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SPAC Nation: Church group accused of financially exploiting young people from its congregation

An evangelical church is reportedly under investigation over its alleged methods of raising funds.

SPAC Nation, praised for helping ex-gang members is headed by Tobi Adegboyega in the UK. The church is being investigated by the UK charity watchdog over claims that pastors pressured young congregants into selling their blood for money and taking bank loans which they allegedly donate to the church to fund the lavish lifestyle of its pastors.

The Charity Commission recently announced that it had opened an inquiry into SPAC Nation, based in London, to probe financial and safeguarding concerns. The church which was praised by politicians in the past for rehabilitating youths linked to gang violence, came under scrutiny following a number of exposés which alleged that it was pressuring young members to beg, borrow and steal money for the church.

Kurtis, 23, was one of the church's trusted inner circle until his departure in January this year.

He appears in a BBC Panorama investigation into SPAC Nation, which is accused of leaving young people with debts of thousands of pounds.

"Certain leaders shouldn't be around youth, they shouldn't be around anywhere where people are vulnerable," he said.

The church's leader Pastor Tobi Adegboyega "has to be held accountable", Kurtis added.

One former member of SPAC Nation said she was persuaded to commit benefit fraud by a trustee, while another said she had a $8,582 loan taken out in her name without her knowledge.

Lovis was 18 when a loan was taken out in her name and without her knowledge, she said.

She was diagnosed with kidney cancer in November 2017.

The illness left her unable to continue working as an assistant sous chef and she began looking for a job with less demanding hours.

She was invited to an interview at a firm called Zuriel Recruitment. The agency was run by Tobi Adegboyega's second in command Samuel Akokhia, who has a conviction for attempted robbery.

At the interview Lovis provided Zuriel Recruitment with personal details including a photocopy of her passport, her home address, her mobile number and bank account details.

At the end of the process, her interviewer - a pastor at SPAC Nation - encouraged her to attend a service that week.

"It was a bit weird," she said. "But at the end of the day it's church - so I didn't really think much of it."

Lovis started going to SPAC Nation services and several months later moved into a safe house - known as a "TRAP house" - run by Pastor Samuel Akokhia.

In March Lovis discovered a $8,582 four-year loan had been taken out in her name without her knowledge.

The money never reached her, instead being transferred to a company called E. R. Management Group. That company is run and owned by Emmanuel Akokhia, Samuel's brother.

BBC Panorama has seen paperwork confirming the money trail. It is not known what happened to the money after it arrived in E. R. Management Group's account.

Lovis confronted a senior pastor about the loan.

"They basically said the loan was for the greater good and they were going to use the money to buy a bigger TRAP house to accommodate more people," she said.

"And I was thinking 'that's all well and good - but why did I not know about it?'"

SPAC Nation denies that the church's lead pastor Tobi Adegboyega is financially exploiting young people.

It said the church had a "robust complaints procedure" and "a well run disciplinary system".

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