WINNERS Chapel treasurer Afolabi Samuel has been sentenced to three years in jail by a Lagos State Special Offences Court in Ikeja after he was found guilty of stealing $90,000 and N4.5m ($11,700) belonging to the churches registered trustees.
Officially known as Living Faith Church, Winners Chapel is one of Nigeria’s wealthiest churches, with its owned, Bishop David Oyedepo valued at $150m by Forbes. Mr Samuel, who is an accountant and the church’s treasurer, was arraigned before Justice Mojisola Dada on two counts of conspiracy and stealing by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
According to the EFCC, Mr Samuel and one Blessing Kolawole, an employee of the Covenant University, who is currently at large, conspired and dishonestly stole the money and converted it to their personal uses. During the case, EFCC prosecutors said Mr Samuel, who was employed in the accounting department of the church to maintain proper records of funds, connived with Ms Kolawole and others to take advantage of their position as the church’s treasurer and worker at the university, respectively.
Both offences contravened sections 278, 285 and 490 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State No. 11, 2011. Delivering her judgment, Justice Dada found Mr Samuel guilty of the charges, although the accountant had changed his plea to guilty during the course of the trial.
Rotimi Ogunwuyi, Mr Samuel’s lawyer, who noted that his client’s action did not only embarrass him but also his family, urged the court to temper justice with mercy. Mr Ogunwuyi stated that the accused had realised his mistakes, which made him to change his plea from not guilty to guilty.
He asked the court to take into account the fact that Mr Samuel was responsible for his children’s education and care for his aged parents. Subsequently, in her judgment, Justice Dada, gave Mr Samuel an option of fine of N1m ($2,600) and ordered him to refund the sums of $90,000 and N2,358,000 to the church.