There is confusion over a petition purportedly written by one Pastor Frank Onwumere of the Dominion Centre International, Owerri, Imo State that the presidential candidate of the Labour Party for the 2023 election in Nigeria, Peter Obi, offered pastors N2 billion.
The pastor reportedly petition the Christian Association of Nigeria that the fund had been cornered by some clergymen.
However, a few hours after the petition went viral and the CAN leadership and Obi-Datti Media Team had responded to it, the purported author of the petition distanced himself from it.
So also could all the contact details provided on the petition be reached.
These included the telephone numbers, email addresses and actual location of the church.
In the petition, titled: “PETITION ON THE MISAPPROPRIATION OF N2 BILLION GIVEN BY THE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE OF THE LABOUR PARTY, MR. PETER OBI, TO THE CHURCHES UNDER THE UMBRELLA OF CAN, CATHOLIC BISHOPS AND THE PENTECOSTAL, FELLOWSHIP OF NIGERIA PEN: TO FURTHER DRIVE HIS MANDATE DURING THE YULETIDE SEASON IN CHURCHES AND TO BE RECEIVED IN AUDIENCE BY THE VARIOUS CHRISTIAN BODIES ACROSS THE COUNTRY,” reads: “With reference to the above and sequel to the meeting convened by my Church Dominion Centre International as Senior Pastor and few other churches within our locality of the Imo State metropolis on the raging misappropriation of N2 Billion disbursed by Mr. Peter Obi, Presidential Candidate of the Labour Party to the various Christian organizations, on behalf of our district of the PFN, we do hereby petition the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), while other bodies duly served under the leadership of the Most Rev. Daniel Chukwudumebi Okoh expressing our disappointment, displeasure and disbelief of how the said funds were disbursed to mega churches, affluent Pentecostal churches, televangelists and renowned popular names of the Christendom.
“We are appalled and disappointed that such humongous amount of money was given to the church by the Labour party to help and assist in mobilizing and convincing their congregation to vote massively for the candidacy of Mr. Peter Obi but to our chagrin, the said sum of money has developed wings and cannot be traced, as we have it on good authority, that it has been fleeced by mega churches and popular pastors and leaders who already as we write, are receiving the presidential candidate across the length and breadth of Nigeria without due consideration to other churches that have not received their own part of the tunds.
“Sir, our grievances and anger are summarized in the questions below that need urgent answers and attention from CAN, PFN and Catholic Bishops of Nigeria. If our questions are not attended to, we would be forced to address a World Press Conference, for the world to know what is happening in Christendom in Nigeria…..”
But Onwumere has denied writing the petition.
He said in a statement on Sunday: “My attention has been drawn to a petition with the above subject matter purportedly written by one Pastor Frank Onwumere of Dominion Center International.
“I wish to use this medium to inform the public, my associates, friends and family, that I, Hon. Pastor Frank Onwumere, did not author the said petition and did not authorise anybody to do so on my behalf.
“I am not a member of Dominion Centre International and have never had any relationship with the organisation. The author of the petition is not known to me.
“Please be assured that it is not in my character to malign any person or institution, let alone revered religious bodies.”
The Christian Association of Nigeria also reacted to the petition.
The CAN President, Archbishop Daniel Okoh, said in a statement on Sunday: “The attention of the National leadership of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has been drawn to a purported letter currently in circulation on 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.
“Nigerians should note 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 as against the social media post being circulated by some elements bent on soiling its name and image.
“CAN, therefore, urges members of the public to disregard the purported letter of petition as its content are not only untrue, but malicious.
“We warn those peddling the falsehood to desist from such acts because they are capable of defaming innocent people and revered religious institutions as well as breaching public peace.”
The Obi-Datti Presidential Campaign Office said the petition was a sign that desperate political blackmailers have commenced series of blackmail against Obi.
It spoke in a statement on Sunday also.
The statement, titled: “Desperado’s blackmail dead on arrival,” said: “Recall that on February 6, 2023, the Obi-Datti Media Office acting on credible intelligence alerted the nation of a grand design to fatally injure the high-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.
“Circulating in social media this weekend is another blackmail stuff against the LP candidate purported to indicate that he gave out the sum of two billion naira to Christians under the umbrella body of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Catholic Bishops Conference and the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria to induce them.
“The petition is said to have been signed by one Pastor Frank Onwumere of the Dominion Center International based in Okigwe, Imo state.
“Obi-Datti Media feels the institutions so mentioned in the write-up have enough instruments to tackle such cheap extortion.
“Obi-Datti Media Campaign office knows it as a fact that you cannot be in front of a political competition and not get roughen, especially if you are in the race with morally bankrupt persons.
“That is why we will continue to be amused by the desperation of some opponents to search for faults on the front-running Presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Mr. Peter Obi, and the apparent frustration of not finding any.
“The LP standard bearer has remained the most searched and fact-checked one among the four top Presidential candidates for obvious reasons. He is the only one running an issue-driven campaign and therefore, provoking intellectual conversations.
“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.
“Our mission in the Obidient Movement this day is to alert and warn discerning minds, especially those desirous to see a new Nigeria emerge through Peter Obi to ignore and treat as thrash any doctored and faked items on Obi. Anything they are bringing now after their long fruitless search is concocted to tarnish the hard-earned reputation of the candidate and should be disregarded.
“Obi-Datti Media is proud to insist that the LP standard bearer and his running mate remain the best product in the market for the much-needed political leadership in the country at this time. And to state without any fear of contradiction that they stand out untainted and possess the prerequisite qualities needed to rescue this troubled land.
“Indicators from the Obi-Datti strategy room show that many more blackmails have been lined up in the coming days in a desperate move to drag down the man generally accepted as the right man for the job.
“The public should therefore have their eyes permanently glued to the ball and refuse to be distracted by any antics because all the devious acts will give way to reason and justice and Nigeria will be successfully taken back from them and reset for greatness.”
Findings by PRNigeria showed that none of the contact addresses provided by the so-called Onwumere was valid.
PRNigeria called the phone numbers (0818188499 and 07010147818) provided on the centre’s letterhead to verify the authenticity of the petition.
The AI customer agent on one of the numbers repeatedly answered thus: “The number you are calling is not assigned to our customer. Please check the number and dial again.”
The other number also responded thus: “The phone number you are trying to call is not reachable at the moment but you can send a mini call for ten naira to the called party.”
Again, PRNigeria sent an email to the email address provided on documents letterhead but no response has been received at the time of publishing this fact-check.
Using Google Maps, PRNigeria searched “Dominion Centre International” but could not detect its location.
Instead, Dominion City Owerri, Dominion International Mission School, and International Conference Centre were detected by the map.
Curiously, Plot 35 Okigwe Road, Owerri, Imo State, as written on the letterhead was searched to see the street view of the area to locate their building using man-on-the-street on the map, but PRNigeria did not see any building bearing “Dominion Centre International.”
Instead, the offices of Salvation Ministries, Mobile Computer Institute and Federal College of Agriculture were detected on the supposed location of the Centre.
Meanwhile, the Muslim Rights Concern said it has identified grey areas in the matter which CAN should clarify.
This was disclosed in a statement by the Executive Director of MURIC, Professor Ishaq Akintola, on Monday.
The statement reads: “A popular pastor, Frank Onwumere, yesterday alleged that the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi, gave the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), the sum of N2 billion to endorse him for the presidency (https://www.thetimes.com.ng/2023/02/breaking-peter-obi-gave-us-n2-billion-to-endorse-him-for-presidency-popular-pastor-alleged-obidattiinlagos/).
“Although CAN has denied the allegation, certain grey areas need clarification, at least for the Nigerian public. For instance, the petition written by Pastor Frank Onwumere was dated 15th December, 2022. It was submitted and received in CAN office on 22nd December, 2023. This can be seen in the CAN stamp on the petition when it was stamped ‘received’.
“The Nigerian public may want to know why CAN remained silent regarding the petition for almost two months until the petitioner went on social media yesterday Sunday, 12th February, 2023. The investigation CAN president now promised to conduct could have been carried out in the last week of December 2022 or in the first week of January 2023. What caused the delay? Why did CAN wait until Pastor Frank came out on social media?
“CAN president’s claim that the petitioner just wanted to drag CAN into the 2023 politics does not convince anyone because CAN itself had gate-crashed into the political arena a long time ago.
“Did CAN caution the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) when it announced the launching of its politics department and its setting up of political bureaus in all its parishes with the aim of promoting the political chances of its members? (https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/top-news/516693-redeemed-church-sets-up-political-department-ahead-of-2023-general-elections.html?tztc=1).
“Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) immediately took the cue from RCCG by directing all churches to establish directorates of politics. Today was born from the wombs of yesterday. These things happened yesterday. CAN may have forgotten but chroniclers and researchers still remember them today.
“We keep the records : https://www.thecable.ng/pfn-backs-rccg-asks-churches-to-create-politics-directorate; https://independent.ng/pfn-directs-churches-to-appoint-political-officers/. Denial of CAN’s special interest and involvement in 2023 politics is ridiculous because evidence of the contrary is already overwhelming. Pastor Frank is not attempting to drag CAN into 2023 politics because CAN is already neck deep in its mucky waters.
“MURIC is not really interested in the veracity or otherwise of Pastor Frank’s allegation because nothing came out of similar allegations in the past. CAN might not have collected N2 billion from Peter Obi for the same reason that CAN might not have collected N7 billion from former President Goodluck Jonathan during the 2025 electioneering campaigns (https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/top-news/177234-can-denies-collecting-n7billion-bribe-demands-probe.html).
“But the vigour and passion CAN throws into the pursuance of political matters will always remain suspicious. For instance, we know that all the noise over Muslim-Muslim ticket is not unconnected with CAN’s fear of losing influence and patronage in the highest corridor of power in the land. It is not about the ordinary Christian. Again, we are interested in the outcome of this fresh allegation because it may provide a logical raison d’etre for the Muslim-Muslim ticket imbroglio.
“We advise CAN to put its house in order. Pastor Frank does not look like a timid petitioner. The gap between 22nd December 2023 and yesterday, Sunday 12th February 2023 needs filling. Nigerians are yearning for a more convincing narrative, not an escapist version of an idealistic group that does not want to touch ‘dirty’ politics with a long pole.”