Independent Law firm debunks accusations against Nigerian mega church pastor- Clement Ikechukwu Ibe in South Africa
An independent investigation carried out by Snyman Attorneys, a South Africa-based law firm, has discredited accusations of fraud and property mismanagement levelled against Nigerian Pastor Clement Ikechukwu Ibe, founder and lead pastor of Bethesda Christian Centre (BCC), a mega church he founded 26 years ago in Pretoria, South Africa.
Ibe had recently become the target of an intense social media campaign alleging that he had sold the church facility, embezzled funds, and fled to the United States with his family. The charges, which were rife and relentless, especially as they appeared to have been spearheaded by former members of the church who had regrouped under the banner of a new body called BCC Concerned Group Task Team.
According to the report dated November 26, 2021, the law firm said it had been engaged to probe the ownership of the Bethesda Christian Centre building, as well as investigate if Bethesda Christian Centre was registered correctly and legally in South Africa.
At the conclusion of their investigations, the lawyers wrote that their work had resulted in two primary conclusions: that Bethesda Christian Centre is registered and structured in the same manner as many other churches in South Africa. The structure of the church, they said, was chosen for many reasons, including to acquire and protect assets; and that having property owned by World Outreach (Pty) Ltd, a quasi-independent company owned by the church, provides added protection to the asset by making it extremely difficult for any creditor to attach the property for the satisfaction of a judgement or debt.
The lawyers also determined that on July 5, 2005, a resolution was passed by the Board of Bethesda Christian Centre NPO to purchase the property, on which the headquarters currently sits, on behalf of Bethesda Christian Centre NPO under the name of World Outreach (Pty) Ltd. In the said resolution, Pastor Clement Ibe was given all necessary powers to effect the purchase.
In line with the resolution, the lawyers also affirmed that “the property could not be sold simply by the actions of the Director of World Outreach (Pty) Ltd. For the property to be sold, a special resolution of the shareholders must pass. The trustee of Bethesda Business Foundation Trust would have to vote in favour of sale of the property, before it could be sold and/or transferred.”
Snyman Attorneys also concluded that, “In this regard, Bethesda Christian Centre NPO is the beneficiary of the property.”
However, in an article published by Sunday World newspaper, a well-known South African publication, the BCC Concerned Group Task Team was reported to have filed reports with the South African Police and the Social Development Department against Ibe and requested investigations be carried out to uncover what they alleged had happened to the finances of the church as well as a property project that they had valued at R90-million. The protesters purported that World Outreach was Ibe’s personal company that was operating without the church’s approval.
In response to the allegations, BCC leadership, in an official statement that was co-signed by Pastor Ibe, said it elected to engage an independent South African law firm to conduct an investigation into the claims being made by BCC Concerned Group Task Team.
“In our determined effort to ensure that all the questions which have arisen concerning BCC were genuinely and openly attended to and all those allegations disavowed, we consulted a company law expert at a legal firm who was given the mandate to, among others, go through the legal status and supporting documents of BCC, and subsequently compile a report on the outcome of their independent investigation,” the statement read.
Meanwhile, the statement released by BCC leadership urged members of the church to “remain prayerful, resilient and continue with your support of the ministry’s work as we mindfully navigate our challenges head-on.”