TB Joshua exposé: How the disgraced pastor faked his miracles

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TB Joshua holding a blue microphone

By Charlie Northcott, Helen Spooner & Tamasin Ford

The BBC unmasks, for the first time, how the late Nigerian televangelist TB Joshua faked the miracles that drew millions of people to his church.

The preacher, who is accused of widespread abuse and torture spanning almost 20 years, founded his Synagogue Church of All Nations (Scoan) in Lagos more than three decades ago. His meteoric rise to fame was closely tied to his self-professed divine powers and his supposed ability to heal the sick.

The theatrical healings – showing the physically disabled walking and on one occasion purporting to resurrect a dead person – were filmed. Along with testimonies of those he claimed to have cured, they were then sent on VHS tapes to churches across the world.

In 2004, Nigeria’s broadcast regulator banned stations from airing the supposed miracles of pastors on live terrestrial TV, prompting Joshua to launch Emmanuel TV on satellite and then online. His global television and social media empire became one of the most successful Christian networks in the world. His purported miracles were broadcast to millions across Europe, the Americas, South-East Asia and Africa. His YouTube channel had hundreds of millions of views.

But Joshua, who died in 2021 aged 57, was a fraud. The BBC’s investigation, involving more than 25 church insiders from the UK, Nigeria, Ghana, the US, South Africa and Germany, unpicks six ways in which he tricked worshippers.

1: The emergency department

An exclusive section of the church, named the “emergency department”, was responsible for making the so-called miracles look real.

This is where the sick, who came to be healed, would be screened, and where the team would decide who should be filmed and prayed for by Joshua.

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Agomoh Paul, who supervised the department for 10 years – receiving direct instructions from Joshua, told the BBC that the team was “trained by medical doctors”.

He is a former disciple – one of an elite group of dedicated followers who lived with the pastor inside the Scoan compound.

“Any cancerous situation, they send them away. Then people who had normal open wounds that can heal, they bring them in, to present as cancer,” he says.

Only a select group of trusted disciples were allowed to work in the emergency department. They would write placards for each follower to hold, detailing their made-up or exaggerated ailments. When it was time to meet Joshua, they would stand in line in front of the cameras and be “healed”.

“It was a complicated system. Not all disciples knew what was happening. It was a secret,” Mr Paul says.

2: Drugs

Every foreign visitor who came to the church to be healed had to fill out a medical report, detailing their illness and the medication they were currently prescribed.

They would be told to stop taking them, but Joshua would order pharmacists to procure the same medicine.

Without their knowledge they would “put those drugs in their fruit drinks,” explains Mr Paul, who said people would be urged to drink the cocktail that had been blessed by Joshua.

This meant while visitors were residing at Scoan they would not become unwell and would believe in the divine healing powers of their pastor.

In the 1990s when HIV/Aids had reached epidemic levels across parts of sub-Saharan Africa, Joshua told visitors to stop taking their antiretroviral medication when they returned home.

“I know people died because they didn’t take their medicine, and it’s difficult to live with that,” admits a former disciple, who asked not to be named.

Tash Ford, now 49, who went to Lagos from the South African city of Johannesburg in 2001 in the hope of having her failing kidney healed, was told to stop taking her drugs.

“It was the promise that… you could supernaturally receive a new kidney,” she told the BBC.

At the time she had already had two kidney transplants. Ms Ford says the disciples said: “Stop taking your medication and just believe.”

She did believe she had been healed. But when she got home, after four weeks of not taking her medicine, she went into renal failure and was admitted to hospital.

The medics initially managed to save her kidney but eventually it stopped working and she had to have kidney dialysis for more than six years before having a third transplant in 2011.

3: Brainwashing

Ms Ford says when she was at Scoan she never had any doubts: “I honestly thought we were seeing miracles. I literally couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I saw someone walk out of a wheelchair.”

The theatricality seemed to draw everyone in. https://cingengkali.com/

The former disciple told the BBC that after being screened, the chosen followers would be told to “exaggerate their problems so that God can heal you and exaggerate your healing”.

“The people, themselves, are clearly being manipulated,” she says.

The church had a ready supply of wheelchairs which followers were coaxed to use. They were warned they would not be healed unless they sat in one when they met Joshua.

“We are telling them: ‘If you come out there, and walk with your legs, Papa will not pray for you. You need to shout: “Man of God, help me, I cannot walk,”‘” says Mr Paul.

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