May the resurrection power of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. You
must be wondering why we have chosen to use this medium to address
this letter to you. The answer is not far to seek. It will become
clearer and clearer as you read on.
There were indications quite early after you assumed office as Primate that the crisis in Sapele Diocese (Anglican
Communion) was among matters placed on top of your list of priorities.Your visit to Sapele in August 2020 to see things for yourself and interact with us therefore surprised no one. You immediately
thereafter invited us to Abuja on September 2, 2020 to exchange ideas on the way by which the crisis could be brought to a speedy end. You will surely recollect that the Abuja meeting lasted for several hours but ended without the production of any meaningful crisis-resolution road map. Throughout the meeting, you placed accent only on the issue of reconciliation while ignoring the need for a full-scale examination of the substantive issues involved in the crisis. We emphasized at the meeting that the Rescue Sapele Diocese Group has forgiven Bishop
Erifeta but we also made it clear that reconciliation would be a proposition which we would find difficult to contemplate given the Bishop’s unedifying and inglorious past record.
During the six years that Bishop Erifeta spent with us as Bishop of Sapele Diocese, he, among others:
1. Took special delight in raining insults and curses on elderly members of the church, their children and families on a regular basis from the pulpit.
2. Arrogantly dissolved the choir of the Cathedral Church of St. Luke, Sapele on 14th April, 2013 by a letter he personally wrote and signed. His excuse for this reprehensible action was that a chorister allegedly insulted him and so the entire choir needed to be punished for that “sin”. Interestingly, he (Erifeta), could not establish another choir till the Diocesan crisis broke in 2015.
3. Attempted but failed to use forged Sapele Diocese documents to obtain bank loan for his personal benefit.
4. Refused to remit the deducted Clergy Co-operative contribution worth N8,000,000.00 to the co-operative’s account even after series of letters to him from the Delta State Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
5. Engaged in immoral activities.
6. Spent church funds to satisfy his appetite for the good things of life while
refusing to pay other Diocesan Priests their salaries or to carry out any
development in the Diocese.
7. Consistently told monstrous lies, falsely claiming, amongst others, that the Rescue Sapele Diocese Group rose up against him because of his effort to root-out occultism from the Diocese. He has up until now been unable to
accept the Group’s challenge for him to name any member of the Rescue Sapele Diocese Group that is involved in any occult practices.
How then can anyone speak glibly about reconciliation when Bishop Erifeta, an inveterate liar, a so-called man of God had no prick of conscience when he went to the Assistant Inspector General of Police (A.I.G) Zone 5, Benin City, to falsely report that members of the Rescue Sapele Diocese Group (old and young) attempted to kidnap and murder him and his family members. Had the A.I.G believed this absurd and spurious allegation, our members would have been detained in Police cells and charged to Court. Those who now trumpet the refrain that the Rescue Sapele Diocese Group is responsible for the prolongation of the crisis should tell the world how happy they would have felt
had our members been jailed on trumped-up charges. Perhaps they would have
celebrated victory. Yet they are Christians!
It is regrettable that the church leadership appears inclined to treat the above issues lightly or pretend that they never happened. Each time we resist your attempt to brow-beat us to bend to your will, you dangle the threat of ex-
communication. We watched with amusement as you raised this threat at our meeting with you on September 2, 2020. Were it not for the timely and wise intervention of the Dean of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion),
Most Revd. Dr. Ali Buba Lamido, who cautioned against issuing such threats, the Abuja meeting could easily have ended on a note capable of undermining the image of the Church.
Since we last met with you on October 11, 2021, we have waited in vain for you to fulfil your promise to act expeditiously on the following four critical matters:
i. The release of Archbishop Emmanuel Chukwuma Panel’s Report on
the investigation conducted on the Rescue Sapele Diocese Group’s
catalogue of complaints against Bishop Erifeta.
ii. The timely response to matters affecting the Sapele Diocesan crisis.
iii. The translation of Bishop Erifeta.
iv. The appointment of a new Bishop for Sapele Diocese.
We are bemused that nearly one year after, you have not deemed it urgent and
important to address any of the above issues. It is recalled that when the crisis broke in July 2015, the then Primate, Most Revd. Nicholas D. Okoh, advised that the presentation of our case against Bishop Erifeta should commence at the Sapele Diocesan Board and that if the outcome of the Board meeting proved unsatisfactory to us, we should then appeal to the Bendel Provincial Archbishop-in-Council. We complied with this cumbersome constitutionally
laid-down procedure which yielded no positive result. The matter has since been with the Primate as the final arbiter. Even at this high level, we have seen no well-considered move to end the crisis.
As you know, Primate, one of the significant things Most Revd. Okoh did before he went into retirement was to appoint the respected Archbishop of Enugu Province and Bishop of Enugu Diocese, Most Revd. Emmanuel
Chukwuma, to head a Panel of Bishops to make on-the-spot inquiry to ascertain the true position of things in Sapele Diocese. As your records will show, the Panel met on three (3) separate occasions with members of the Rescue Sapele
Diocese Group at the Cathedral Church of St. Peters Asaba; the Ibru Ecumenical Centre, Agbarho-Otor; the Cathedral Church of St. Luke Sapele and a few other Rescue Sapele Diocese Group churches. During that visit, a
most damning testimony was presented against Bishop Erifeta by one of his
former drivers. The driver gave graphic details of what he saw as immoral
practices perpetrated by Bishop Erifeta and had the courage of his conviction to
send a hard copy of this testimony to Archbishop Chukwuma and members of
his Panel. For reasons which we cannot understand, the Report and
recommendations of the Chukwuma Panel have remained shrouded in secrecy
since the year 2018. Despite several pleas from us to you and your predecessor
that the Panel’s Report should be released in the interest of the body
our pleas have gone unheeded. Is the proverbial “Nigerian Factor” at play here?
Why this seeming cover-up?
Still, we must commend Primate Okoh for creating the Special Archdeaconry
under Primatial care to cater for the interests of the members of the Rescue
Sapele Diocese Group on issues requiring Ecclesiastical attention. Anyone who
knew the condition of the Cathedral Church of St. Luke and many other
churches when Bishop Erifeta was there and compare with their present outlook
will marvel and give thanks to God. But for the timely developmental steps
taken by the Rescue Group, member churches of the group would have
continued to suffer neglect.
It would appear to us that your administration does not take seriously our long-
standing recommendation that the only sure path to the early resolution of the
crisis is the translation of Bishop Erifeta. Instead of actively examining the
merit of this recommendation, you seem now intent on taking steps which you
delusively think will wear-off the zeal with which the Rescue Movement is
being pursued. Your recent decision to post three (3) Priests from the Rescue
Sapele Diocese Group of churches under the Special Archdeaconry without
replacement is a case in point. You took this decision without seeking the
opinion of the Supervising Priest you appointed as your representative in
Sapele. The posting therefore came to us as a surprise and we only became
aware of the transfers when we were informed by the affected Priests. This, to
us, is an aberration.
Our request for the translation of Bishop Erifeta from Sapele Diocese is not
without precedent. It is no secret that some Bishops in the Anglican
Communion have in recent times been translated, suspended and put on
retirement for actions unbecoming of their status. Even in far away South
Africa, an Anglican Bishop against whom a proven case of misconduct was
established, retired by the Primate of that country. The offences for
Bishops were punished were nowhere more detestable than what we have
catalogued against Bishop Erifeta. Why is he then being treated differently and
what makes him untouchable? We need to know. Otherwise, we would be
perfectly justified to accuse the Church of practising double standard
and taking sides in the Sapele Diocesan crisis. On the issue of a new
Bishop for Sapele Diocese, we reiterate our position that we would be
glad to welcome anyone from outside Bendel Province but we would be
infinitely cautious not to fall into the unpredictable embrace of
another Bishop cast in the same mould as Bishop Erifeta.
In conclusion, we wish to ask for an answer as to why you seem to deem it
beneath you to communicate directly with the Rescue Sapele Diocese Group.
All the letters and other communication we have addressed to you since your
appointment have gone unanswered. We got so aggravated by this perverse and
insidious development that we were constrained to express to you on one
occasion our feelings of suspicion that our letters have been deliberately kept
from coming to your notice by some of your office staff. This is an
unwholesome departure from what we experienced during the tenure of Primate
Okoh. All our letters to him received his personal attention and only a few of
his replies did not bear his signature.
No matter the lies with which you may have been fed by Bishop Erifeta and his
collaborators, the Rescue Sapele Diocese Group, which is composed of mature,
well-meaning and serious-minded men and women (some of whom are over
90years old) as well as vibrant youths, cannot be wished out of existence. We
strongly believe that the Rescue Sapele Diocese Group will continue to flourish
and survive because we are on the side of truth and justice.
May God Almighty give you understanding.
FOR: RESCUE SAPELE DIOCESE GROUP
MRS. VERO ARUOTURE
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