A Kenyan bishop based in the United Kingdom on Monday appeared in a UK court on charges of selling an oil touted as a cure for Covid-19, local media have reported.
Bishop Climate Wiseman, head of the Kingdom Church in South London, is accused of “fraud and unfair trading offenses” in the Lavender Hill magistrates’ court.
The Evening Standard reported that the magistrate hearing the case failed to deliver a judgment, saying that the matter was one of freedom of religion.
The case was moved to another court, the Inner London Crown Court, and the next hearing will be on September 13.
Bishop Wiseman has been under investigation since April last year for advertising the “Covid-19 cure” oil to his church members.
A bottle of the oil, labelled Plague Protection Divine Oil, goes for about €91 (Sh11,000).
Media reports indicated that the oil is made from a mixture of cedar wood and hyssop, a garden herb of the mint family.
In Kenya, a Facebook page, Bishop Climate Ministries in Kenya, linked to his main church, also has a series of website links selling different types of anointing oil apart from the religious messages he posts on the blog.
The page has no reviews and its physical location has also not been indicated. When his story came to the limelight last year, he told a news agency in the UK that he had had sold about 1,000 kits at the time.
“It is by faith that you can be saved from the coronavirus pandemic by covering yourself with the divine plague protection oil and wearing the scarlet yarn on your body,” he wrote on his website, which has since been deactivated following criticism.
“That is why I want to encourage you, if you haven’t done so already, to get your divine plague protection kit today!”
That was just a month after the World Health Organization had declared Covid-19 a global pandemic.
At the time, as now, the wind of Covid-19 misinformation had already started blowing and people, out of desperation, fell victim to all kinds of untruths.
Bishop Wiseman, however, did not relent in his bid to sell people the oil despite lacking any scientific approval from health regulatory authorities and being under investigation.
In January this year, he went ahead and advertised his “divine oil” on London buses. His advertisement ran until February 21.
“There Is a God in Heaven, His name is Yahweh! There Is a Prophet in London His Name Is Bishop Climate,” read the advert alongside his photo.
No Covid-19 drug has been approved for use by any national health authorities globally or by the Pharmacy and Poisons Board in Kenya.
The only pharmaceutical protection in Kenya and globally is a vaccine, and eight of those have been listed for emergency use authorisation.
Everyone is still at risk of getting Covid-19 if they do not adhere to non-pharmaceutical interventions such wearing a face mask, social distancing and handwashing as set by the Health ministry.
The goal of a vaccine is to prevent the severity of the disease and hospitalisation if someone is infected.
Bishop Wiseman’s claim – “as you use this oil, along with a special scarlet yarn, every coronavirus and any other deadly thing will pass over you” – is therefore a false statement.
Hi oil is not the only one that has been touted as life-saving for Covid-19.
Last year, an article published by Opera News that was expunged and can only be found in archives of websites, indicated that Filipino researchers had discovered an oil made from coconut that could cure Covid-19.
The fact-checking website Pesa Check debunked the claims, saying they were false.
According to dailymail.co.uk, the charges involved selling a cure for coronavirus which would not work and that there was a ‘risk of death and harm’ to people who bought the oil believing it would help save them.
Maeve Thornton, defending, said the case involved the freedom to practise religion.
The bench of magistrates, chaired by Derek Cock, decided the case was not suitable for them to try and sent it to Inner London Crown Court, where Wiseman is next expected to appear on September 13.