The Catholic Bishop Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) has denied media reports that it returned to the umbrella body of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN).
The Christian Association had informed Nigerians in a statement on Sunday that the CBCN was back to its national body, after five years of withdrawal.
The statement signed by Adebayo Oladeji, the media assistance to the CAN President, attributed the return to effort made by the CAN leadership to unite the various blocks of the association.
"Their return was one of the best things that have been happening since I was given the mandate to become the President," the statement said, quoting CAN's President, Samson Ayokunle.
But in an exclusive interview with PREMIUM TIMES on Wednesday, the CBCN president, Ignatius Kaigama, said although negotiations were ongoing for the expected return, the CBCN was yet to take a final decision about rejoining the umbrella body.
"We want to dialogue and conclude some issues of the constitution. We are still talking, we are still negotiating. We are still re-examining how things have been, so that when we return, our return will be total and complete. So the statement you saw did not emanate from the Catholic Church. Although we are working with CAN at the state levels.
"When we are through with our dialogue and negotiations with the Christian Association of Nigeria and we are mutually satisfied, we as the Catholic Bishops Conference will issue a statement to that effect," said Mr. Kaigama, who is also the Catholic archbishop of Jos.
Given the position of the CBCN, PREMIUM TIMES enquired from CAN, the reason for its earlier statement.
CAN President, Samson Ayokunle, explained that his media aide interpreted the decision of the CBCN to attend the constitution review and the Executive Council meetings organised by CAN, to mean that the Catholic Bishops had returned to the association.
"Well it's not a full return. We have been having meetings. They attended our Constitution review meeting and the following day they had a full representation at our executive Council meeting. That was what my media man interpreted to mean that they had returned.
"But we have been having improvements in our negotiation. They even invited me last Sunday for a program. Such things were not done before.
"But I have just received a mail from them saying that they would like the constitution review completed before they return. So their full return depends on when we complete our Constitution review," Mr. Ayokunle said.
The CBCN pulled out of the Christian Association five years ago, citing politicisation of CAN's leadership as reason for its decision.
The catholic bishops accused the Ayo Oritsejafor-led former leadership of the Christian association of involvement in partisan politics.
In a statement signed by Mr. Kaigama, the CBCN said it would only return to CAN's national body when it believes that the leadership of the association had returned to its original vision.
"CAN is being dragged into partisan politics thereby compromising the ability to play its true role as conscience of the nation and the voice of the voiceless," the bishops said.
The statement further said the CBCN would however continue its participation with CAN at state levels.
Established in 1976, CAN is made up of five Christian blocs namely: the Christian Council of Nigeria; the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria; Organisation of African Instituted Churches, and the Evangelical Fellowship of West Africa.