President Goodluck Jonathan on Wednesday defended himself over the church building donated to his community, Otuoke in Bayelsa State, by an Italian firm, Gitto Construzioni General. He noted with surprise and amusement, the patently laughable attempt by his political opponents and their collaborators to brew up a storm in a cup over the alleged “gift” of a church to him.
In a statement by his spokesperson, Dr. Reuben Abati, Jonathan said: “It should be clear to all knowledgeable and discerning Nigerians that these allegations are nothing other than another mischievous attempt to denigrate President Jonathan, cast unjustifiable aspersions on his personal integrity and distract him from the serious business of governance.
“For the benefit of the unwary who might be taken in by the antics of an unscrupulous opposition that has little or no regard for the truth in the pursuit of their self-serving agenda, the Presidency wishes to state emphatically that President Jonathan never solicited or received a church as ‘bribe’ from any contractor.
“Yes, a contractor who has worked and continues to work in Bayelsa state and other parts of Nigeria thought it fit, in fulfillment of its corporate social responsibility, to facilitate the renovation of the small church in the President’s home town of Otuoke.
“It takes a lot of desperation to translate this act of social responsibility for which there are innumerable precedents in our country into a crime for which the usual suspects are now calling for the ‘impeachment’ of President Jonathan.
“It is indeed ironic that the groups and individuals now castigating the President because a company freely chose to fulfill its corporate social responsibility by helping to renovate a communal place of worship, are also amongst those who constantly berate companies doing business in the Niger Delta for not doing enough to support the development of their host communities.
“Examples of such corporate assistance to communities, cities and states abound across Nigeria. The President’s accusers are certainly not unaware of the fact that the famous Millennium Park in Abuja was donated to the city by a construction company, but we do not recall that anyone was ever accused of receiving the park or other similar communal projects as a bribe.
“For the avoidance of any doubt whatsoever, the renovated church in Otuoke does not belong to President Jonathan or his family. The church belongs to the Anglican Communion and the entire Otuoke Community. It has existed for generations and is not a new church “donated” to President Jonathan by his ‘contractor friend’ as is being mischievously alleged.”
Abati added that “President Jonathan has not committed any crime or violation of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers by being present at the dedication of the very humble community church building and publicly acknowledging the assistance of a corporate entity in its renovation.
“Those peddling allegations to the contrary know very well that their charges are baseless and unsustainable. If they must oppose for the sake of opposition, let them desist from peddling patent falsehoods and make a greater effort to be a responsible opposition by offering intelligent and constructive criticism.”