LAGOS, Nigeria –– The president of the Nigerian bishops’ conference has called for an investigation into an alleged multimillion-dollar arms deal and said anyone found guilty of money laundering should be dealt with through the justice system.
Archbishop Ignatius Ayau Kaigama of Jos, bishops’ conference president, denied reports that he had accused the Rev. Ayodele Joseph Oritsejafor, president of the Christian Association of Nigeria, of wrongdoing after a jet owned by the minister was found by South African police to be carrying $9.3 million in cash.
South African police are investigating two Nigerians and an Israeli citizen who landed Sept. 5 at an airport near Johannesburg with bundles of unused $100 bills packed in three suitcases in a small business jet from the Nigerian capital, Abuja.
According to South African newspapers, the men had documentation showing that the funds were to buy weapons for the Nigerian intelligence service.
“All that Archbishop Kaigama said about the $9.3 million saga was that the matter should be investigated in depth to avoid insinuations,” Father Chris Anyanwu, communications officer for the bishops’ conference, said in a Sept. 26 statement.
Media reports that Archbishop Kaigama accused Rev. Oritsejafor of harming the image of the Christian Association of Nigeria are false and malicious, the statement said.
Occasionally in the past, the bishops’ conference has criticized the Christian Association of Nigeria, of which it is a member, “not with the intention to discredit the body but so that things could be corrected fraternally, but there were screaming headlines” that put the Catholic Church “in a negative light,” the statement said.
“This is happening again,” it said.
“As leaders of the Catholic Church we shall continue to be objective in our assessment of the situation in the country and endeavor to edify everyone by our comments and actions and not to destroy. This is because we believe that we are one people and one nation,” the statement said.