The President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, has dismissed criticism trailing his acquisition of a private jet, saying he was not ashamed to own a plane, an online publication, Premium Times has said.
Oritsejafor, General Overseer of Word of Life Bible Church, had early this month acquired a private jet, saying it was donated to him by church members in commemoration of his 40th year on the pulpit.
The pastor thereafter came under tremendous criticism over this acquisition of a plane with Bishop Mathew Kukah describing him as an embarrassment to Christianity while Pastor Tunde Bakare said clergymen like him, taking advantage of their congregations, and buying private jets, deserved to go to jail.
But in an interview he granted Nigeria Vanguard newspaper Sunday, Oritsejafor said given the nature of his work, a plane had become a necessity.
"I'm not ashamed to own a plane, I think it is a necessity and not a luxury for some of us deeply involved in the work of God to own planes," the pastor said.
He said he did not know the church members who donated the jet, adding all he knew was that some members constituted a committee for the purpose and that his wife worked closely with the committee.
He said members of the congregation decided to donate the jet after they became aware of the suffering he underwent whenever he travelled in and out of Nigeria preaching the gospel.
"They feel the pain I go through and they feel painful for not seeing me most of the time," Oritsejafor explained.
"They don't like it, they are troubled. I know some people buy planes, I can't buy plane. I can't afford it. I don't have that kind of money, I still don't know the people that bought this plane, but I know that there is a committee."
He continued: "Sometimes, my schedule is so complicated. Now, with this plane, it changes everything about my movements. Now, I can move, I can even go and come back home. It is a bit more convenient for me and I suspect that this is one of the reasons a lot of these other preachers have planes."
Further justifying the need for the jet, the CAN President narrated an experience he had when he travelled to Indonesia to preach the gospel.
He said, "You may have heard me speak about my trip to Jakarta in Indonesia.
"In fact, it wasn't even Jakarta I was going to, but I had to stay inside an airport in Jakarta for five hours to wait for my flight, to get to the very city I was going. I was only going to preach for two hours there. I flew from Lagos to Dubai and I spent over three hours, changed flight to fly to Jakarta and then stayed five hours at the airport just to catch a flight to where I was going to, where I was to preach for just two hours.
"And after everything, I got a flight from that place again to Jakarta, stayed at the airport again for another five hours, then flew into Dubai, stayed again at the airport for another three hours before I flew into Lagos. It took me four days to make a journey to preach for two hours. I'm a human being and I am not getting younger every day.
"And locally, it is worse, for instance, the acting General Secretary of CAN lost his father in a place outside Uyo, Akwa Ibom State and I had to be there. I preached in a place in Lagos on a Friday and needed to be back to Warri on a Saturday, but at the end of the day, the plane that would have taken me was no where.
"I had to charter a plane for N3.5 million to take me to Uyo, waited for me to finish and then take me back to Warri. Two weeks ago, a young pastor in Port Harcourt built a new church and had been on me all this while to come and dedicate the church and suddenly from no where, there was this flood that cut off the road to Port Harcourt.
"There is no road now to Port Harcourt. If you want to go by road now, it takes you up to 12 hours to get to Port Harcourt and I had to preach in Port Harcourt, I had to preach in Lagos, I had to preach in Abuja and other places. Finally, I was able to find my way to Port Harcourt, it was on a Saturday.
"I had to get to Warri that Saturday so as to be able to preach the next day, Sunday. Do you know what I had to finally do? I chartered a helicopter that cost me N2 million to drop me in Warri. When they dropped me here, ah, I can't tell you how I felt that I had to part with that sum. But I had promised the young man and the church and if I had said no, will it be right? I can go on and on and on."