The crisis raging between two key Christian bodies, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and the National Christian Elders Forum (NCEF), reached a climax Friday with the former denouncing the latter and publicly severing further ties with it.
In a statement signed by Adebayo Oladeji, the spokesperson of the CAN President, Samson Ayokunle, and sent to PREMIUM TIMES on Friday evening, CAN said it was also ‘dissolving’ the NCEF, following the failure of both parties to reach an amicable resolution.
CAN said its decision was prompted by what it described as the baseless allegations against Mr Ayokunle by the NCEF and “its agents”.
“The National Executive Committee of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), at its meeting of Tuesday, November 20, 2018, unanimously applauded the CAN President for the unprecedented achievements recorded under his watch and dissolved the National Christian Elders Forum (NCEF) due to irreconcilable differences with its activities,” he said.
The CAN statement accused the NCEF of “using the social media and a section of the traditional media to attack its leadership” by disseminating “unprintable words” against the association, following what CAN described as its failure to “take directives from the elders forum”.
CAN described the said publications as distractions, aimed at maligning the integrity of the CAN President.
“In the Communique issued on Friday, November 30, 2018 in Abuja, CAN among other things “immediately dissolves the National Christian Elders’ Forum (NCEF) which was inaugurated on Thursday, January 15, 2015 by the powers conferred on the then CAN President.
“CAN NEC, by the same powers that inaugurated the forum, forthwith dissolves and dissociates completely from the NCEF in view of the incongruous and unacceptable operations manifested consistently by the group,” the statement added.
CAN also said the recent meeting by its NEC commended Mr Ayokunle for his various efforts towards uniting the church in Nigeria.
Meanwhile, the secretary of the NCEF, Bosun Emmanuel, enumerated some allegations of the forum against the Mr Ayokunle-led Christian association and submitted that CAN lacks the powers to dissolve the group.
“Our attention was drawn to a press statement by Pastor Adebayo Oladeji, the Special Assistant (Media & Communications) to the current President of CAN, purportedly claiming that CAN has dissolved the National Christian Elders Forum. We urge Christians to disregard this statement as it is not based on truth,” the statement said.
The NCEF in the statement recounted its history, saying it was formed by a group “outside CAN” and therefore submitted that it cannot be dissolved by the Christian association.
According to the NCEF, the forum was formed by three founding members who were part of another group: the Christian Social Movement of Nigeria, (CSMN), which had given birth to the forum.
It explained that its founding members including the NCEF chairman, Solomon Asemota, had invited the former CAN President, Ayo Oritsejafor, to inaugurate the group after it was formed by the CSMN.
“CAN Trust Fund was established by CAN and its bank account was opened in the name of CAN. The National Christian Elders Forum was established by CSMN. The bank account operated by the NCEF is in the name of CSMN and not in the name of CAN.
“There is nothing wrong for any Christian body inviting the President of CAN to inaugurate any of its arms and its leaders. CSMN is an independent and duly registered body that sought to strengthen Church Unity by projecting CAN.
“Therefore, inauguration of NCEF by the former President of CAN does not confer its ownership on CAN,” the NCEF said in its statement on Saturday.
The Christian elders forum accused Mr Ayokunle of frustrating efforts aimed at ensuring the emergence of a Christian President in 2019.
The group also accused Mr Ayokunle of frustrating attempts to raise funds for the development of vulnerable groups.
“On May 6 and 7, 2018, the President of CAN deliberately frustrated the meeting summoned by NCEF to build Christian political consensus. On August 13 and 14, 2018, the CAN leadership also frustrated the efforts of CSMN to mobilise funding for the purpose of building Christian political structures.
“Deliberate frustration of the CAN Trust Fund which was set up to raise N5 billion monthly to fund Christian structures and support persecuted Christians. Dr. Ayokunle has frustrated it to the point it has become moribund.
“Even a cheque for N7 million issued by CAN Trust Fund on 12th April, 2018 to purchase food for Christian IDPs in seven states has lapsed in the National Secretariat of CAN after six months. Dr. Ayokunle, the President of CAN, frustrated the release of the money to feed Christian IDPs.”
The NCEF accused Mr Ayokunle of aiding what it described as the “ongoing jihad against Christians” and urged Nigerians to watch the assocation closely.
CAN has been involved in a series of crisis, since the emergence of Mr Ayokunle.
While some of the crises resulted in litigations, others were resolved.