Christian Association of Nigeria denies allegations it has been bribed to support Goodluck Jonathan

ReutersNigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan is seeking a second term in office.

The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has become embroiled in an extraordinary row after accusations that it was handed N6 billion (£19.5 million) to campaign for President Goodluck Jonathan's People's Democratic Party.

The CAN has strenuously denied the allegations made by Rivers State Governor Chibuike Amaechi, who is the director of the All Progressive Congress (APC) party candidate Muhammadu Buhari's campaign. Jonathan is a Christian and Buhari a Muslim.

Amaechi said that the money was handed to CAN chairmen in the 36 Nigerian states as an incentive for them to campaign against Buhari.

However, Kaduna State CAN chairman George Dodo told the Daily Independent newspaper that he was not aware of any such payment.

The Peoples Democratic Party in Rivers State demanded an apology from Amaechi over his allegation describing it as "unsubstantiated" and "baseless and malicious".

However, a pastor in Borno State and director of the Voice of Northern Christian Movement, Kallamu Musa-Dikwa, said on Thursday that Jonathan's campaign had paid N7 billion and not N6 billion, and that it had been channelled through national CAN president Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor.

The claim was hotly denied by CAN's general secretary, Musa Asake, said the body has no knowledge of "any N7 billion transaction as alleged by Musa Dikwa who claims to be the Executive Director of a non-existent group, Voice of Northern Christian Movement".

Asake called on security agencies to commence investigations into the activities of the Voice of Northern Christian Movement and Dikwa himself, to unravel the N7 billion mystery. Referring to prominent CAN leaders, he said: "We repeat for emphasis, that neither Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, Bishop David Oyedepo, Pastor Bosun Emmanuel and CAN was given any money by the presidency, let alone N7 billion."

Separately, Northern CAN spokesman Sunday Oibe said in a statement: "The allegation is a complete lie and just one of the many evil plots to dent the image of CAN's leadership.

"It is also to rubbish its integrity and make it morally incapable of leading Christians in these trying times."

He added: "It is a shame that anyone would make such mean allegation, without giving a shred of evidence, just to fulfil a political agenda at the cost of our ecumenism.

"It is all to silence the voice of CAN leaders against the tyranny and oppression that Christians suffer in the north-east and other parts of northern Nigeria."

While the allegations are at present just that, they have received wide publicity and have the potential to damage the credibility both of CAN and the campaign of President Jonathan.

A prominent pastor, Enoch Adeboye, the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, issued a warning to pastors involved in the alleged bribe to return the money or face the wrath of God.

He said on his Facebook page: "I read in the newspaper this morning that one of the serving governors in Nigeria said that some pastors in Nigeria collected N6bn from politicians for the purpose of influencing their members to vote a certain candidate in the coming elections.

"May I humbly request that if there be any pastor or pastors who collected such money, they should please return such as quickly as possible before the fire of the Almighty consumes you."