MONROVIA, Montserado â€“ A religious leader at the Prayer Time Ministry has been sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment and community service for trafficking a 15-year-old girl to Nigeria.
Judge Roosevelt Willie of Criminal Court ‘A’ held the sentencing on Monday, April 1 for Pastor Revival Wobo-Sam. Prior to that, a trial jury had unanimously arrived at a guilty verdict on March 21, 2019, after hearing the final arguments by the parties.
Wobo-Sam was indicted by a grand jury on January 22, 2019, for crimes of trafficking in persons, kidnapping, and statutory rape. The kidnapping charge was dropped during the trial.
According to Judge Willie, Wobo-Sam deceived both the victim and parents, telling them that God had told him to nurture the victim.
In November 2016, the victimâ€™s sister, Josephine Gibson, had informed police of her missing 15-year-old sister whom she had turned over to Wobo-Sam for â€˜cleansing.â€™
Testifying in court, Gibson said the family had turned the victim over after she had a series of troubling dreams.
Gibson further testified that Wobo-Sam described the dreams as a call from God and said the victim needed spiritual cleansing. He asked that the victim be taken to his home, which the family agreed to.
However, after a few years living with Wobo-Sam, the family noticed that the pastor had changed the victimâ€™s name and school without their knowledge, which prompted the family to request that their daughter is returned to them.
â€œHe returned the victim on Friday, but prior to that â€“ and unknown to us â€“ he prepared a passport to travel to Nigeria,â€ Gibson said in her testimony. The victim later left the country with the defendant.
Gibson said the family was able to contact an aunt living in Nigeria who helped bring the now-pregnant victim back to Liberia along with the assistance of an immigration officer. The perpetrator, who sought to marry the victim, was later arrested by police while in Liberia.
Meanwhile, Wobo-Sam says he has known the victimâ€™s family for 11 years and played a role as a spiritual father. He said it was the victimâ€™s familyâ€™s idea for the girl to move in with him and after several years of â€œnurturing,â€ they fell in love and he decided to take her to Nigeria, knowing that God had â€œplanted something in herâ€ for a purpose.
He acknowledged that he had tried to marry the victim but was arrested by police when he followed the victim back to Liberia.
The 15-year-old testified that she enjoyed her time with Wobo-Sam, despite her familyâ€™s complaint that she was sexually abused and trafficked.Â She had also testified on March 16, 2019, that she was not forced into any sexual activity.
Judge Willie noted that, given that the victim is a minor, she cannot consent to any trip to Nigeria without her parentâ€™s knowledge. Willie sentenced Wobo-Sam to eight years behind bar and two years of community service. The defendant is also expected to appear before Criminal Court â€˜Eâ€™ to answer to the charge ofÂ statutory rape.
Featured photo by Zeze Ballah