The store-like structure, which is an attachment to the perimeter fence of a compound along old Benin- Sapele Road in Benin City was padlocked. The place was deserted. There was no sign of life. A development which raised questions regarding the whereabouts of the General Overseer of the church and members of his congregation.
The structure used to host an otherwise relatively known and modest pentecostal church, the World Liberation Ministry. It came into the limelight a few weeks ago, specifically on Tuesday, 12 September, 2012, when the General Overseer, Evangelist Silva Wealth Iyamu and some members of the church claimed that a woman was delivered of a horse-like creature during one of the church’s programmes.
The news of the development even with the unbelief expressed by not a few persons practically turned the place into a pilgrimage centre of sort, as many people thronged the place, some to satisfy their curiosity; others particularly the miracle seeking ones, to see if they could get their own share of miracle or deliverance as the case may be.
But when Saturday Tribune visited the church at its old Benin-Sapele Road address on Tuesday, 2 October, 2012, there was nothing to show that a church of any kind existed at the place, as not even a message was left behind for anyone seeking information on the church, giving an impression that the pastor and members of the church might have absconded following doubts and concerns raised over the supposed ‘miraculous birth’ of a foal-like creature in the church by a woman said to be attending one of the church’s prophesy programmes.
Through enquiries from some people in the neighbourhood, Saturday Tribune got to know that the church had moved to a new location. The search for the new location of the church ended that same Tuesday when Saturday Tribune stumbled on a banner bearing the photograph of the Senior Pastor, Evangelist Silva Wealth Iyamu with the inscription ‘Welcome to Canaan Land: a land flowing with signs and wonders of God’ at a junction of a road, off the Limit Road (Godwin Abbé Road), off Sapele Road, Benin City.
A further drive down this road and to the left of it, is the World Liberation Ministry’s new site. The new structure is apparently a work in progress. The structure which is obviously temporary, lies on a space of land measuring about 100 x 100 feet. It is an open structure standing on planks with corrugated zinc roof.
The mission was presumably simple: to find out again the whereabout of the woman said to have given birth to the foal (baby horse), to find out if the pastor or any other member of the church had seen the woman since the claim of her birth of a foal was made, if the woman had come to the church for thanksgiving, why the pastor has purportedly refused to honour the invitation of the Edo State chapter of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), and among other things his reaction to calls in some quarters for his arrest if he failed to produce the ‘miracle birth’ woman.
Before locating the church’s new site, several phone calls were put across to the senior pastor, all of which he did not pick or returned. And so when Saturday Tribune finally got to the place, it found that the church was filled to capacity; bursting at it seem, with shouts of ‘alleluia’ and ‘amen’ intermittently renting the air. It was another of one of the church’s programmes with Evangelist Iyamu presiding. Indeed, for whatever reasons the once sleepy church at its old Benin-Sapele Road is now overflowing with people and activities at its new home in just a few weeks after the claim of ‘miraculously’ expelling a ‘demonic creature’ from a yet unknown woman.
However, in pursuance of its mission, Saturday Tribune reached the Personal Assistant to the Senior Pastor of the church, Prince Jon Ogbovoh, who was also at the programme. Prince Ogbovoh assured Saturday Tribune correspondent that he was going to book an appointment for him with Pastor Iyamu. Besides, Prince Ogbovoh also agreed to the correspondent’s request that he be allowed to take some photographs with the proviso that photographs of the pastor presiding over the programme should not be taken.
At this juncture, the correspondent became curious and then asked Ogbovoh the reason the pastor did not want photographs of his to be taken. Ogbovoh said after the ‘miraculous’ occurrence of the ‘horse-birth’ incident, a section of the media started a negative campaign against the pastor. From Ogbovoh’s explanation, it could be deduced that it was partly to starve off the undeservedly negative campaign that Pastor Iyamu decided to limit his contact with the media.
When the correspondent was about taking shots of the congregation as agreed with Ogbovoh, some three men stormed out of various parts of the church and accosted him with a warning not to take any shot or his iPad would be seized and he would be thrown out of the church premises. The incident perhaps confirmed the media-phobia that seemed to be enveloping the church and its leadership. Further attempts to have the interview with Pastor Iyamu did not yield any result on that Tuesday. When he finally picked a call from Saturday Tribune, he asked the correspondent to call his Personal Assistant. When the call was put to Ogbovoh, the Personal Assistant promised to schedule the interview between the correspondent and his boss for Wednesday.
On Wednesday, 03 October, Saturday Tribune correspondent set out again to see if Pastor Iyamu would grant the audience for the interview. This was not to be as the corespondent could not reach the pastor since he was also presiding over a programme at the church. But the Personal Assistant who promised to call when the pastor was free only did so that Wednesday night to say that he was sorry he could not make the call as pledged.