Solomon Folorunsho, 50, known as Pastor Solomon, an evangelical pastor in Nigeria is being accused of physical abuse, while others accused him of sexual harassment.
Folorunsho is a self-proclaimed mission to help humanity, creating the International Christian Centre for Missions (ICCM). His camp in Benin City claims to provide accommodation, medical care and education for 4,000 children, “most of them orphans”, as well as 500 widows and missionaries, using funding from local institutions, NGOs and churches abroad.
Thousands of children who fled the Boko Haram jihadist insurgency and living at his 30-hectare (75-acre) facility frequently go hungry and thirsty and endure atrocious hygiene conditions, said witnesses.
He admitted having problems with food and sanitary conditions in the camp but denies any mistreatment.
“There is no bad treatment here. We don’t do abuse,” he told AFP.
“Feeding them is a challenge… but we don’t have anything to hide. We are helping humanity.”
Concerns about the camp have a long history. Three years ago, the UN children’s agency UNICEF sent an assessment team to the site, who filed a report with damning conclusions.
“Pastor Solomon runs this camp as if it is his ‘kingdom’. He controls the movement and actions of every person in the camp through a group of ministers and specially selected children,” the team wrote in the confidential report, seen by AFP.
The UNICEF investigators said what they saw, coupled with interviews with children, caregivers and NGO workers, prompted “strong concerns regarding the possibility that Pastor Solomon may be engaged in sexual activities, or at a minimum, displaying grooming behaviours with girls in the camp”.
Witnesses also told AFP that around a dozen young girls work for the pastor as his personal servants and receive preferential treatment.
“A girl who refused to work for him was punished and starved. When he beat you, he wouldn’t stop until you bled seriously,” said Rahila, a 16-year-old girl who left the camp several months ago.
“He had names that he called different girls… He would comment on the size of my butt, and he would say our chests looked like pineapples or stuff like that,” she said.
All the witnesses’ names have been changed to protect their identities. (Source: News24)