May 20, 2018

Trouble in the House of God: Buhari’s cash gift divides CAN

Trouble in the House of God: Buhari’s cash gift divides CAN

By Sam Eyoboka

National Christian Elders Forum, NCEF, is accusing the leadership of the Christian of Nigeria (CAN) of corruption and abuse of office.

Specifically, the forum alleged that the leadership of the umbrella organisation for Christians in Nigeria collected N25 million or N40 million from the Presidency during a visit to President Muhammadu Buhari, criticising the action and calling for sanction. It also alleged that the CAN leadership bought official vehicles at questionable prices.

The CAN President, Rev. (Dr) Samson Olasupo Ayokunle, dismissed the allegations, branding them as “a catalogue of lies” designed to smear his reputation.

In a memo, titled ‘NCEF Protests: Is NEC of CAN Guilty of Negligence?’, and signed by the Chairman, Elder Solomon Asemota, SAN, on behalf of members, including, but not limited to retired Generals Joshua Dogonyaro, Zamani Lekwot, Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma; Elder Matthew Owojaiye, Justice Kalajine Anigbogu (ret.), Elder Shyngle Wigwe, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Pastor Bosun Emmanuel (Secretary), NCEF is calling on the National Executive Council, NEC, to investigate alleged  high handedness of the CAN President.

According to the memo, NEC should immediately convene an emergency meeting to consider the issues raised and set up the process for the investigation of Ayokunle and immediate suspension of the President of CAN, until all these allegations have been investigated and he is cleared of wrong doing.

Continuing, the memo urged the NEC to ensure that the investigation looks into the activities of other officials of CAN on whose heads allegations of wrong doing and misconduct hang.

The Christian Elders argued that it has the statutory right to “make its position public to all Nigerian Christians and alert them that, if Christianity is destroyed in Nigeria or Christians continue to get slaughtered, the present NEC of CAN should be held responsible.

NCEF began its memo by expressing its condolence to CAN and all Christians in Nigeria on the  death of Dr. Musa Asake, CAN Secretary General, on Friday, May 11, 2018.

The memo went on to level the allegations against the CAN to include corruption, high handedness and abuse of office. It alleged that a vehicle that was purportedly purchased for the use of the CAN Vice President at a cost of N11 million in Cotonou was being sold in Nigeria at N5 million. Dr. Ayokunle is yet to explain what happened to N6 million. In all, N43 million was spent to purchase four second hand vehicles in Cotonou. This allegation  is too big to be swept under the carpet. (This vehicle is parked at the National Christian Centre, Abuja),”the Christian Elders said.

They went on: “On the 10th of November, 2017, a delegation of CAN, led by the President of CAN, Rev. Dr. Ayokunle, met with President Muhammadu Buhari and, after the visit, collected ‘transportation’ money. While informed sources claim it was N40 million, CAN officials insist it was N25 million and it was alleged to have been shared by somebody who is not an official of the National Secretariat of CAN.

“NCEF insists on proper investigation of how the money was shared and how much each person received. In addition, NCEF insists on proper sanction of every Christian leader that took part in sharing money from President Buhari. It is unethical and very insensitive for Christian leaders to collect money from the man every Christian is aware has compromised security to the detriment of the Church”.

Saying the auditor presented a financial report to CAN that did not include the N43 million spent on vehicles in Cotonou, the memo said: “Where did N43 million disappear to?”. The group pointed out that NEC was yet to properly investigate how N28 million the former President of CAN provided before he left office, to minister to persecuted Christians, was spent”.

Continuing, the Christian Elders said various alleged infractions on the constitution of CAN, as listed by the Vice President of CAN, had to be investigated including the Report of the Mediating Committee, headed by Supreme Court Justice, Hon. Justice James Ogebe.

According to the memo, the  attempt to use the Assistant General Secretary as scapegoat for the  transactions in Cotonou has to be properly investigated and all those involved disciplined.

The group also said “the letter to DSS which Rev. Dr. Ayokunle refused to sign on 28th February, 2017, after he had agreed he would do so on 15th February, 2017, has to be investigated. It asked: “Why did he, as the President of CAN and as the Chairman of the CAN Trust Fund, refuse to append his signature to the letter?  “Second, who gave the authority to edit the letter and remove substantial sections of it before the Legal Adviser eventually signed and sent a diluted document to the DSS?”

The Elders said CAN NEC was yet to investigate the tribal shift in appointments in the national offices and in the secretariat.

Reacting to the allegations, Ayokunle, who was attending a conference in Philadephia, United States, at the weekend, advised Sunday Vanguard to discountenance the charges as a “catalogue of lies.”

“There is no truth in what they are alleging. No truth at all in all the allegations. If they are after sanity in CAN, is it on the pages of newspaper that they intend to settle any dispute? Do Muslims behave like that about their leaders?”, the CAN leader said on phone.

“You know if these people are allowed to smear my reputation on the pages of the media, they have successfully finished the Church in Nigeria. They have already written that I should be removed because they did a kangaroo investigation which did not involve me.”

While appealing for restraint, Ayokunle said representatives from both parties to the conflict must allow the NEC of CAN to handle all perceived grievances amicably “because when you have done the damage, it will be difficult to correct.”