Uganda pastor denies miracle scam

Kampala, Uganda - A Uganda-based preacher has denied charges he tried to import an electric shock machine to make people believe he could pass on the Holy Spirit.

"This is a toy. It was sent for my daughters' birthday," Ghanaian Kojo Nana Obiri-Yeboah told the BBC.

The machine was seized at Entebbe airport and police are investigating.

There has been a massive growth in churches set up by charismatic preachers in Africa in recent years, amid fears some could be fraudsters.

The pastor told the BBC that during his prayers, members of the congregation "act as the spirit comes in them".

The website of the company Yigal Mesika, which makes the "Electric Touch" machine, among other magic tricks, says: "Charge a spoon, keys or coins and watch as it shocks a volunteer!

"They will believe you have supernatural powers!"

Police report

The person doing the trick wears the machine and gets an electric charge, which they can transfer to people or objects.

Uganda's Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo has asked police for a report into the activities of churches, such as Mr Obiri-Yeboah's We Are One ministry, following several charges of impropriety.

"We feel there is a need for a policy on religion," he told the BBC's Network Africa programme.

He denied the government was interfering in people's private lives.

"When matters go to impinging on the stability of the country, I think the government gets interested."

When the machine was seized, some thought the machine was a piece of bomb-making equipment.

Some fear that some preachers are taking advantage of poor, illiterate people, by asking them for financial contributions in the belief that in return, they would be blessed and become rich.

They rarely have any formal religious training - usually they set up a church and say they have been touched by God.

But Mr Buturo said that most of the new churches, known in Uganda as "balokole" were "contributing to the stability of our country".