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SaharaReporters Crew Report on how Mountain of Fire Church Security Allegedly Molested & Detained them at New Year’s Eve Service

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A team of reporters from SaharaReporters/SaharaTV led by the publisher, Omoyele Sowore who visited the church camp of Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministry on the Lagos Ibadan expressway to cover the “cross over” service are accusing the Security and Task Force team of the church of molesting, harassing and detaining them illegally.

Sowore, accompanied by Lagos-based citizen journalist, Segun O’Law, who reports for the site from Lagos said they went to cover the New Year’s Eve crossover night service but were  molested and detained illegally for four hours by a joint task force of church security, armed police and the State Security Service.

As reported on the SaharaReporters website, Mr. Sowore and his crew were ushered into the Church with a canon 5D camera mounted on his shoulder, proper photo and video recording gadgets. They arrived at the time the General Overseer, Dr. Daniel Olukoya was delivering his sermon and had to seek direction to the podium. While doing so, they tendered their local credentials to the church ushers and security. Shortly after arriving near the podium, however, Mr. Sowore was accosted by a church security official who demanded to see his identity card. Promptly given one, the official nervously began scrutinizing the card while Mr. Sowore and the crew continued filming Dr. Olukoya’s sermon, which was on the subject of fear.

Below is an excerpt of their encounter as published on SaharaReporters:

Within seconds of the first encounter, a mob made up of security officials descended on Mr. Sowore and a second member of the crew, demanding that they cease any form of filming in the church auditorium. Attempts by the crew to explain that they were granted access to the auditorium following presentation of their press credentials were met with a ferocious and more aggressive pack of church thugs who attempted to break the crew’s camera. The argument escalated within the purview of the pastor, who continued his preaching. But it became intense, the church security growing nastier and more physical, pushing and shoving Mr. Sowore and another crew member to the back of the church altar. In an effort to avoid disruption of the service, the chaotic scene was pushed to the back of the church where the SaharaReporters crew was confronted by an army of security personnel comprising the State Security Service (SSS), mobile policemen carrying AK 47 guns, barrel-chested private security officials of the church, as well as the church production crew and a photographer who were taking photos of SR reporters.

There, in the dark, several security agents continued the pushing and shoving, issuing more threats, including a death threat. A guy identified as the “CSO” forcefully dispossessed the crew of its cameras and gadgets and threw them in a Hilux van, while church technical crew secretly searched for any memory cards as the mob gathered around threatening to maim and kill.Mr. Sowore argued against the aggression, wondering why a church service being streamed live was a subject of such secrecy and acrimony. He asked what the church was hiding and what the difference was between the Jesus police and the Devil’s army, and in response to an individual church member’s threat to physically assault him to death, Mr. Sowore asked, “What’s the big deal didn’t they kill Jesus, wasn’t it the church that killed Jesus Christ”.

As the mob got more charged and dangerous, one of the SSS men tried to calm the mob asking that the crew be taken into police custody. As the team made to drive off, it came under further allegations of “insubordination” from the church technical staff who had unsuccessfully failed to remove memory cards from the reporters’ equipment, not knowing they had already removed them and taken them out of the church premises. At that point, members of the SaharaReporters team had also begun secretly filming the encounter on their cellphones. In frustration, the leader of the church interrogation team accused Mr. Sowore of being sponsored by the devil because of the cowry shells he wears around his neck. A more serious allegation was soon to follow as they claimed that the team was sent by Boko Haram, the violent Nigerian Islamic sect that has been bombing churches in Northern Nigeria, to bomb their church. By that time, the team was surrounded by over 40 church people, police and thugs, who threatened them with death if they did not produce the memory cards.

The SaharaReporters team stood its ground, vehemently daring them to do their worst. As things got extremely heated a senior leader of the Mountain of Fire Church, who said he knew Mr. Sowore from his University of Lagos days waded in and asked that the mob step back. He cautioned that the incident could be detrimental for the church, disclosing to them that Mr. Sowore was the founder of SaharaReporters.com. In view of the fact that Mr. Sowore was traveling discreetly in Nigeria, that revelation didn’t go well with the crew but that intervention forced the church CSO to drive the crew to the church security post and detention center. There the crew was handed over to the officer in charge with the stern instruction that they be treated as criminals engaging in trespass and criminal espionage.The elderly security man promptly invited the Divisional Police Officer of the Nigerian police station at Ibafo in Ogun state who came and took their identity cards. He made a phone call to the local media affiliate and confirmed that we were legitimate.

The DPO himself then curiously fled the scene afterwards, leaving the SaharaReporters team to face further abuse and harsh interrogation from the three church staff members that had accompanied them to the detention center.

One of them, the editor of MFM News, along with a female production crew member of the church, verbally abused the reporters throughout the encounter.

The technical production chief of the Mountain of Fire Church also physically assaulted Mr. Sowore as he tried to retrieve another memory card that was unrelated to the coverage. The production crew later left, while a new set of younger church security task force hounded the detainees for hours. The reporters were kept in the dingy security post without any formal charges. The SR crew later decided on another round of protests when they found out that none of the people keeping them detained were officially affiliated with the police. In essence, they were being detained by the church, a non-state actor, in Nigeria. As the crew approached the counter to retrieve its cameras and leaven the account of the latest information, the younger task force members blocked the SR crew and some of them brought out a whip and sticks to attack the SR crew, they were cautioned not to try it.

Soon, two minsters arrived to plead with us to delete our footage claiming to have confirmed that they had shown saharareporters website to several top pastors at the GO’s office and that they actually patronize SaharaReporters on a daily basis. It is noteworthy that the second member of the new group was the former UNILAG student activist who had cautioned against any form of maltreatment during the molestation session at the back of the church when the crew was first arrested. After a meeting with the leader of the security post they released our cameras.

The CSO also arrived at the scene, where he apologized to the crew and offered to return Mr. Sowore’s cellphone. When the SR crew left the Mountain of Fire Church premises, it was about 3:00 AM. The crew had spent the New Year’s first hours in the detention of the church; one of our camera’s flashes had been damaged and Mr. Sowore’s glasses were missing. Of no less importance, at the detention center we saw the abuse of common Nigerians by Mountain of Fire Church security officials. Leaflet sellers as well as water and roadside hawkers are being routinely beaten and abused. One person was actually chained to a door and repeatedly beaten and abused. His offence: he was said to have been selling “illegal stuff”” on church premises.

In a similar report published by Premium Times, the authorities of the church were contacted to give an account on the event but they declined giving any comment.

Adeola Adeyemo is a graduate of Industrial Relations and Personnel Management from University of Lagos. However, her passion is writing and she worked as a reporter with NEXT Newspaper. She believes that anything can be written about; anything can be a story depending on the angle it is seen from and the writer's imagination. When she is not writing news or feature articles, she slips into her fantasies and creates interesting fiction pieces. She blogs at www.deolascope.blogspot.com

37 Comments

  1. tayo

    January 7, 2013 at 9:23 am

    Thank God dey didn’t get burnt hmmm naija wit injustice…wats so special in filming a church crossover service

  2. bunmi

    January 7, 2013 at 10:05 am

    Had similar experience too when I went for a program in the church around 2011,we were humiliated just because we didn’t know there was an entrance fee of 50 naira to be paid at the gate, there was no description for that at the gate all of a sudden the so called “army” came and harassed us before we knew it, we were dragged to the church security post that we could not provide the entrance receipt, they said a lot of things that we want to defraud the church etc , it was my 1st time and I vowed never to go there again.

    please post my comment now bellanaija!

    • Blessmyheart

      January 8, 2013 at 2:23 pm

      Most people don’t know this but there have been attempts to place bombs at the Prayer City so you should expect them to be overly security conscious. However, they probably should not have dealt with them so roughly. As for payment of money to enter, I can’t say categorically that it is not true but I have NEVER heard of a requirement to pay to enter. You probably should say the program you went for and when exactly it was for clarification. Unless the payment was for lodging at one of the hostels/chalets o.

    • Eghosa

      January 17, 2016 at 11:39 am

      if there is any church that does not collect money for their programs it is MFM if u say you were roughly handled i will believe u but to say its because of money i will confidently say you are lying

  3. Mum Enoch

    January 7, 2013 at 10:07 am

    NASA o

  4. Mum Enoch

    January 7, 2013 at 10:08 am

    nawa o

  5. Angel

    January 7, 2013 at 10:27 am

    Sahara reporters like to play the victim a lot. I bet they don’t know there was a recent assassination attempt on Dr Olukoya, we give God the glory that it wasnt successful. I’m not endorsing the way the security people handled the situation. But the security, SSS and police at the Prayer City are not members of the church, the way they handled the situation is the same way the everyday Nigerian Police would handle it so stop trying to spoil the church’s image

  6. tbn

    January 7, 2013 at 10:29 am

    Hmmm…. this is unbelievable. to think that this can happen in a church of God. Some of these so called MOG have turned themselves into mini-gods and their churches into mini-empires where they used their so called security personnel to attack and deal with whoever they believe is a threat without any recourse to the police. They are non-state actor human rights violators in the guise of doing the work of God. We know that one sad thing is that jungle justice is almost a normal thing in naija but to think that it happens even in the house of God, is more appalling. I know that at the end of the day the church and those responsible will not be held accountable for their acts of violence against Mr Sowore and his team. Due to the nature of the news that carry, sahara reporters is seen as a threat to most politicians and religious leaders whose hands are not clean. Obviously MFM hands are not clean, cos if their hands were clean they wouldnt have reacted to saharareporters team like they did. smh

  7. Nawa

    January 7, 2013 at 10:42 am

    End times are truly here. …. church beating up hawkers and chaining them to doors. Hope the useless task force we have will go and raid that place. Only God knows how many people have been killed by these occultic centres. Cos that one no be church at all.

  8. Ada di ora

    January 7, 2013 at 10:46 am

    I have been following Sahara since conception, even back when Sowore was working with the Elendu guy, as in I know their target audience and all. My prob with Sowore is that lately they have taken on the victim role way too much. With the latest attacks on churches, it is easy for security at any Nigerian church to be paranoid. These security personnel while situated at the church, are like contract agents and do not represent the church.
    Sowore and co were going undercover, for reasons best known to them. If they had gone to the church ahead of time, and sought permission, this would have been a much easier process. Maybe they believed going undercover would allow them to reveal something, since lately all they do is attack churches, which is starting to get redundant. I actually long for the Sahara Reporters of old, when they first started they had more of a clear direction, but appear to have been misled over the past couple of years, trying to do to much all at one.
    From what it appears, they were also equally aggressive in regards to tone of their voices and body language, and one cannot do that, and expect to be granted access anywhere, even here in the USA, let alone Nigeria.
    On another note, I clap for Sowore, he got the news coverage he wanted, but for crying out loud, I would like to believe he has a lot more valuable unbiased news to cover. I mean can Sowore go undercoer to the Sultan of Sokoto’s house, or that of the Emir of Kano? Can Sowore dig up the names of people owing banks money, and how that story was pushed under the carpet? Can Sowore go undercover and go by road from Lagos across the Niger bridge, to show the conditions of the roads from Lagos to Ore to Benin, and the need for a 2nd Niger bridge? Please dont sell me sensationalized journalism, this is what I would expect from The sun or a similar media outlet.

    • annie

      January 7, 2013 at 1:03 pm

      Best comment ever!

    • e-bukun

      January 7, 2013 at 10:15 pm

      Word!

    • Sonia

      January 8, 2013 at 4:32 am

      Sahara Reporters is the modern day Hints and Hearts magazine for political journalism.
      Anyone who does not see through the bullshit in this story is a fool. Period.

      You cannot go to a sacred place of worship without PROPER media permission and expect to be welcome. The people who guard the place are Nigerian police, what do you expect? Schew.

      That being said, SR, you guys are straight up sensational journalists now, no more credibility in your brand.

  9. Nok10

    January 7, 2013 at 10:50 am

    End times are near, so many false churches with huge congregation flocking in. God be with us all.

  10. Opsy

    January 7, 2013 at 10:51 am

    Were they invited to cover the crossover night? With the security challenge in the country, who will blame the Church for it’s action.

  11. seyi

    January 7, 2013 at 10:58 am

    Saharareporters has no right to have their camera operating at the event. I believe if they are journalist or reporter they should understand the meaning of invasion of property. And I believe there must an ooficial crew there at the event which the church in a way Gae the offiial permission to cover their events, so my opinion would be that bella naija should not post such news or video….its bad on the reputation.

  12. The Truth

    January 7, 2013 at 11:02 am

    The truth is dat Sahara reporters and Somoyole are extremely rude. It’s always easy 2 say what someone did to you, how about what you did to the person. I’m not saying the security personnel had any right to rough handle them, but Somoyole behaves like an untrained thug. I’m pretty sure he was extremely rude as usual.

  13. Paul

    January 7, 2013 at 12:08 pm

    SR has no news as far as am concern.Why cant they go cover the activities of bokoharam?with this kind of story, I see them now aas a cheap lots of distraction. The bible is a manual for christains.SH should seek to publissh the more important inssues facing the country and leave churches alone.This is a new year and i want to say a big thank for the publicity you have given MFM free of charge.

  14. Nk

    January 7, 2013 at 1:04 pm

    @Ada di ora,well said! u hav spoken my mind. My question is “as journalists were they not supposed 2av mounted their cameras n gotten ready b4 d start of d service?”

  15. you dont mean it

    January 7, 2013 at 3:37 pm

    You have to pay money to worship in the house of god? hehehe interesting.. Not out of free will

    • ABEY....

      May 13, 2013 at 10:02 pm

      I hope you don’t believe dat bullshit that money was collected to worship in a church

  16. lola

    January 7, 2013 at 6:03 pm

    Can tis reporter guy go a mosque and try dat?abegi…make we hear word ojare..

  17. Tope

    January 7, 2013 at 7:42 pm

    Well done Mr. Sowore, you incited controversy and you got it, unfortunately you chose the safe option, chasing phantoms in Lagos, as many have pointed out your journalistic prowess is missing in the areas of the country crying out for coverage.

    But stir controversy you must to drive readers and advertisers to your website, never mind denying that you live on controversy, things may be different in Nigeria but your primary residence is the US so you know well enough that journalists covering major events seek and receive accreditation from the organizers before entering the event venue, you are also aware of the security challenges facing churches in Nigeria, you also ignored the fact that same church has previously been targeted by suicide bombers with many dead.
    With BH members donning all kinds of disguises to gain access to big targets, you expect that even a fairly good church security team will allow you to approach the alter without being challenged? Your ID cards are nothing, Boko Haram can reproduce them and you or your media outlet are hardly well known to every Nigerian.
    Your experience is not news and I believe many sensible minds will see your objective as what it is – cheap publicity.

  18. concern

    January 7, 2013 at 8:24 pm

    Mhenn F- this sahara reporter guy always searching for pity and shit…. They don’t want you filming in their church is it by force, F- outta here yall

  19. concern

    January 7, 2013 at 8:27 pm

    They think they can just wake up and carry their stupid cameras to go and disrupt a church service that is going on? because of what?

  20. Tunmi

    January 8, 2013 at 4:44 pm

    The report does not state whether SR was granted permission to film the church service. All I know is that I appreciate SR for what it does and what is with this suggestions: go film this, go undercover there, go do this…are you guys sponsoring them? because it does require funds…Nigerians sef

  21. barry @blya.tv

    January 8, 2013 at 5:58 pm

    nawa o for naija o

  22. Ray Leye

    January 8, 2013 at 6:11 pm

    It is very sad with all the education u have acquired over the years u are still backward.Did Olukoya actually studied for the Phd or was he dashed. All u nincompoops defending the attack on Sahara reporters need psychiatric treatment. What were you hiding? God will judge all you goats and your idiotic shepherd Olukoya .

    • Angel

      January 10, 2013 at 5:39 am

      I pray God forgives you for this statement you just made, Dr Olukoya has a PhD in Microbiology and has over 50 publications to attest to his qualification. He’s also building a research centre in Unilag. Do your research before judging and posting hurtful comments

    • ABEY....

      May 13, 2013 at 10:07 pm

      Guy! I don’t know who you are o! But I think you better watch your tongue….

    • wumimi

      October 7, 2015 at 4:20 pm

      ray u and ur big mouth. it is better u verify proper b4 abusing a man of God. it is obvious that u have no future

    • funmi

      December 3, 2016 at 12:32 pm

      Why don’t u just make research before commenting blindly…at least find out abt who u want to talk abt.

  23. Tumi

    January 25, 2013 at 6:24 pm

    There is nothing called entrace fee of 50.00 at the Mountain of Fire nd Miracle Ministries. Bunmi, I am saying this authoritatively. MFM do not molest pple. Thank u.

  24. Ola

    August 2, 2015 at 11:12 am

    Only in Nigeria that have all different kinds of name for churches. Religions is big business in Nigeria. Nigerian pastor smiled to bank every Monday morning, some people are here defending Olukoya. Nigerian are the most unconscious black people on earth. No matter the level of education of Nigerian, they still obsessed with religion been so called Muslims or Christian. Why our People keep defending Religions that were brought to us by our oppressors, these two religions have brought division, domination, exploitation and cultural imperialism. When our people will decoded their mind from the illusion of organised religion, that were brought to us by two race of people, that contributed to the biggest crusade in history, the crusades that brought down our empires. The crusades that dismantle our mind, The crusades that created our identity crisis, all our present predicament is result of foreign domination. I am waiting for the day, that our people will wake up from their long sleeping.

  25. Eghosa

    January 17, 2016 at 11:47 am

    It is only in nigeria that unauthorized persons will invade an event and want to be patted on the back. you enter a service to film an event without due permission and you think you will be treated as a king, sorry to disappoint you, you can only be allowed to attend the service in peace but to film the service without authorization you will only be treated as a hoodlum.

    Next time please try and do the right thing so you will be well treated, in MFM security of members, ministers and pastors including the general overseer is key forget you see a large crowd, somebody is out there watching out for mischief makers.

    On behalf of the church I apologise for the rough handling but please try and do the right things next time.

  26. funmi

    December 3, 2016 at 12:38 pm

    Upon reading this am disappointed, av heard abt this man who owns SR from a friend of mine who tends to knw him well, he said a lot of good fins abt u and seeing this post? Its just so derailing, ow cld u move into a congregation to film or record with an afforehand permission, u sure can try DAT in d USA where u reside, now ure claiming dey detained u for 4hrs, if it wasn’t a church DAT u went to can u imagine what wlc av happened to u? Am so sad abt ow ppl like u treat Nigeria!

  27. funmi

    December 3, 2016 at 12:38 pm

    Without*

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