4th June, 2010
The Roman Catholic Church in Nigeria has abandoned its priest, who is now standing trial over allegations that he swindled some 110 people of 57 million naira in a Canadian visa scam, his colleagues said.
The Reverend Father Felix Afolayan, appeared in the Igbosere Magistrateâ€™s Court on Wednesday on charges of fraud, stealing and making false pretences to obtain money (419).
Afolayan, ordained less than 10 years ago for the Catholic Diocese of Ekiti, pleaded not guilty to the charges and the magistrate W.B. Balogun of Court 18 adjourned further hearing in his case till July 2.
The 40-year-old priest was arrested about two months ago.
He allegedly committed the offence between April and December last year and crooked 110 people by promising to get them Canadian visas, the court charge sheet showed.
His other co-accused are at large.
The magistrate ordered the accused to pay bail of two million naira and provide two sureties of equal sums.
The offence of obtaining money through false pretences is commonly called â€œ419â€ in Nigeria, derived from a section of the criminal code that deals with such a crime. Nigerian authorities have intensified their fight against fraud.
Catholic Church authorities in his Diocese, including the now retired Bishop Michael Fagun, and his successor, Felix Ajakaiye, had on several occasions warned him when they got reports that he was getting involved in the crime, his colleagues said.
But the cleric, a football fanatic, ignored their warnings.
Afolayan, a former parish priest of the Catholic Church in Ilawe, was known to have paid too much attention to the game of football to the detriment of his vocation.
At a point, he broke his legs while playing football and he was forced to walk on crutches.
He was fond of watching football matches in his home with some youths some of whom later became his victims as he promised to procure for them Canadian visas to further their football careers abroad.
Several months ago, the Church authorities suspended him and replaced him in his parish with another young Ekiti priest, who was recalled from his assignment at Ile-Ife.
â€œYou cannot be behaving in the manner Father Afolayan behaved and expect to get the sympathy of the Catholic Church when you are in trouble. Not after you have been warned several times. He is left to sort it out with the law,â€ one of the clerics said.