The Bishop of the Lagos Diocese of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), Adebola Ademowo, pushed back vehemently on claims that he misappropriated ₦260 million belonging to the church, according to a letter by the cleric seen by PREMIUM TIMES.
The letter, dated March 1 and addressed to Nicholas Okoh, the Primate of the Church of Nigeria, was a response to accusations of financial impropriety and election malpractice levelled by some members of the church against Mr Ademowo.
While presenting his achievements in the church in his almost two decades as bishop to the Primate, Mr Ademowo detailed the origin of the recent controversy which has embarrassed the church and exposed its leaders to ridicule.
Ten members, who identified themselves as prominent financial members and elders in the church, had accused Mr Ademowo of causing division and hatred among members, receipt of funds from the Diocesan Board for his personal use, and the placing of his family members in strategic positions.
The aggrieved members also accused the bishop of manipulating the electoral process that led to the emergence of Humphrey Olumakaiye as his successor.
In his letter to the Primate, Mr Ademowo maintained that his 18 years as bishop of the Lagos Diocese has put the church on a strong financial footing more than ever before.
“It was alleged that my period in the Diocese of Lagos was a disaster,” Mr Ademowo began.
“I came to the Diocese and met the sum of ₦1.5 million only on the account with a salary bill of over ₦3 million per month for the clergy excluding other workers.
“I have by the grace of God, within the period of my Episcopacy been able to place the Diocese on strong financial footing.
“We have 32 flats buildings in Lekki Phase 1, generating over ₦50 million for the Diocese annually.
“We have a flat in Ikoyi generating over ₦10 million for the Diocese annually. We also have an hostel for the Diocese of Lagos built at Ajayi Crowther University, Oyo, generating over ₦20 million annually.”
Mr Ademowo said the foundation for the allegations against him was laud at the Vestry meeting of the Cathedral on February 25, 2018.
“At the said Vestry meeting, a vast majority of the Cathedral members made it known that their silence is only on account of their desire for peace and pursuit of same and not because they were in agreement with the fallacious and provocative allegations.”
Mr Ademowo said contrary to the allegation that he had promoted hate and division, the clergy of the Lagos Diocese are more united than they had ever been.
“When I came they rarely related with one another,” the bishop said.
“But by the grace of God, we have a policy now which promote the motto of ‘for one is for all.’ My clergy are a living witness to my ministry in promoting unity and harmony among them.”
In addition to ensuring that the monthly stipends for the clergy never exceeds the 22nd of every month, Mr Ademowo said he also initiated interest-free loans to enable them buy lands and develop their personal buildings in preparation for their retirement.
The bishop also dismissed claims that he approved the publication of photographs of himself and Mr Olumakaiye, his successor, in the church’s calendar ahead of the election. He said it was practice of the women in the Diocese to reflect, in their annual Almanac, bishops and priests as well as the laity who performed major roles in the church.
A Multi-million Naira Home
On the allegation that he collected ₦200 million to build his retirement house, Mr Ademowo said it is an “established fact” that houses are built for retiring bishops and vehicles purchased for them by their dioceses.
He said he had already begun plans for the building of his retirement house before it came to the knowledge of the Diocesan Board who then decided to support him with ₦200 million.
“I will like to bring to your notice that the Diocese of Lagos West built a house for The Rt. Revd Dr. Peter Adebiyi at a cost of over ₦200 million in 2013, the Diocese of Lagos Mainland built and furnished a house for The Most Revd Prof Adebayo Dada Akinde on retirement for over ₦250 million for his services to the Diocese of Lagos Mainland for about ten years in the year 2016.
“I would have spent over 18 years as the Bishop of Lagos on retirement.”
The bishop further stated that claims that he wanted to bring his godson to succeed him in order to cover up his financial irregularities were baseless because the diocese’s accounts are audited annually by seasoned chartered accountants.
On the ₦65 million Lexus 570 Sports Utility Vehicle bought for him as a retirement gift, Mr Ademowo said it was the decision of the Diocesan Retirement and Enthronement Committee which had been set up since March 19, 2015, by the Diocesan Board.
“It was at the Diocesan Board meeting held on Thursday 15th February, 2018 that the purchase of a Lexus Jeep was approved,” Mr Ademowo said.
“The total cost of the vehicle to the Diocese was ₦60 million. The seller of the vehicle, being a parishioner, having donated the sum of ₦5 million towards the cost of the vehicle.
“I like to bring to your notice the fact that the Diocese of Lagos West bought an SUV for The Rt Revd Dr. Peter Adebiyi on retirement, Archbishop Vinning Memorial Church Cathedral, Ikeja, the Women’s and Girl’s Organisations of the Diocese of Lagos West and the Ekiti State Government also bought him a vehicle each.”
The ten church members who instituted the suit before a Lagos Division of the Federal High Court include Fola Osibo, Modupe Alakija, Oluyomi Finnih, Femi Adeniyi-William, Layi Ajayi-Bembe, Laide Sasegbon, Modupe Sagoe, Ade Abisogun, Bukola Meadows, and Molara Otuyelu.
Joined as defendants are the Registered Trustees of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion); The Lagos Diocese of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion); and Reverends Okoh; Ademowo; Olumakaiye; Michael Fape.
Prior to instituting the suit, the ten aggrieved members had written to Mr Okoh rejecting the outcome of the February 6 election that saw the emergence of Mr Olumakaiye as the Bishop-in-waiting.
The members said the exercise was a charade, describing the process that produced the new bishop as “absolutely reprehensible, insulting to our common sensibilities and unfair to our Diocese.”
“Your Grace, we have been inundated with stories of the roles money has played in the schemes leading to the emergence of the new bishop of Lagos, which is rather shameful, despicable and sordid,” the members stated in the February 16 letter to the Primate.
“At a time when politicians should be looking up to the Church for good guidance, exemplary conduct and light, the conduct leading to the election of the new Bishop for the Diocese of Lagos is definitely a throw-back, a misleading act and shedding of darkness over our church.
“We were reliably informed by both laity and clergy how money was being shared recklessly to secure votes and win influence among Bishops at Abeokuta and Port Harcourt in 2017.”
Three days later, the church responded with a press release denying the allegations of election malpractice and insisting the process was free and fair.
According to the church, 161 bishops participated in the process and out of the two candidates nominated – Mr Olumakaiye and Michael Fape – the former garnered 109 votes against the latter’s 51.
“By this result, Rt Revd Humphrey Olumakaiye, Bishop of Osun North East became duly elected for translation to the See of Lagos,” the church said in the statement signed by David Onuoha, the Episcopal Secretary.
“We call on the brethren who have fallen into this temptation of seeking to destabilise the church to use this period of Lent to seek God’s face in repentance that He may grant them forgiveness and time for amendment of life.”