BBC Investigation: World-Renowned Nigerian Televangelist Accused of Repeatedly Raping Female Disciples Over Decades

The Roys Report [Chicago IL]

January 9, 2024

By Liz Lykins

Now-deceased, world-renowned Nigerian televangelist, Temitope Babatunde Joshua, known as “TB Joshua,” repeatedly raped and abused disciples in his church over decades, a newly released BBC investigation has found. The investigation claims that numerous disciples at Joshua’s megachurch—Synagogue Church of all Nations in Lagos, Nigeria—were sexually assaulted, forced to have abortions, and physically abused.

Joshua, who passed away at age 58 in 2021, was one of Africa’s wealthiest and most influential pastors. Around 50,000 people attended his church each week. And millions of people from Europe, the Americas, Southeast Asia, and Africa watched his global television show and YouTube channel.

BBC’s findings stem from a two-year investigation in collaboration with the media platform openDemocracy. More than 15 BBC journalists across three continents gathered archived video recordings and documents and interviewed more than 25 eyewitnesses.

The witnesses—from the UK, Nigeria, Ghana, U.S., South Africa, and Germany—all allege similar accusations against Joshua, spanning decades. The most recent allegations are from 2019.

The victims claim Joshua abused and raped church disciples, including minors, for nearly 20 years. The BBC reported that the abuses occurred at the Synagogue Church of all Nations (Scoan) compound, where Joshua lived, as did many of his followers.

BBC said it reached out to Scoan for comment regarding these allegations. While Scoan did not address the current allegations, it said that previous claims against Joshua have been unfounded.

“Making unfounded allegations against Prophet TB Joshua is not a new occurrence . . . None of the allegations was ever substantiated,” Scoan told the BBC.

Joshua regularly singled out people to serve as his disciples, according to the BBC. Disciples were an elite group of followers who served him and lived with him inside his compound.

The BBC reports that it interviewed 16 former disciples, who shared first-hand testimony of sexual assault or rape by Joshua. Many disciples said they were raped as much as two to four times a week. Several witnessed said that the assaults left them struggling to breathe or bleeding.

“We all thought we were in heaven, but we were in hell,” said Rae, a former disciple. “And in hell terrible things happen.”

Rae was 21 years old when she left her studies at Brighton University in England in 2002 to join the church, according to the BBC.

Jessica Kaimu, from Namibia, told BBC reporters that she was 17 when Joshua first raped her in his penthouse. A disciple for five years, she alleged that subsequent instances of assaults by Joshua led to her having five forced abortions while there.

“I was screaming, and he was whispering in my ear that I should stop acting like a baby . . . I was so traumatized, I couldn’t cry,” she said.

Other women also alleged that Joshua forced them to have abortions after getting pregnant by the televangelist. The victims claimed they were given forced abortions inside an area in the compound, known as the “clinic.”

“It would all be done in secrecy,” said Sihle, a South African former disciple, who said she had three forced abortions in the church. 

“You are given a concoction to drink, and you get sick. Or they put these metal pieces in your vagina, and they extract whatever. And you don’t know whether they’re (accidentally) pulling out your womb,” Sihle added.

The former disciples also allege they were forced to work, without pay, for long hours each day, running numerous aspects of the megachurch. BBC’s interviewees described that sleep deprivation was routine, with disciples often getting just four hours of sleep a night. Victims described that if they were caught napping without permission, or breaking any other of Joshua’s rules, they would then be punished.

Additionally, 19 former disciples said they saw violent attacks or torture within the compound, which was either carried out or ordered by Joshua, the BBC reported.

Other disciples said they were stripped and whipped with electrical cables and a horse whip while staying at the church’s compound. Among those allegedly hurt by these methods were trainee disciples as young as seven, the BBC reported.

The BBC said all the interviewees described Joshua and his church with terms like “brainwashing,” “indoctrination,” and “mind control.” Many said life under Joshua’s leadership was like being in a “cult,” the news publication added.

Former church insiders have tried to come forward before about the abuses of Scoan and Joshua, the BBC reported. However, the former followers claim they were silenced or discredited by Scoan for sharing their information, and two told BBC reporters that they were physically assaulted. 

A witness from Nigeria claimed that they were shot at after posting videos containing allegations against Joshua and Scoan on YouTube, BBC reported.

Four British citizens who were a part of the church said they told UK authorities about the abuses within Scoan. No further action was taken by authorities after this, the Britons say.

Additionally, a British man and his wife told the BBC that they emailed video evidence to the British High Commission in Nigeria in March 2010, after fleeing the church. Their videos included a recording of them being held at gunpoint by men who described themselves as police and members of Scoan. The man said his wife was repeatedly sexually assaulted and raped by Joshua, and reported this to the commission. The man reportedly claimed the commission took no action.

After Joshua’s death two years ago, the pastor was hailed as one of the most influential religious leaders in African history, according to the BBC. Dozens of politicians and celebrities visited have visited his church, including at least nine African presidents, the BBC said.

Joshua was renowned for his miracles, allegedly healing people of everything from cancer to HIV/AIDS, chronic migraines, and blindness. BBC’s investigation also accused Joshua of faking these miracles.

Agomoh Paul, a man once regarded as Joshua’s number two in the church, told BBC reporters that Joshua faked the miracles.

He, along with other sources told the BBC that those “cured” had often been paid to perform or exaggerate their symptoms before their healing took place. Additionally, in some cases, the people had been unknowingly drugged or given medicine to improve their conditions while at the church. They were later persuaded to give testimony about their recovery.

Joshua was previously involved in controversy when one of the guesthouses at his church collapsed in 2014 and killed 116 people, the BBC said.

Scoan continues to operate today, under the leadership of Joshua’s widow, Evelyn.