The Christian Association of Nigeria, on Sunday, distanced itself from the alleged N2bn claimed to have been given by the presidential candidate of Labour Party, Peter Obi, to churches under its umbrella.
The Christian body also said it would probe the source of the petition, in which the allegation was made, describing its content as untrue and malicious.
The petition, allegedly written by one Pastor Frank Onwumere and dated December 15, 2022, was addressed to the CAN President.
The petitioner claimed that the N2bn was shared among some mega-churches while other denominations were sidelined.
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But Onwumere, whose name appeared on the petition as the author, denied knowledge of the petition when contacted on Sunday by The PUNCH.
Regardless, the President of CAN, Archbishop Daniel Okoh, strongly refuted the letter, saying the organisation did not receive any money from the LP standard bearer.
Okoh made the clarification in a statement titled, ‘Re: Petition on the misappropriation of N2bn given by the presidential candidate of Labour party, Mr Peter Obi, to churches under the umbrella of CAN.’
He said, “The attention of the national leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria has been drawn to a purported letter currently in circulation on the social media, alleging that a certain sum of N2bn was given by the presidential candidate of Labour Party, Mr Peter Obi, to churches under the umbrella of CAN.
“I use this medium to categorically state that the so-called letter of petition reportedly signed by one Pastor Frank Onwumere and addressed to my office is illogical and can best be described as a failed attempt to drag the apex Christian body into the politics of 2023. However, we will investigate the source of the letter in the interest of the public.
“To set the records straight, I am not aware of any N2bn given to churches in Nigeria to mobilise votes for any 2023 presidential candidate and never received the said petition, dated December 22, 2022.’’
The Christian leader noted that CAN, as a faith-based entity, maintains its non-partisan stance and will not endorse or mobilise support for any candidate in the upcoming elections.
“CAN, therefore, urges members of the public to disregard the purported letter of petition as its content is not only untrue but also malicious,’’ he added.
When contacted by one of our correspondents, the alleged petitioner, Onwumere, denied knowledge of the petition, stressing that he had never had any meeting with Obi before.
He said, “I don’t know anything about it (petition). I have traversed the whole of Imo State without finding the person behind it. I don’t even own a church. I have never met Peter Obi before.
“Apart from seeing Obi on television screen, I have never had any private meeting with Peter Obi before. I will address a press conference on Monday (today) to address this issue. My enemies are behind this forgery of my name and phone number.”
Also, the media team of the Obi-Datti Presidential Campaign described the purported claims of N2bn largesse as a “propaganda material” designed to injure the rising political profile of Obi.
In a statement on Sunday, the Head, Media, Obi-Datti Presidential Campaign, Diran Boniface, said the allegation was the ‘killer punch’ the LP had earlier warned Nigerians that the opposition was planning in their attempt to discredit Obi.
He said, “Recall that on February 6, 2023, the Obi-Datti Media Office, acting on credible intelligence, alerted the nation to a grand design to fatally injure the rising political profile of the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Mr Peter Obi, with what they called a ‘killer punch’ propaganda material.
“We hinted that the so-called ‘killer punch’ will come in various forms, including but not limited to a documentary portraying Obi in various negative lights.
“But as election day draws nearer and the victory of their ‘unwanted’ Obi looks real, the anger and frustration of some dubious characters have increased. We are even beginning to notice some state of despair which is resulting in senseless violence and blackmail all aimed at distracting and removing the candidate’s eyes already glued to the ball.”
Similarly, the National Secretary of Labour Party, Umar Farouk, debunked the claim that Obi doled out N2bn to the CAN or any other religious body.
While saying the allegation was unfortunate, Farouk fingered the opposition as being behind the fake news.
He said, “Of course, it is a lie and CAN itself has disputed it. It has written to debunk it. Even you people in the media know this is not true.
“The Labour Party has denied this completely. There is no iota of truth in that report. Instead of Peter Obi giving out money, it is even the people contributing to support his campaign. It is the figment of imagination of the writer.
“We are suspecting the opposition as the brain behind this fake news, which is very unfortunate. They have been trying to bring us down after they have done their ‘Muslim-Muslim ticket’, they are now turning attention to the churches.
“Who asked them to do Muslim-Muslim ticket? Look, I am a Muslim, I go to a mosque and talk to my people to vote for Peter Obi. All they can do in their own case is to seek ways to blackmail the church. They are doing themselves more harm than good.
“Our supporters have already made up their minds that they want to vote for Obi. We are just about 13 days away from the election. So we are good to go. They already have the record of sponsoring fake pastors to events.”
BREAKING NEWS: PDP’s Diri Wins Bayelsa Gov Election
The incumbent Governor of Bayelsa State and governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Douye Diri, has been declared the winner of the State governorship election held last Saturday.
The Returning Officer, Prof Faruq Kuta, who is also the Vice Chancellor of the Federal University Of Technology, Minna, announced Diri winner of the poll at the collation centre of the election on Monday.
Diri polled 175,196 to defeat his closest rival, Timipre Sylva of the All Progressives Congress, who garnered 110,108 votes while the Labour Party polled 905 votes.
Plateau: Protesters Storm S’ Court Over Sack Of Four PDP Members From NASS
Over 1000 protesters, on Monday, besieged the Supreme Court to register their displeasure over the judgment of the Court of Appeal in Abuja, which sacked four members of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Plateau State, from the National Assembly, based on a pre-election dispute.
The placard and banner-wielding groups, under the aegis of Coalition for Justice in Africa, CJA, submitted a protest letter to the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola.
According to the protesters, the appellate court, by its judgement, thwarted the wish of electorates in Plateau state, when it declared candidates that lost the National Assembly elections that held on February 25, as winners of the legislative seats.
Speaking with newsmen shortly after the protest letter was submitted to the CJN, the National President of the CJA, Dr. Daniel Okwa, maintained that the judgement of the appellate court was capable of causing a breakdown of law and order in the state.
He said the group was at the apex court to seek the intervention of the CJN, alleging that the verdicts that removed all the PDP federal lawmakers were influenced by some chieftains of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC.
The protest letter, which was obtained by Vanguard, read in part: “The Coalition for Truth and Justice believes that the judgment of the Appeal Court in Abuja is a case of injustice, else, how could one explain a situation where lawmakers of the All Progressive Congress (APC) would boast and predict the outcome of the Court of Appeal judgment even before the pronouncement.
“This is unacceptable and indicates that the justice regime in Nigeria has been thrown to the dogs. What happened in Plateau State is an aberration of immeasurable proportion. There is a distinction between a pre-election matter and a post-election matter.
“The Supreme Court has established this fact on several occasions. It is now a wonder why the Appeal Court would act otherwise and in a despicable manner that tends to truncate our nascent democracy.
“The Coalition for Truth and Justice entirely condemns the actions of the justices of the Appeal Court that sat in Abuja. They displayed insensitivity to the electoral choices of the people. This is a worrisome trend that the Chief Justice of Nigeria must address.
“This is on the heels that the Judiciary, the world over, is regarded as the last hope of the commoner. This presupposes that it is the only place the commoner can get justice. The function of the Judiciary is not to twist the truth or fabricate facts but to interpret the law. The consequence of the interpretation of the law is justice.
“However, what played out in Plateau state negates the Judiciary’s position as the common’s last hope. The Judiciary is for sale to the highest bidder in Nigeria, if such positions could be taken without recourse to the implication of such on the psychological state of the people.
“The Coalition for Truth and Justice is using this protest to drive the point that justice in Nigeria should not be reserved for a section of the country or any political party. What happened in Plateau should not be allowed to stand or repeat itself. The implication of such is that the reputation of the judicial arm of government would be eroded.”
It will be recalled that the appellate court had on November 7, in a unanimous decision by a three-member panel led by Justice Elfrieda Williams-Dawodu, okayed the nullification of the election of a Senator and three members of the House of Representatives in the state that emerged on the platform of the PDP.
The panel based its decision on failure of the PDP to fully comply with a court that was made in 2022, which it said directed the party to conduct congress in the 17 Local Government Areas in the state.
It, therefore, held that though the lawmakers won their respective seats during the National Assembly election that held on February 25, all the scores that were credited them, amounted to wasted votes.
It ordered that candidates that got the second majority lawful votes at the election, should be sworn in as winners of the legislative seats.
Canada’s Abuja, Lagos Visa Centres Open – High Commission
The Canadian High Commission in Nigeria has said its Abuja and Lagos visa application centres remain open for the processing of immigration, refugee and citizenship applications.
The Canadian High Commission had on Tuesday announced the suspension of operations in its Abuja office following a fire incident at its generator house, which claimed two lives on Monday.
Nigerians had expressed fear that the operations suspension would hamper visa application processes.
But in a statement posted on its X handle on Thursday, the Canadian High Commission clarified that its Abuja and Lagos visa application centres remain open and operational.
In the statement by its public affairs staff, Demilade Kosemani, the commission said, “As we continue to mourn the passing of our dear colleague from the High Commission of Canada in Abuja, please note the following information below:
“Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada clients: processing of applications continues. Regardless of the suspension of operations at the High Commission of Canada in Abuja, the Visa Application Centres in Abuja and Lagos remain open.”
Meanwhile, a travel agency, , TMT Travels and Tours Limited, has sympathised with the Canadian High Commission over the Monday tragic fire incident.
In a statement on Thursday the agency’s Chief Executive Officer, Collins Onukwubiri, said, “We at TMT Travels and Tours Limited shares in the grief and sense of loss of the Canadian embassy in Abuja. The partial burning of the Canadian embassy in Abuja and the death of two workers there was most unfortunate.
“Canada, as a major player in the Nigeria’s travel and tours business, is an integral player in Nigeria’s economy. We know how devastating this unfortunate incident is to them but we want to say that we stand with them in this time and always. We specially condole with the families of the two persons who died in the process.”