According to Gabriel’s aunty, the pastor told her mother that he saw a vision that the boy would be kidnapped.
“He said that we might lose him to kidnappers if my mother did not bring him to live with him for some time,” she said.
Saturday PUNCH learnt that for almost one month, the boy lived with the pastor and went to school normally from the pastor’s house.
“When we decided to put the boy in our pastor’s custody, my mother asked how much would be needed to enrol him in a school and pastor said N45,000 which my mother gave to him,” she said.
Few weeks after Gabriel had been living with the pastor, some sympathisers brought him to his grandmother’s house and told her something had happened to the boy.
He could no longer sit properly, Saturday PUNCH learnt.
Gabriel’s aunty said, “We asked him what was wrong and he told us how our pastor showed him a sex video on his phone one night. After that, he said pastor removed his clothes and brought out something like oil which he (pastor) robbed on himself and inserted his penis into his anus. He said it was the only time pastor did it.
“We screamed and raised the alarm. We then decided to go and report the matter to the police.”
After he was arrested, we went to the school where my nephew was enrolled and found out that the school was actually N25,000 not N45,000 the pastor told us. The school also said he had only paid N9,000 out of the money.”
The case was reported at the ‘B’ Police Division, Asaba, where a team of policemen were detailed to arrest Udemezue.
On Thursday, the pastor was brought before the Okwe Magistrate’s Court, Asaba, on charges of child defilement and rape.
He pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Udemezue was released on a N100,000 bail with one surety in like sum by Magistrate Alero Ezewani, after the suspect’s lawyer, Mr. Inyang, told the court that the family of the victim had decided to settle the case out of court.
The case was adjourned till March 13, 2018.
However, after the court hearing, a human rights activist, Mr. Gwamnishu Harrison, who was present during the hearing took up the case when he witnessed what transpired outside the court.
He told Saturday PUNCH, “After the sitting, I picked an interest in the case and went to meet the family of the boy outside. I was shocked that the lawyer was telling the woman (Gabriel’s aunty) to give him her phone number so they could contact her later in order to give her the money for ‘damages’.
“I could not believe what I was hearing. I told the man right there that I would not allow her to collect the money and that I was taking over the case. He challenged me that I should not intervene since I was not the complainant.
“I told the woman not to release her phone number or collect any money. The woman later told me that when she wanted to take the boy to the pastor for protection, she even gave him (Udemezue) some money.
“I told the boy’s aunty that we needed to take him to the hospital for tests and treatment and that I would take care of the expenses.
“But the policeman in charge of the case said there was no need and that they had already taken the boy to the hospital. But the boy said he had not got any treatment.”
Gabriel’s aunty also confirmed to our correspondent that the boy had never received any treatment.
“We are too poor to afford taking him to a hospital,” she said.
Our correspondent contacted Udemezue on the phone and he denied all the allegations of rape against him.
“It is fake news. ‘Yahoo-boys’ in the neighbourhood are the ones trying to set me up,” he said.
He was asked if that meant he was never arraigned for raping the boy, he confirmed that he was.
Our correspondent asked why he thought the boy would make such an allegation and he answered, “I don’t know what they could have said to the boy to make him say such a thing.”
When he was asked if the boy was ever brought to him for counselling and if he thereafter lived with him, Udemezue did not answer. After a while, he disconnected the call while subsequent effort to speak with him was unsuccessful. He did not pick subsequent calls to his line.
Saturday PUNCH contacted the spokesperson for the Delta State Police Command, Mr. Andrew Aniamaka, over the case but he said he would need to get more facts on it before he could comment.