Western Nigeria Union Conference President Accused of Corruption, Using Police to Harass Members
- Protestors allege Western Nigeria Union Conference President Oyeleke Owolabi used police to arrest pastors and members who stood in opposition of him.
- Protestors also accused Owolabi of being involved in the diverting of ADRA Nigeria funds.
- Owolabi also accused of falsifying documents to maintain power.
10 March 2022 | Members of several Adventist churches in Nigeria staged a protest against Western Nigeria Union Conference President Oyeleke Owolabi on Feb. 13, 2022, accusing Owolabi of using police to harass church members, embezzling church funds and abusing the powers of his office, among other claims, reported Nigerian news site The Sun.
A statement by the protestors alleged that on September 11, 2020, armed policemen stormed the church’s headquarters and arrested pastors known for their opposition of Owolabi. They were allegedly kept at a detention camp for at least three days.
The protestors also accused police of storming the conference headquarters in Lagos, Nigeria on Jan. 26, 2022, to arrest conference workers. They called for an end to the police’s harassment, intimidation and illegal arrests of members and pastors of the church.
“How can I harass them with police?” Owolabi told The Sun. “Am I a police officer, or is my job that of policing?”
The protestors also said that Owolabi was involved, along with Omosebi Fred Adeola, the former country director of Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) Nigeria, in diverting relief funds for personal use. They urged the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to investigate Owolabi as well, reported the Nigerian news site The Independent.
“A careful examination of the Delloite audit report shows that neither the board nor the board chair (Pastor Oyeleke Alabi Owolabi) was indicted. All ADRA Nigeria project activities were implemented in accordance to humanitarian best practices, reports provided and audited by external auditors. The records are in the public domain for verification,” WNUC Executive Secretary Ezekiel A. Adeleye said in a statement to The Sun.
Protestors also alleged that Owolabi has attempted takeovers of the church-owned Babcock University.
“The issue in question bordered on the ownership of the university. It has nothing to do with any takeover,” said Adeleye. “The university belongs to the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Nigeria. The incorporated trustees of the church in Nigeria represent the SDA Church in terms of property acquisition and ownership.”
However, protestors said the power of the church trustees is actually in Owolabi’s hands and that Owolabi fraudulently reconstituted the church trustees in 2016 to ensure he maintained power.
“He falsified minutes of meeting that never took place, appended forged signatures on it, lied under oath and applied to the Corporate Affairs Commission [CAC] for reconstitution of the trustees of the church. Pursuant to the fraudulent application and misrepresentation to CAC, the commission erroneously issued the certificate of incorporated trustees of Seventh-Day Adventist Church, dated June 23, 2016, to Owolabi,” said the protestors’ statement.
“It is on this premise that Owolabi parades himself as the chairman of the board of trustees of the church till date. The investigations conducted by church members show that a number of those who were listed as being present to take the decision on the reconstitution of trustees denied attending such a meeting.”
Protestors said that in 2016, under an investigation led Karnik Doukmetzian, then-General Counsel of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventist church, 26 allegations against Owolabi were investigated, and that Owolabi was indicted on a number of them.
However, as of this date, Owolabi remains listed as the WNUC president on the Adventist Yearbook.
In July 2021, Adventist Today reported that a source in Nigeria said, “Some conferences have pulled out from having anything to do with the Western Nigerian Union Conference until the leadership is changed. The General Conference and Western Africa Division appear powerless—or unwilling—to intervene.”
Still, protestors said, “The public is to remain assured that, as a church, we condemn, in very strong terms, every form of fraudulent practice and mismanagement…
“The general members should remain calm, trusting that God is in firm control of His church and believing that the gates of hell cannot prevail over the church.”
(Photo: Adventist church members in Nigeria accused Western Nigeria Union Conference President Oyeleke Owolabi of using police to harass church members, embezzling and abusing the powers of his office, among other claims, during a protest on Feb. 13, 2022. Photo via The Independent.)