Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor has denied involvement in the controversial $9.3 million smuggled with his private jet into South Africa by two Nigerians and an Israeli.
Oritsejafor, who is the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), made the denial while speaking on Monday at the National Executive Council meeting of the association held at the National Christian Centre, Abuja.
According to the Nation, the clergyman complained that there have been several attempts by the media to link him to the scam. He said he chose to remain quite because he only intends to explain himself to the church which he described as the primary institution he owes any explanation.
The CAN leader insisted that he was never a party to the movement of the said amount from Nigeria to South Africa for alleged buying of arms and ammunition. He assured that he can never do anything to tarnish the image of Jesus Christ or compromise the divine standard of the church.
“As you are all aware, the media has been awashed in the past few days about an unfortunate incident involving the movement of funds from Nigeria to South Africa. In the unfortunate news reports, attempts have been made to link me directly with the transaction.
“At the risk of being seen to be defending myself, I wish to confirm to the distinguished leaders of the church that the Bombardier Challenger 601 aircraft in question is mine. The aircraft was presented to me as a gift by members of our congregation and ministry partners worldwide at my 40th anniversary of my call into the ministry. May I be permitted to stress that the aircraft was not given to me by the President of Nigeria, neither was it a settlement for any political favour or patronage,” he said.
Oritsejafor, however, refuted the allegation that the private jet in question was given to him by the President Goodluck Jonathan. He said the President was a guest in his church on the day the private jet was given to him by members of his congregation and ministry partners worldwide. He challenged those making the allegation to come out with their proof and halt the matter once and for all.
The CAN president further explained that he got permit to allow the aircraft fly in and out of Nigeria in order to reduce the cost of maintaining the aircraft. He confirmed that he leased the aircraft on August 2, 2014 to Green Coast Produce Company Limited to run it, adding that it was the company that went into agreement with the people who ferried the $9.3 million. He insisted that there is no way he could have been involved in their transactions.
“Inasmuch as I am shocked and distressed by the incident, I wish to appeal to Christians in Nigeria to remember that a war has been waged against the Nigerian church. This war is being fought on many fronts and this unfortunate incident is another dimension in the assault against the church. It is clear that those who manipulated this conspiracy desire to create a schism in the church,” Oritsejafor said.
The CAN leader accused the media and other forces of deliberately falsifying information to cause division and disunity in the church because they know that a divided house cannot stand. He urged Christians on stronger unity, alleging that the church is witnessing inhuman attacks by religious extremists against Christians in the northern part of the country.
“If we permit the enemy divide us, our chances of corporate survival shall be severely threatened. Distinguished leaders of the church please permit me to state clearly before God and before all of you here present today, that I am not a party to the movement of $9.3m from Nigeria to South Africa to purchase arms and ammunition. I am not part of the deal. I know nothing about it,” Oritsejafor said.
It would be recalled that the private jet seized in Johannesburg, South Africa, with about $9.3 million onboard, was linked to the CAN President. The Nigerian government has reportedly commenced a diplomatic talks with South African authorities regarding the incident,confirming that the said money was meant for a covert arms purchase.
Oritsejafor has been under constant attacks from notable Nigerians over the confiscation of his private jet by the South African government for illegally conveying the sum of $9.3 million cash into its country. Last week, the former Minister of the Federal Capital territory, Mallam Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai, condemned the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN President, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, over the incident.