Monday, June 18, 2018 6:36 pm
The lady who recently won a N9.5 million judgement against Chapel of Liberty Church, and its Pastor, Rev. Dr Chris Kwakpovwe has revealed that the reason she went to court against the church was to show Nigerians that religious institutions notwithstanding, churches and pastors owe their members and those who attend their programmes a duty of care especially when something unfortunate happens to them at such programmes.
Ms Tamara Egbedi, a lawyer also debunked the claims of the church that her action was an attack on the Body of Christ. On the contrary, she said she was going to let it go “until the Defendants insulted me in a letter calling my request for the payment of my medical bills as a gold digging venture, daring me to go to court”.
Indeed, the trial judge, Justice Candide-Johnson alluded to this fact when he said in his judgement: “It is virtually ridiculous for Rev Chris Kwakpovwe (DW1) as the presiding pastor and one of the registered trustees of the Manna Miracle Mountain Ministry and the Publisher/Writer of Our Daily Manna (ODM) to invite the general public and the claimant to a programme which they expected to and which “recorded a huge attendance” and then without remorse and conscience, argue that they only rented space at the National Stadium so he and his religious ministry owes no duty of care or concern for the welfare and safety of guests they had invited to their own “spiritual party” or event organized by them. It is this type of reckless impunity and conscientlessness that makes many people complain about callousness and wickedness in Nigeria”.
After the judgement, the ministry on its website, Our Daily Manna had published that the Ministry viewed the case as a persecution of the body of Christ. “It is spiritual warfare! So all well-meaning Christians and indeed sincere souls should not treat it with levity but should see it as a stunt on the Body of Christ. If not checked, it could happen to any other ministry tomorrow! God forbid! Here is a lady who claimed to have voluntarily attended a church/ministry program and then suddenly turn around to start making ridiculous financial demands from the Ministry over an alleged injury not caused by the same”.
But Ms Egbedi recalled the event of January 22, 2010 as one of the most traumatic events in her life as she thought it was all dream, having lost seven teeth, suffered a fractured jaw at a time when she had just relocated back to Nigeria due to the death of her father, the Late Capt. A.K.I Egbedi. Her father who was the pilot that died in the ill-fated plane crash at Obudu on March 15, 2008. She was to attend her dad’s funeral in the following weeks after the incident.
She narrated her story: “It was the lowest point in my life, as I had my father’s death to come in terms with, I organised and attended the funeral weeks after wearing removable dentures like an old person, went through series of reconstructive surgeries and had to wear painful braces to restore my dentition and save the rest teeth which were also affected, suffered depression as I had no one to help with the huge dental bills, thus sold my fish farm at Epe and saved every penny to pay for the bills all alone. So when Dapo Akinosun, a partner of Simmon Coopers Partners and a pastor of Redeemed Christian Church of God agreed to take up my case pro-bono, I wept as it was like a ray of sunlight in the mist of all the darkness, Mr Akinosun alongside Ms Funmilola Mesaiyete and Ayodeji Jolaoso fought the good fight insisting that such behaviour of a Man of God was wrong, shameful and sad”.
She added further: “I was so grateful for the support I got because if I didn’t have such support and financial capabilities, I would have been disfigured for life. At the event itself when the accident happened, I was taken to the ambulance, my work colleagues at AELEX and friends who were there came to see me and to our shock, there were over 5 people with heart breaking injuries like a broken leg, shoulder, skull all caused by the gutters in between the chairs provided by the Defendants at the overflow outside the hall. I was so surprised that despite these multiple accidents, no one deemed it fit to seal off the area, properly cover the exposed gutter or put a sign up alerting people of the danger and remove the chairs there in order to avoid worse a death. I insisted to wait till the end of the event to see Rev. Chris Kwakpovwe with the bloodied face, fractured jaw, affected 7 teeth in order that no one says that the injuries were sustained elsewhere (missing teeth are very visible injuries and cannot be mistaken) and he directed me to Mrs. St. Matthew Daniels (a pastor) who saw my injuries and told me to go to a dental clinic, be treated and inform her of the bills. I have only ever been invited once to a meeting at their church where it was agreed I get the quotation for my teeth treatment from LASUTH as the private dental clinic I used was considered too expensive and whilst there, I informed them that I would prefer to continue my treatment at the private clinic however offered that whatever the bill of LASUTH, they should pay that lower bill and I pay the balance to be fair;
She continued: “I was going to let this go until the Defendants insulted me in a letter calling my request for the payment of my medical bills as a gold digging venture, daring me to go to court and worse was when Rev. Chris Kwakpovwe decided to print defamatory words against me in his Daily Manna devotional about the incident insinuating I was an agent of the devil and being used by certain enemies! The so called man of God even asked devotional users to pray against me claiming that I blackmailed him and instructed his members to disregard any lawsuit about this matter. It was at this point, I resolved to go to court and get justice because he believed he was untouchable and owed no duty of care to anyone who attended his events and hence any injuries suffered was at your peril without any show of kindness or care. His claims of blackmail, threats, the non-existence of the gutter and possible injury are so ridiculous as the Defendants never mentioned them in court, didn’t object to the facts and physical pictures in support of my claims nor tendered proof of his claims in court exposing the real TRUTH that his claims were pure lies without any bias but to mislead people which is so sad;
Throughout my ordeal neither himself nor any of his pastor came to see me as I underwent my dental treatment or showed any care and if I had seen such actions, this matter would never had gone to court. At court, 3 different Judges referred us to the Lagos Multi-door courthouse to settle this matter, but Rev. Chris Kwakpovwe only attended one time which was unproductive and never showed up nor respected the other Judges attempts to settle this amicably. This battle has been for 7 years and through-out, I have never granted any interview on this matter and prefer to settle my grievances using the proper channel (the courts) instead of sensationalizing it. Myself and my lawyers never relented and I feel vindicated with the judgement of the Honourable Judge as I hope that this case will act as a precedent just as Gani Fawehinmi Human right cases acts as precedents which we employ to fight for our right and be a lesson to religious leaders and organizations to properly plan for the welfare and safely of attendees to their events and take responsibilities when avoidable accidents as such happens”
Ms Egbedi said she had no regret for her actions as she believes the victory is not just for her but to the millions of people who have suffered one form of injustice from such establishment and powerful people and “it acts a beacon of hope to the oppressed and powerless to fight for their right and let justice take its course. Till date, I speak a bit funny and have nerve issues with my teeth which makes them very sensitive unlike natural teeth”, she said.
“Some friends and legal colleagues asked why not forgive and forget what happened as he is a Man of God and my answer was simple “I have forgiven him but I sued him on principle especially as he didn’t act as a Man of God and instead continuously spread lies about me, was arrogant, showed no concern for my injuries nor the safety of those of came to his event and believed he was untouchable. I sued to set an example for others who may be less fortunate than I am to fight against any injustice done to them by anyone this powerful, encouraging them not to be afraid of public opinion but to remain steadfast in seeking justice the right way as there is hope for justice in Nigeria and the judiciary is still the last hope for the common man”.
Ms. Egbedi thanked SimmonsCoopers Partners (legal team comprising of Mr. Dapo Akinosun, Ms Funmilola Mesaiyete and Ayodeji Jolaoso) who did the case pro-bono for seven long years, her dental doctors Dr Fadahunsi of Skky Dental and Dr. Adeyinka of AndChristie who did a remarkable job of restoring her teeth, self-esteem and her confidence, her legal colleagues and the partners at AELEX who started the case before it was handed over and finally her family and friends. She also thanked the Lagos State Judiciary for delivering the judgement without any bias especially with trends of cases being in court for decades without any headway.