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Thursday, May 23, 2024

The Truth Behind Christianity Practices in Nigeria: Is It a Scam?

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Controversial Nigerian Pastor Ofuche Ukoha, popularly known as Sign Fireman, has made a comeback to the media spotlight after a relative absence.

From 2013 to 2014, Fireman rose to fame for his unconventional and controversial sermons focusing on money-spinning services accompanied by unusual miracles.

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During that period, he garnered significant media attention, with PREMIUM TIMES covering two of his church services – his wedding and a service following his alleged arrest.

In January 2014, news reports were filled with his alleged involvement in the rape and murder of a 12-year-old girl in Badagry.

According to Ikechukwu Egbo, 18, who allegedly carried out the heinous act, Mr. Ukoha instructed him to strangle a female virgin, collect her feces during her dying moments, and bring it to him in exchange for a reward of N100,000.

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Although the messy controversy is now a thing of the past, ten years later, the clergyman is looking forward to embarking on a new chapter in his ministry.

In an exclusive interview with PREMIUM TIMES, Fireman delved into the past controversy that almost derailed his ministry.

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He also discussed relevant issues within Nigerian Christendom, shed light on the origin of his alleged miraculous powers, and other significant topics.

PT: People see you as a controversial pastor. How do you navigate controversies?

Fireman: One of the reasons why some may perceive Sign Fireman as controversial is because I haven’t responded to the press in about 15 years.

If someone publishes a story about me, and I don’t provide my side of the story, the narrative continues to propagate. I have chosen to address people’s non-doctrinal stories related to my personal life.

PT: What about doctrines? Many believe that your teachings are unconventional compared to traditional Christian doctrines.

Fireman: Regarding doctrinal controversies, if people label me controversial for preaching something different from the usual sermons, I challenge them to provide me with scripture that contradicts my teachings.

Controversy isn’t about the messenger but about the truth. If someone claims my teachings are invalid, I will back them up with solid scriptures that are indisputable.

These are scriptures that cannot be refuted.

PT: What are some common controversial ideologies you challenge within Christendom?

Fireman: Many pastors introduce strange doctrines and unscriptural motions, such as ‘cancel my name from the Book of Death and put my name in the Book of Life.’ Throughout the Bible, there is no mention of a ‘Book of Death.’

We were taught growing up that the forbidden fruit Adam and Eve ate was an apple. Surprisingly, pastors still preach that it was an apple when the Bible doesn’t specify the fruit in Genesis Chapter 3.

It’s amusing how they made us believe that the larynx, known as Adam’s Apple, was named after Adam having a piece of apple stuck in his throat. Pastors should refrain from spreading such deceptions.

Some individuals pray and say, ‘Any evil spirit holding my destiny should die by fire,’ but spirits do not die as they are eternal. The current state of Christianity, particularly in terms of tithing, appears fraudulent to me.

PT: Tithing has always been a contentious doctrine. Why?

Fireman: Most people, both pastors, and members, misunderstand the concept of tithing.

Many cite the famous Malachi chapter 3, verse 10, but fail to consider the entire context from verse 8 to 10. In verse 9, the Bible questions, “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed me.” This passage isn’t directed at an individual but the nation as a whole.

If it addresses a nation, then the blessing mentioned in the subsequent verse must also be a national blessing, not an individual one. Tithing was a spiritual responsibility for national progress.

PT: Are you suggesting that the long-standing tithing principle in Christianity is incorrect?

Fireman: Similar to taxes, tithes do not enrich individuals but countries. This is where the body of Christ has erred. I am not opposed to tithing.

When you give money to the church, it is meant for building God’s house, not just personal blessings as many pastors often claim. Tithing helps in expanding the kingdom.

We need to go back to the scriptures and study them ourselves. If a pastor tells you something, ask for biblical references to support their teachings.

If the pastor hesitates or becomes defensive, there may be an ulterior motive behind not revealing the truth. We need transparency in religious teachings.

PT: In 2014, you were involved in a messy controversy, accused of murder, and reportedly arrested. What happened?

Fireman: That story was absurd. I drove to the State Criminal Investigative Department to question the origin of the story.

How can the driver be arrested? I was in Louisiana, USA, when the news broke out, preaching in a church. I found it fascinating that I was supposedly arrested in Nigeria while being in Louisiana simultaneously.

Upon my return, I obtained a certificate of innocence from The Directorate for Public Prosecution. Despite the false allegations, I refrained from immediately responding to the media.

PT: Why did you delay your response to the press?

Fireman: I intended to speak out sooner but chose my timing carefully. Now, I am prepared to address any attacks or criticisms. I have devoted extensive time to studying the Bible and various topics for over 20 years.

PT: What prompted you to speak out now?

Fireman: While I performed miracles in the past, I felt incomplete. Witnessing only a few people being healed during large crusades left me dissatisfied. I prayed to God for the ability to solve every individual’s problems or, if not possible, to address as many as time permits.

PT: Due to your critical views on their teachings, how do you interact with fellow pastors?

Fireman: I do not aim to manage them but focus on fulfilling my calling. Many are aware of the truth but choose to run their ministries as a profit-making enterprise. The ministry landscape varies, with some functioning as a cartel while others prioritize financial gains. I seek truth above all else.

PT: Does this imply that most pastors mislead their followers?

Fireman: No pastor with some experience would deny the prevalence of falsehoods in churches. For instance, the ‘Believe it, confess it, and claim it’ theology is popular but misleading.

Individuals have been let down by such teachings, leading to disappointment and loss. Jesus did not promote such teachings that rely on emotional manipulation to exploit congregants.

PT: Are children allowed on the pulpit?

Fireman: The Bible clearly warns that oppression occurs when children are in leadership positions. Immature ministers contribute to believers’ oppression within the church.

The liberty to preach in tongues does not equate to suitability for leadership roles. The suffering experienced by family members of many pastors underscore the importance of keeping them out of undesired limelight.

PT: Will your wife assume a leadership role if you rise to prominence?

Fireman: Since pastoring is not my primary calling, there is no need for my wife to take on a pastor’s role. It is essential to shield family members from undue pressures and expectations associated with pastoral positions.

PT: What happened to your church, Perfect Christianity Mission in Surulere?

Fireman: God redirected my focus from pastoring to crusades and being a blessing to the body of Christ. My mission now is to convert individuals to Christianity, leaving the church leadership to others while addressing believers’ needs within existing churches.

PT: You are renowned for performing miracles. What is the source of your power?

Fireman: I have been called into ministry since childhood and come from a lineage of missionaries. I am blessed with unique gifts where no miracle is deemed impossible, and I can have visions about individuals upon meeting them.

My primary calling revolves around ministering miracles to bring the final move of God to the ends of the earth. I also emphasize the importance of preserving health and vitality for effective service.

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