TB Joshua: ‘We thought it was heaven but then terrible things happened’

Inside Synagogue Church of all Nations in Lagos, founded by TB Joshua
Image caption,Inside Synagogue Church of all Nations in Lagos, founded by TB Joshua

By Charlie Northcott & Helen Spooner

BBC News, Africa Eye

TB Joshua, a charismatic Nigerian leader of one of the world’s biggest evangelical churches, secretly committed sexual crimes on a mass scale, a BBC investigation spanning three continents has found. Testimony from dozens of survivors suggests Joshua was abusing and raping young women from around the world several times a week for nearly 20 years.

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Warning: Contains accounts of torture, rape and self-harm

In early 2002, in the depths of a grey English winter, 21-year-old Rae disappeared.

The last time many of her friends saw her was at university in Brighton. She had been studying graphic design, living in a shared house 25 minutes from the sea. Rae was bright and popular.

“For me, it was like she died, but I couldn’t grieve her,” says Carla, Rae’s best friend at the time.

Carla knew where Rae had gone. But the truth of it was hard to explain to their friends. A few weeks previously, she and Rae had travelled to Nigeria together, in search of a mysterious man who could seemingly heal people with his hands. He was a Christian pastor, with a black beard, in white robes. His name was TB Joshua. His followers called him “The Prophet”.

Rae and Carla planned to visit his church, the Synagogue Church of All Nations [Scoan], for just one week. But Rae never came home. She had moved into Joshua’s compound.

“I left her there,” says Carla, tears flowing freely. “Never will I ever forgive myself for that.”

The church looms like a gothic temple over the Ikotun neighbourhood in Lagos, Africa’s largest city. Joshua designed all 12 storeys of the compound adjoining it, where he lived alongside many of his followers. He oversaw the construction of the multiple staircases to his bedroom. The three doors to it, in and out. The hidden prayer room full of tiny mirrors. The “clinic” downstairs.

We have interviewed many people who lived inside. They paint a picture of a concrete labyrinth; a nightmarish world where reality slipped away and horrors unfolded.

Numerous women say they were sexually assaulted by Joshua, with a number claiming they were repeatedly raped behind closed doors. Some say they were forced to have abortions after becoming pregnant.

Carla (left) and Rae
Image caption,Carla (left) with Rae – she says she is devastated that she came home without her best friend

Today, Rae is back in England, living in a beautiful hamlet in the countryside. She’s smiley and laughs freely, but there’s something restless about her.

“On the outside I look normal, but I’m not,” she says.

When Rae talks about her years in Lagos, her lips tighten. She talks breathlessly. At times, the colour visibly drains from her face. She spent 12 years inside Joshua’s compound.

“This story is like a horror story. It’s like something you watch in fiction, but it’s true.”

The two-year investigation, in collaboration with international media platform openDemocracy, has involved more than 15 BBC journalists across three continents. They gathered archive video recordings, documents, and hundreds of hours of interviews to corroborate Rae’s testimony and uncover further harrowing stories. More than 25 eyewitnesses and alleged victims, from the UK, Nigeria, Ghana, US, South Africa and Germany, http://frutangjeruk.com/ have provided accounts of what it was like inside Joshua’s compound, with the most recent experiences in 2019.

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