Two ‘men of God’ Pastor Glory Abrefera and Reverend Vincent Okpogo have been sentenced to 10 years imprisonment each by Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court, Asaba, Delta State. Justice Buba found Pastor Abrefera and Reverend Okpogo including their company, Mustard Seed Micro Investment Limited guilty on a four count charge of carrying out banking practice without licence. The accused persons were said to have collected over N1 billion from different individuals and organizations as deposits in an illegal banking practice. They have also failed to account for all the deposits they collected.
Mustard Seed Micro Investment Limited was convicted on two counts and fined N2 million on each of the counts. Pastor Abrefera and Reverend Okpogo, both directors of Mustard Seed Micro Investment limited, were also convicted on two counts and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment each. They were equally fined N2 million on each of the counts. The terms are to run concurrently.
The accused persons were said to have sometimes between 2006 and 2007 at Warri, Delta State engaged in banking practice without the required banking license and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 2(2) of the Banks and Other Financial Institutions Act, Cap B3, Vol 2, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.
Part of the charges reads: “that Pastor Glory Okeoghene Abrefera, Reverend Vincent Okpogo and Mrs Nonye Abrefera (still at large) whilst being directors of Mustard Seed Micro Investment Limited sometime between 2006 and 2007 at Warri, Delta State within the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court knowingly consented to the carrying on of banking business without a valid licence by the company thereby committed an offence contrary to Section (2) and 49(1)of the Banks and other Financial Institutions Act Cap B(3), Vol 2, laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004”.
The so-called men of God were arrested following a petition filed by some of the depositors to the EFCC, detailing the dubious activities of the accused persons. The EFCC subsequently intervened, investigated the activities of the voodoo bank and arraigned the suspects in 2011.
Counsel to EFCC, G. K. Latona described the judgment as a milestone in the Nigerian judiciary. He said it was the first time that persons were convicted for carrying out banking practice without the required licence. He said the judgment would serve as a deterrent to other persons engaging in such nefarious activities.