“Let’s get right into it; how many times have you been cancelled?” opened Phadria Prendergast, sitting opposite controversial pastor, Tobi Adegboyega, at OxWIB’s Women in Media Panel. 

Prendergast was described in OxWIB’s promotional materials for the event as “the Global Editor and CEO of the W Group and former Editor-in-Chief of WOTC”. Advertising for the event, held on Friday 5th May at Trinity College, featured six speakers in addition to Prendergast, all of whom were contacted by her rather than by OxWIB. 

When attendees arrived for the panel, the printed itinerary provided by Prendergast’s team listed several other speakers not known to OxWIB, including one figure referenced simply as “PT”. An interview with this “PT” was scheduled as the final conversation of the event. 

Image of the itinerary provided by The W.

“PT” turned out to be a reference to Pastor Tobi, Tobi Adegboyega, the founder of the now-defunct Salvation Proclaimers Anointed Church, also known as SPAC Nation. OxWIB has hypothesised in response to questions from The Blue that Prendergast’s entire purpose in helping to organise the event was “to give Mr. Adegboyega a platform to speak”, which meant “deliberately” denying OxWIB a full list of their own event’s speakers. It is unclear why OxWIB permitted an interview unapproved by them to go ahead, regardless of the fact that the organisation had no knowledge of PT’s identity.

During its early years, SPAC Nation drew some plaudits for its attempts to turn former gang members away from crime, and its operations were covered by BBC Radio 1Xtra and The Times, among others. Adegobyega was even seated in the second row of the audience for Boris Johnson’s speech at the 2019 Conservative Party Conference, beside Shaun Bailey (who lost the 2021 London Mayoral Election to Sadiq Khan), and behind Priti Patel and Sajid Javid. 

But, in 2019, allegations that SPAC Nation was financially exploiting its members led to an investigation of the Church by the Metropolitan Police. Multiple outlets reported that the Church pressured congregants to take out loans in order to fund its operations, including those of its pastors. 

The Guardian told the story of one member whose 20-year-old daughter gave £13,000 to the Church in three months partly using money from her student loans. The member commented that her daughter “must have had about 30 loan applications.” According to Huffington Post UK, the Church was even investigated “over allegations that pastors were pressuring young people in the congregation to sell their own blood to raise funds”. 

Furthermore, the safe houses established by SPAC Nation in order to “protect vulnerable youngsters escaping gangs” were reevaluated in light of a video of “a senior pastor whipping a young man cowering in the corner of a room with a belt as he recites biblical scripture”, and other allegations of abuse within their walls. 

On 9th June 2022, Salvation Proclaimer Ministries Limited was “wound up in the public interest” by the High Court. Enquiries had shown that “SPAC Nation either failed to comply with statutory requirements, including providing data to support claimed donations, and accounting records in support of £1.87 million of expenditure”. The organisation was ultimately dissolved once the court had determined that “the company operated with a lack of transparency, filed suspicious or incorrect accounts, and was insolvent at the time of the hearing.”

Adegboyega had previously stepped down from SPAC Nation in 2020 following the initial controversies. In his handover message, he pledged to pass leadership to a new generation, but also vowed to continue “leading SPAC Nation by the way”. Adegboyega has since been associated with SPAC Nation’s rebranded iteration, The Nxtion Family. The Guardian Nigeria stated in 2022 that he “leads” the organisation and hosted a masterclass in Cryptocurrency and Investment. 

During the interview with Prendergast at OxWIB’s Women in Media Panel, Adegboyega spoke elliptically about this fraught past, offering comments like “we can’t be perfect” and “do you want me not to be human?” OxWIB has avowed that despite attempts to “get this section of the event wrapped up”, Prendergast’s media team “were effectively able to stall us”. 

Insinuations about the media’s allegedly poor ethics were also a running theme of the conversation between Prendergast and Adegboyega. Prendergast asked “Why do you think it is then in the media they only pick up…all the things that aren’t of great credit?” And at another point, Adegboyega accused the media, including the BBC, of “putting their money-bank ahead of real lives”.  

However, Tobi Adegboyega was not the only speaker at the Women in Media Panel who has faced accusations of financial impropriety. Phadria Prendergast is also an alleged “fraudster”.

In 2020, the Mirror reported that “an organisation called Women of the City” was promoting grants for “branding, digital marketing, web design, PR and more!” up to the value of £500, and claiming to have worked with Cara Delevigne, among other figures (despite no evidence of any such partnerships). Furthermore, the £500 turned out not to be cash, “but a voucher that could be spent with a web-design outfit called Revolt.”

The application page for WOTC’s “Go Digital Grant” is still online and still offering applicants “either £500 cash or a £500 cheque” – though subsequently the money is referred to as a “WOTC Community Cheque”. But later, in point 1.1 of the Terms and Conditions, this community cheque is defined as a “non-transferable cheque that can only be used in the WOTC community.” The grant also “cannot be cashed until it is matched by them to their community partner”. 

According to the Mirror’s report, Revolt’s website, thisisrevolt.com (now deactivated) was registered by Women of the City. The WOTC grant, which requires matching funds from the recipient before it can be used, therefore appears usable only with a company set up by WOTC.

The Mirror recorded the case of a female freelance writer who paid £750 to Revolt (since the grant did not cover the whole invoice). The writer received a logo which she criticised as something “even I could have knocked…together in 10 minutes”. After she complained, her bank refunded her money. 

OxWIB explained that when the decision was originally taken to host Prendergast, “We had no reason to believe that there were such allegations…or articles about them”, and reiterated its sense that The W “deliberately misled” the committee. If one conducts a Google search for “Phadria Prendergast”, the very first result which appears under “News” is the aforementioned Mirror report.

In light of information learned after the Panel, OxWIB has expressed a wish to “disavow the event and its association with Prendergast”, and has issued an unequivocal condemnation of SPAC Nation and of The W “because of its connection to SPAC Nation”. 

Indeed there is evidence of Prendergast’s deeper ties to SPAC Nation and to specific individuals involved in the Church who have been accused of financial improprieties. Twitter and Instagram accounts have been established, “dedicated to exposing the WOTC scam”. The bio of the Twitter account names the “scammers” as “Phadria Prendergast, Anaïs Bienvenu [who was registered as sole director of the now-dissolved Women of The City Limited on Companies House], Mariam Mola and SPAC Nation Family.”

Mariam Mbula, who goes by Mariam Mola, was a Pastor in SPAC Nation, and the subject of a BBC Three Documentary titled Catch Her If You Can, which exposed Mbula as “a career con artist who has served time all over Europe”. The Instagram account (@wotcmagazine_) has previously posted a photo purporting to show Mbula with Prendergast, though The Blue cannot confirm the validity of this image. 

Before the insolvency of Women of The City Limited, the WOTC Magazine published a profile of Mimi Mola, the younger sister of Mariam Mbula, herself alluded to in the piece as “a renowned business woman and entrepreneur” who was the subject of “notorious rumours”. Additionally, on the 21st April 2023, a video was published by the YouTube channel Muriad Merali titled “Interview with SPAC Nation Victim – “How Mariam Mola Just Scammed Me – The W Mag and WOTC Scam” in which Latris Latrelle Oliveira accuses Mariam Mola of seeking to “scam” her under the aegis of the newly launched W Magazine. Phadria Prendergast’s LinkedIn currently lists her as “Global Editor and CEO, The W Group”.

To the best of OxWIB’s knowledge, Mola was not in attendance at the Women in Media Panel.

Moreover, on The W’s News Section, several articles have been written by Jayde Edwards. Not only was Edwards a pastor in SPAC Nation, he was also the Conservative Party candidate in the 2019 Fairfield council by-election, a selection which prompted a negative reaction from Conservative members, many of whom felt that the Party was erring in its continued association with the investigated Church.

The involvement of Edwards in The W provides further evidence of Prendergast’s links to SPAC Nation, in addition to her platforming of Adegboyega.

During the networking portion of the Women in Media Panel, a large number of students gave contact details to figures associated with Prendergast, Adegboyega, and The W. OxWIB has sought assistance from the police, and emailed almost 40 students – whom the organisation is aware attended the event – with information and advice against contact with anyone from The W. OxWIB is also requesting that anyone at the Panel who has not yet been contacted email president@oxwib.com

One Oxford University student who signed up to OxWIB’s Trinity Term 2023 Mentorship Programme, having selected media as their industry of choice, received Prendergast as their mentor. The student states that Prendergast offered them an internship at The W over the summer. OxWIB has now informed said student that “Phadria is no longer a mentor in our mentorship programme”, and that a replacement is being sought. 

Pastor Tobi Adegboyega and Phadria Prendergast did not respond immediately to requests for comment.