A Kenyan court on Tuesday charged the leader of a starvation cult and dozens of suspected accomplices with murder over the deaths of nearly 200 people in a forest near the Indian Ocean.
Self-proclaimed pastor Paul Nthenge Mackenzie, who has already been charged with terrorism, manslaughter as well as child torture and cruelty, is alleged to have incited hundreds of his acolytes to starve to death in order to “meet Jesus”.
On Tuesday, Mackenzie and 29 other suspects pleaded not guilty to 191 counts of murder, according to court documents seen by AFP.
A 31st suspect was deemed to lack the mental fitness to stand trial and ordered to return to the Malindi High Court in a month’s time.
The cult leader has pleaded not guilty to all the charges against him.
He was arrested in April last year after bodies were found in the Shakahola forest, with the grisly discoveries provoking horror across the world.
Autopsies revealed that the majority of the 429 victims had died of hunger.
But others, including children, appeared to have been strangled, beaten or suffocated.
The case, dubbed the “Shakahola forest massacre”, led the government to flag the need for tighter control of fringe denominations.
A largely Christian nation, Kenya has struggled to regulate unscrupulous churches and cults that dabble in criminality.
‘Organised criminal group’
Court documents have described Good News International Ministries founded by Mackenzie as “an organised criminal group (which) engaged in organised criminal activities”, leading to the death of hundreds of followers.
Questions have been raised about how Mackenzie managed to evade law enforcement despite a history of extremism and previous legal cases.
A Senate commission of inquiry reported in October that the father of seven had faced charges in 2017 for extreme preaching.
He was acquitted of charges of radicalisation in 2017 for illegally providing school teaching after rejecting the formal educational system that he claimed was not in line with the Bible.
In 2019, he was also accused of links to the death of two children believed to have been starved, suffocated and then buried in a shallow grave in Shakahola. He was released on bail pending trial.
There are more than 4,000 churches registered in the East African country of 53 million people, according to government figures.
Previous efforts to regulate religious institutions in Kenya have been fiercely opposed as attempts to undermine constitutional guarantees for the division of church and state.
High Court Grants Bail To Ex-Kwara Gov, Abdulfatah Ahmed
Wild jubilation erupted at the Federal High Court in Ilorin on Friday as Justice Evelyn Anyadike granted bail to former Kwara State governor, Abdulfatah Ahmed, who was arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, for alleged misappropriation of state funds.
He was arraigned on a 12-coumt charge alongside his former Commissioner of Finance, Ademola Banu, who was however, not in court.
The former governor pleaded not guilty when the charge was read to him in court.
The trial judge granted Ahmed bail in the sum of N50 million, which must be in form of bond, and two sureties, one of who must have a landed property in Ilorin.
The former governor is also to deposit his international passport with the court registry amd seek permission if he wants to travel outside the country, as trial of his case begins on April 29 and 30, 2024.
Ahmed was driven to the command office of the anti-graft agency from the court premises after about 12.20 pm pending when the stringent bail conditions will be met.
In a chat with journalists outside the court, counsel to the EFCC, Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, said Ahmed’s defence counsel, Kehinde Eleja, SAN, requested for the defendant’s bail application orally.
He said the court granted the bail on eight stringent conditions.
In his reaction, counsel to the former governor, Barrister Kehinde, said the arraignment was sequel to investigations into the case which started about five years ago.
“We made an oral application for the bail of the defendant, even though the prosecution said it was at the discretion of the court.
“The court, in its wisdom, after considering the arguments on both sides, decided to exercise its discretion in favour of the defendant, especially in view of the antecedents of the first defendant (Abdulfatah Ahmed) who had always voluntarily responded to EFCC invitation, the last one being last Monday and for which period he has been in EFCC custody till today, Friday, that he was charged to court.
“The court also made an order granting accelerated hearing of the case,” he added.
Hardship: Naira Is Stabilising, FG’s Reforms Yielding Positive Results – Information Minister
…Insists FG Will Go After Saboteurs
Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, says the Nigerian Government is identifying and sanctioning individuals sabotaging the economy.
The minister noted that the removal of the petrol subsidy was one policy decision that all the three major candidates agreed on in their campaign messages.
He said it was mystifying to see people who had argued stridently for the removal of subsidy now pretending to be against it, noting that such insincerity does not bode well for the country.
Idris insisted that the President’s policies are yielding positive results.
He, however, said that the government was not under any illusion that the policies are silver bullets, or that nothing else is required.
Stressing that the government will not allow its efforts to be jeopardised, the minister said regulatory and enforcement agencies have been working round the clock in the past few days to identify, investigate and sanction those involved in illegal activities and sabotage within the forex market.
“As respected economists and experts have acknowledged, these foundational reforms will be difficult and painful for Nigerians in the short-term,” the Minister said in a statement he signed and made available to journalists in Abuja on Friday.
“The problems that we are solving are no doubt multifaceted, intertwined, and deep-rooted, requiring creative, strategic, decisive, and multi-pronged solutions. These bold moves being implemented are in full alignment with what is required.
“It is heartwarming to note that we are starting to see the results. Indeed, the naira is stabilizing, and the foreign exchange market is seeing a surge of inflows.
“Sadly, as with any effort to reform and sanitise a system entrenched in long-term malpractice, the CBN’s efforts have been met with ferocious resistance from speculators and other unscrupulous players within and outside our country, who profit from dysfunction and opacity.
“To tackle this, regulatory and enforcement agencies of government have been working round the clock in the past few days, joining forces to address these efforts at undermining the reforms.
“That strategic alliance has led to the intelligence-led identification, investigation and sanctioning of individuals and organizations involved in illegal activities and sabotage within the forex market.
“Relevant regulatory and security agencies have been directed to remain vigilant to ensure that malpractices capable of undermining our currency are averted and that those engaged in these acts are brought to book. The government will not allow its efforts to be jeopardised
BREAKING: INEC Publishes Report Of 2023 General Election
The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has released its report on the 2023 general election.
The commission said the publication of the report is in keeping with its tradition over the last four electoral cycles and commitment to transparency.
This was made known in a statement by Sam Olumekun, the National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee.
Olumekun said the Report showcases the election’s unparalleled diversity in party representation, demonstrating significant democratic progress.
According to him, the 2023 general election saw four political parties winning gubernatorial races, seven parties winning senatorial seats, eight in federal constituencies and nine in State legislatures, illustrating a broad shift in political representation across Nigeria.
He said the document has been made accessible on its website and social media platforms.
“On Thursday, 22nd February 2024, the Commission convened for its weekly meeting, where the 2023 General Election Report was reviewed and approved for publication.
It partly read: “In keeping with our tradition over the last four electoral cycles, and our commitment to transparency, we are pleased to announce the release of the official INEC report on the 2023 General Election.
“This comprehensive 526-page document, structured into 13 chapters and enhanced with 60 tables, 14 boxes and 10 graphs, offers an in-depth analysis of the election’s key processes, achievements, and challenges, alongside valuable lessons learned.
“The Report showcases the election’s unparalleled diversity in party representation, demonstrating significant democratic progress. This election saw four political parties winning gubernatorial races, seven parties winning senatorial seats, eight in federal constituencies and nine in State legislatures, illustrating a broad shift in political representation across Nigeria.
“The Report underscores the pivotal role of technological advancements, particularly the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS), in enhancing electoral integrity and reducing fraud. Furthermore, it addresses public concerns about the INEC Result Viewing (IReV) portal, explaining the technical issues encountered during the upload of polling unit results for the presidential election.
- High Court Grants Bail To Ex-Kwara Gov, Abdulfatah Ahmed
- Hardship: Naira Is Stabilising, FG’s Reforms Yielding Positive Results – Information Minister
- BREAKING: INEC Publishes Report Of 2023 General Election
- JUST IN: Okpebholo Declared Winner Of Edo APC Gov’ship Primary
- Rapper Ikechukwu Confirms Separation from Wife
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