Subject: $9.3m Weapons Deal: Catholic Bishops Exonerate Oritsejafor (news)


$9.3m Weapons Deal: Catholic Bishops Exonerate Oritsejafor

SAN FRANCISCO, September 26, (THEWILL) - As controversy continues to trail the $9.3m South African Weapons Deal involving an aircraft belonging to the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, Catholic Bishops Friday rose in defence of the embattled cleric, saying they never blamed the CAN President for any wrongdoing in the matter.

In a statement issued by Rev. Fr. Chris Anyanwu, Director (Social Communications Directorate) Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, the Catholic Bishops said: 'Our attention has been drawn to the reports in some online editions of some newspapers such as the Daily Post, Daily Trust, New Telegraph and the Guardian with misleading headlines, posted on Thursday 25th September 2014, and suggesting that Most Rev. Ignatius Ayau Kaigama, the President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) accused Pastor Ayo Ortistejafor of denting the image of the Christian Association of Nigeria over the case of the jet that was found with $9.3milion allegedly owned by the CAN President.'

The statement said,'The said report is not only false and malicious but a calculated attempt to further sow the seed of disharmony between Catholics and the leadership of CAN.'

While disassociating themselves from the newspaper reports and putting the records in the right perspective, the Catholic Bishops said: 'Most Rev. Ignatius Kaigama granted an interview with the Hausa BBC Service in Kaduna in which he condemned money laundering. He said that the relevant authorities in Nigeria ought to investigate the issue of the $9.3million arms deals saga dispassionately and ensure that those found guilty of money laundering be punished according to the provision of the existing law of our land against money laundering.

'He never, in the said interview, cast any aspersion on the person of Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN). Reporters who monitored the said interview in Hausa BBC Service totally misrepresented the Archbishop by misquoting him.'

The statement said knowing the person of Archbishop Kaigama as a man who is committed to ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue, there is no way he could have made such an inflammatory statement against the leadership of CAN which is capable of causing dissections among the CAN family.

It was amazing to read such sensational headlines as 'Ayo Oritsejafor is disgracing CAN' – Catholic Bishops of Nigeria', 'Oritsejafor has dragged Christianity to the mud – Bishop Kaigama', 'Bishop blasts Oritsejafor for playing politics with CAN'.

'Archbishop Kaigama was also quoted as saying Catholic Bishops had been watching with “sadness how Oritsejafor had been hobnobbing with the Presidency for long. It is not proper, the guilty must be punished. It is not acceptable for a Christian leader to be seen always with the President. We in the Catholic have always picked holes in Oritsejafor's style of leadership in CAN and we wanted to stop attending CAN meetings at the national level”.

This is unfortunate, inciteful, unpatriotic and uncharitable. It looks like some people have problems with the person of Pastor Oritsejafor and wanted as the saying goes 'to borrow the mouth of Archbishop Kaigama to chop their onions'. It appears that some people are hell-bent on setting the Catholic Church against the rest of CAN.

Some want to use unfortunate situations to promote their fortunes. Yes the Catholic Bishops did in the past make their observations about how CAN could be run better not with the intention to discredit the body but so that things could be corrected fraternally, but there were screaming headlines which tended to put the Catholic Church in negative light. This is happening again. All that Archbishop Kaigama said about the $9.3 million saga was that the matter should be investigated in depth to avoid insinuations, psychological projections and unhealthy rumours and gossips.

A transcription of his interview will reveal that the words attributed to him were a figment of somebody's imagination. He said nothing about Pastor Ayo hobnobbing with Mr President or dragging CAN to the mud; neither did he mention the pastor's name or Mr. President. Pastor Oritsejafor has in the mean time very clearly and convincingly explained his own side of the story in a phone conversation with Archbishop Kaigama and Pastor Oritsejafor is to be presumed innocent unless found otherwise. We are indeed embarrassed at the monumental scale of misrepresentations in the said newspaper reports. What we expect from journalists is genuine reports based on truth and facts, which ought to promote public trust and confidence. A hall mark of responsible journalism is that reporters ought to cross-check their facts before publishing them whereas reports based on falsehood, rumours and preconceived ideas such as this, are not only malicious but a calculated attempt to strain the good relationship between the Catholic Church and the leadership of CAN.

'There is a poison of deliberate misinformation in the air, more deadly than the Ebola virus disease. This may be a symptom of how forthcoming political events may be handled in the media. Some persons want to at all cost see the North and the South, Christians and Muslims fight.”

'In God's name it shall not come to be. Our prayer is that our nation shall remain one and indivisible. No matter how hard our detractors may try, they will not succeed. As leaders of the Catholic Church we shall continue to be objective in our assessment of the situation in the country and endeavour to edify by our comments and actions and not to destroy. This is because we believe that we are one people and one nation. God bless our beloved country Nigeria,' the statement said.