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Monday, September 21, 2020

Redeem church probes pastor over alleged sexual abuse

The Redeemed Christian Church of God says it is investigating an allegation by Beatrice Wealth, a former basketball player, who claimed she was sexually abused by the church’s Director of Sport, Pastor Paul Bankole, in his office in 2016.

Wealth, who represented the Yaba College of Technology, Lagos in basketball competitions, made the allegation on Twitter on Sunday.

“Our attention has been drawn to your (Wealth’s) tweet on sexual harassment by Pastor Paul Bankole during your visit to his office at the Redemption Camp,” Funso Odesola, an Assistant General Overseer in RCCG, stated in a reply to Wealth’s allegations on Twitter made available to our correspondent.

“We would like to have a physical meeting with you at your earliest convenience in order to further investigate these allegations to forestall a reoccurrence.

“Please accept our utmost apology for whatever you might have passed through as a result of this act.”

When our correspondent contacted Olaitan Olubiyi, Public Relations Officer, RCCG, on the church’s investigation of the issue, he stated, “I really don’t know, we just saw this (Wealth’s allegation) on social media (on Sunday) and if the church decides to take some steps towards confirming the situation, that’s just it.”

Wealth told our correspondent that she was sexually assaulted by Bankole in his office in 2016 when she was 20, adding that the incident stopped her from competing for a place in the RCCG basketball team at the time.

“I was 20 at that time and was introduced to the RCCG Director of Sport (Bankole) by a friend who was at the time recruiting for a new basketball team,” Wealth said.

“He (Bankole) invited me to the Redemption Camp to see the basketball court there. That was my first time and I was excited at what I saw. I even made a video about my experience there. After my first training, he told me I would  be attending training once a week.

“My next session, he came to pick me up at the Redemption Camp’s gate and he drove me to his office, saying he had some things to do there before training.

“While I was there, I took a book from his shelf to read because I was bored. Afterwards, he asked to see the gallery on my phone, which I obliged. He saw a picture of a quote about love and he said ‘send me this’, which I did via WhatsApp.

Wealth added, “He then made a remark on my lips via WhatsApp, but I took it as a compliment. Then he asked me to sit on his laps but I refused and he replied ‘don’t you want to make me happy?’

“He then dragged me by the waist while trying to touch me inappropriately, and he forced a kiss on me but my lips were closed.

 

“I told him to stop, that I didn’t want to and after trying several times, he stopped. When he saw I didn’t react, he left me and said he wanted to cool off.

“At that point, I was confused because it was the first time I was experiencing such. We went for training afterwards but I was raging at the incident that happened in his office. I was not focused throughout the session we had.

“After training, he gave me N500 for transport home after he dropped me at the Redemption Camp’s gate.

“I didn’t tell anyone when I got home but my belief in God at that point became really shaky as I wondered why a supposed man of God would do that. He was married and probably in his sixties with grey hair.”

When our correspondent called Bankole’s telephone number on Monday, the cleric ended the call as soon as the correspondent introduced himself. The mobile indicated that it had been switched off thereafter.

A text message sent to the mobile thereafter had yet to be responded to as of the time of filing this report on Monday night.

Meanwhile, the Chairman/CEO of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, has praised Wealth’s courage for speaking out.

“I commend you for the courage to talk about your experience and I believe your story. I hope he has the conscience to repent, apologise and not try that ever again with other females,” she tweeted.

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