Nigerian preacher TB Joshua, one of Africa’s most influential evangelists, has died at the age of 57. A post on his Facebook page, which has more than five million followers, said: “God has taken His servant”.
Reports said he died on Saturday shortly after conducting a live broadcast, but the cause of his death has not been made public. Tens of thousands would attend his services, with top politicians from across Africa among his followers.
But his teachings and practices were also controversial. In April, YouTube suspended his account due to allegations of hate speech after a rights body filed a complaint over videos showing the preacher conducting prayers to “cure” gay people.
Facebook also removed at least one post showing a woman being slapped while TB Joshua said he was casting out a “demonic spirit”.
Tributes have been pouring in on social media for the preacher, widely referred to as Prophet TB Joshua by his followers.
Temitope Balogun Joshua was the founder of the Synagogue, Church of All Nations. He was one of Nigeria’s most popular televangelists but was perhaps the least flamboyant of his peers. Tens of thousands of people have attended his weekly services in Nigeria’s biggest city, Lagos.
His rise to prominence in the late 1990s coincided with the explosion of “miracle” programs performed on national TV by various pastors.
TB Joshua was often mocked for lacking the finesse of his colleagues during “deliverance” sessions – an intense prayer that resembles exorcism. His ministry professed to heal all manner of illnesses including HIV/Aids and attracted people from all over the world.
Known as the “Prophet” by his followers, he ran the Christian television station Emmanuel TV and often toured Africa, the US, the UK and South America.
In 2014, one of his churches collapsed, killing at least 116 people, including many South Africans. A coroner in a Lagos court said “the church was culpable because of criminal negligence”, but he never faced any charges.