Theophilus Ebonyi, the General Overseer of Faith on the Rock Ministry International, has refuted reports that he was detained by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on suspicion of N1.3 billion in fraud.

Minutes after the news of his purported arrest broke, the pastor made a quick video and shared it on Facebook, calling it “false” and a “rumour” that had been spread by bloggers.

The EFCC had previously announced the pastor’s arrest and posted a picture of him on its verified X account, @officialEFCC, on Monday.

The general overseer was apprehended for allegedly defrauding churchgoers and others out of N1,319,040,274.31 in fictitious grants from the Ford Foundation, according to the anti-graft agency.

The statement stated in part, “Apostle Theophilus Oloche Ebonyi, General Overseer of Faith on The Rock Ministry International, has been arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for defrauding church members and other Nigerians out of N1,319,040,274.31 in fake grants from the Ford Foundation.”

“Ebonyi was taken into custody after he advertised an intervention project through his non-governmental organisation (Theobarth Global Foundation) and falsely claimed that the Ford Foundation was offering a $20,000,000 grant. His victims included individuals and non-governmental organisations.

“He allegedly beguiled his victims to subscribe as beneficiaries of the phony grant by asking them to pay for registration forms and clusters. Each subscriber was made to pay N1,800,000. Through this arrangement, Ebonyi allegedly raked in N1,391,040,274.31.

“His subscribers are innocent and unsuspecting Nigerians and NGOs across the country.“Investigations by the EFCC showed that the Ford Foundation had no arrangement, grant, relationship, or business with Ebonyi.

“The Foundation pointedly disclaimed him and his NGO, stressing that it had no link whatsoever with them. The commission has also traced five properties he acquired as a result of his criminal dealings.”

The pastor reacted via the Facebook video, criticising bloggers for allegedly using his image to gain influence and claiming he was not detained by the anti-graft agency or any other organisation.

He said, “I am here. The lion himself. I am the capacity. I am the naked wire. I am here by myself. The rumour out there is fake. It is a lie. Don’t mind the bloggers. They are just trying to use my body to make money. That is why they are using my picture to trend. No trouble. No arrest by the EFCC or any other organisation.”

The EFCC spokesperson, Dele Oyewale, refuted Ebonyi’s claim when he was contacted on Monday to verify the pastor’s assertion.

He said, “The date of his arrest was not mentioned. You can’t see that in the statement. The date that you saw on the mugshot was the date of his arrest. He had been arrested over a long period of time, but because of the investigation that we were doing, we did not issue any statements.

“There was no date of his arrest in the statement. It is deliberate. We released him on bail. If you look at the last part of the statement, I said he was still reaching out to his victims through so many social media sites, like the video you talked about. This is what he has been doing to deceive all his victims.”

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