The Nigeria Police Force (NPF), Ondo State Command has paraded an ex-convict, Festus Balogun, who specialized in blackmailing prominent Nigerian pastors.
Mr. Balogun popularly called “Smart of No.5 Ipobe Street Cotonuo”, was paraded before journalists on Thursday alongside other suspected criminals who specialized in armed robbery, kidnapping, and oil theft in the State.
The police claimed that the suspected blackmailer had been on a watch list after Mr. Balogun released a compact disk video entitled “Asri Tu” meaning [Secret Exposed]. In the video, Mr. Balogun alleged that a few high-profile clergymen hired him to kill people so that they could gain spiritual power.
SaharaReporters gathered that the video was released to the public and sold both in and outside the country. The video caused massive outrage towards the clergymen amongst churchgoers.
The suspect alleged in the content of the video the General Evangelist of the Christ Apostolic Church Worldwide, Pastor Samuel Kayode Abiara, and Pastor-In-Charge of the popular Prayer Centre Church of God (PCCG), recruited him to kill people.
Mike Ogbodu, the State Police Commissioner, told journalists that the detectives from the command arrested the suspect after several months of surveillance.
Mr. Ogbodu said the suspect denied the allegations against him to the police during his interrogation. The Police Commissioner explained that Mr. Balogun released the video in an attempt to gain money and stir controversy.
“It is important to mention that the content of the Video CD has caused suspicion and disaffection in the churches of the respective clergymen mentioned in the recording and sold to the members of the public,” Mr. Ogbodu said.
He added that the police detectives from the State command are presently searching for the producer of the video.
In an interview, Balogun narrated to journalists how he became involved in crime.
Mr. Balogun explained that he was arrested and jailed for a failed robbery. After his prosecution, he was placed in Ikoyi Maximum Prison in Lagos.
He was released in 2001, after serving 7 years in jail, and began working as a “conduct boy” for drivers in Lagos. He also started work as a street pastor.
When these occupations failed to procure sufficient support for him he began to look to the music industry. It was while working in the music industry that the idea of blackmailing people via songs and videos first came to Mr. Balogun.
“I woke up one day and I started producing videos that would blackmail and tarnish the image of all these rich clergymen and pastors since they have money and can tax their church members.
“I know of these clergymen because I always attended their church programmes and understand the trick they used in taxing their followers. I believed this was an avenue for me to start engaging in blackmailing business,” Mr. Balogun explained.
He denied knowing the clergymen noting that he had never sat down with any of the pastors in a face-to-face discussion.