The president of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Ayo Oritsejafor, has finally spoken on the allegation that he owns a private jet seized at the weekend by South African authorities with a stack of $10 million in cash meant for arms purchase.
According to a report published by Premium Times on Tuesday, 16 September, 2014, Aviation Minister, Osita Chidoka, informed that the CAN president had leased the jet to another party, meaning that Oritsejafor had no control over the use of the aircraft.
It was also gathered that through a separate statement made public earlier on Tuesday, Oritsejafor’s church, the Word of Life Bible Church, also confirmed the ownership of the seized jet, saying the pastor has a “residual interest” in Eagle Air, a company that manages the aircraft.
“On behalf of Pastor Oritsejafor, we can confirm that although he holds an interest in Eagle Air, the aircraft in question is not operated by Pastor Oritsejafor,” the statement said.
The aircraft was leased to, and is operated by Green Coast Produce Limited since August 2, the statement added.
Meanwhile, Eagle Air Company, in a statement released on Tuesday, admitted ownership of the jet held in South Africa for conveying $9.3 million cash for alleged arms deal.
It would be recalled that two Nigerians and an Israeli were caught with the money allegedly meant for buying and supplying weapons to the Nigeria intelligence services.
A South Africa-based newspaper, City Press, had reported that the trio, who are already facing investigations, landed at Lanseria International Airport, Johannesburg on September 5, in the jet from Abuja with the money loaded in three suitcases.
Speaking on the incident, Adrian Luckay, the spokesperson for the South African Revenue Service, SARS, stated that customs officers detected the stashed huge amount of money when the passenger luggage were unloaded and scanned.
In a statement by its General Manager, Emmanuel Ohaeri, Eagle Air Company also claimed holding a “residual interest” in the aircraft, a Bombader Challenger 600, Registration No 808HG.
The company however said it leased the aircraft to Green Coast Produce Limited since August 2.
The statement said, “Our attention has been drawn to press reports in respect of an aircraft (Bombardier Challenger 600, Registration No N808HG) in which our company holds a residual interest.
“We wish to confirm that the said aircraft has since the 2nd of August 2014 been leased to and is operated by Green Coast Produce Limited.”
The company and Mr. Ortisejafor’s church advised that all media enquiries in respect of the day-to-day operations of the aircraft be directed to the management of Green Coast Produce Limited.
However, the management of Green Coast Produce Company Limited, had in a statement, confirmed that the aircraft had been leased to it, saying such transactions were normal in the aviation industry.
The company explained that the aircraft was in turn hired from it by one John Ishyaku and therefore would not be liable for any alleged infractions either in Nigeria or South Africa after the hire.
“All cargoes were accompanied by passenger who could readily defend the contents. We are not and cannot be privy to any alleged extraneous cargo transported on the aircraft other than that declared in the agreed terms of hire,” the firm said.
“We are not liable and cannot be construed as a party to any alleged infractions, either in Nigeria or South Africa as he case may be, after the hire of the aircraft,” it added.
It would be recalled that President Goodluck Jonathan visited Omadino in Warri, Delta State, on June 3, 2014, Tuesday, for a ground breaking ceremony of a private university owned by Oritsajefor
President Jonathan was criticized for paying attention to launching of the private university while the problems of Nigerian education sector remain forgotten.