A Lagos magistrate court rejected a plea byan ex-pianist at Reverend Chris Okotie’s Ikeja-based Household of God Church to summon the controversial pastor for submission of a closed circuit TV recording of an alleged assault by the pianist.
The accused, Okiotor Daphiaghor, was arrested and arraigned for allegedly assaulting Mr. Okotie,preventing the preacher from entering the church,and breach of public peace. The alleged offences happened July 15, 2012 when the ex-pianist reportedly showed up at the church premises to demand unpaid salaries of thirteen years.
Church witnesses had claimed the ex-pianist was avolunteer, but Mr. Daphiaghor insisted that he and Mr. Okotie had an agreement for financial compensation, adding that the pastor had adhered to the understanding at the early stage of their relationship. The defendant contended that, after afew months, the pastor stopped paying. Even so, the ex-pianist said he had hoped that Mr. Okotie would pay all arrears once the church was financially buoyant. He added that, when it appeared thatReverend Okotie was no longer paying attention to him, he decided to visit the church premises. His visits resulted in a warning and then his subsequent arrest and trial.
A witness from the Household of God Church admitted that the church maintains a CCTV gadget which operates 24 hours and records every activity within the church premises. But he added that thecontrol of the gadget was only in the care of Rev. Okotie.
Mr. Daphiaghor’s lawyer, Robert Igbinedion, hadasked that the court invite Reverend Okotie to appear with the CCTV recording of the alleged assault. But in his ruling today, Magistrate Oshodi Makanjuola turned down the application. She cited previous judicial decisions to support her decision that the evidence in the pastor’s custody was protected. The magistrate said the defendant could not decide which witnesses the prosecution mustinvite.
Once the magistrate finished reading her ruling, Mr.Okotie’s lawyer, Kola Dopamu, brought out a printed copy of a report by SaharaReporters report on thecourt’s previous proceedings. He demanded thecourt’s protection from further reporting, alleging that the defendant’s lawyer was in alliance with SaharaReporters.
Impressed by Mr. Dopamu’s fear of further coverageof the case, the magistrate issued a threat against any further reporting of the proceedings.
Since the commencement of the trial, Reverend Okotie had worked to block media reportage of his refusal to pay due entitlement to one of his church workers. On one occasion, Magistrate Oshodi Makanjuola had ordered journalists out of thecourtroom at the request by Mr. Okotie’s lawyer. The decision made the defense lawyer to voice fear that his client might end up not getting a fair hearing fromthe magistrate.
Saharareporters also learned from a source close to Reverend Okotie that the flamboyant pastor has more than enough cash to pay off his former pianist, but simply wanted to show off his power. One of the prominent members of the church also said acouncil of elders was intervening in the matter but advised Mr. Daphiaghor to first write an apology to Reverend Okotie.
The magistrate adjourned the trial to May 30, 2013.