MEDIA: A sectio of the Clergy at a meeting in Tororo. PHOTO/COURTESY
A row that has threatened to cripple operations at the Catholic Diocese of Bungoma continues to deepen with the spotlight now on priests who have been accused of running down the parishes they head.
Various priests are accused of massive embezzlement of millions of shillings meant for church projects. A good number of priests are also accused of running private business against the church laws and their calling.
At the centre of the controversy is father John Ogola who is accused of creating an Ecclesiastical dynasty that pits priests into two camps.
Father Ogola has been branded the high priest of corruption who runs a dynasty that equals the mafia.
Father Ogola was initially the head of the Musikoma youth centre. The centre was priding itself as a pioneer institution for training youth to acquire various skills.
He is accused of running down the centre and embezzling the funds meant for its expansion.
He is accused of diverting funds meant for the institution to personal use. The machines that had been donated to the centre cannot be accounted for. The centre after being left in a shell by father Ogola was eventually closed down.
It stayed idle for years before being handed over to nuns under the Carmelite sisters who have turned it into a formation house for mentoring young nuns. It partially serves as an isolation camp for two priests.
Father Ogola then took over as the Parish priest in charge of Kibabii Parish. The parish is key since it hosts the Official residence of the Bishop and it is a mother parish for all others in this part of the Diocese.
Immediately he took over, he embarked on a fund raising mission to construct a new church. The funds drives have been ongoing under his tenure. Up to date, no new church has been constructed and there is no expansion works on the existing church.
Christians at Kibabii Parish are calling upon a team of external auditors to be send to the church so that an independent report can give a status of the funds.
“We have stopped the contributions because there has been no accountability. Christians are overburdened with the collections yet the money ends up in pockets of individuals. We need an independent audit of the accounts,” said a Christian Mr. Peterson Sindani.
The Christians are furious and accuse father Ogola for using the church project to exploit them and leaving Kibabii parish in a shell before influencing his transfer to Kanduyi Parish. He then worked on the posting of his cousin father Simon Obore as his replacement.
Father Obore had initially run down Misikhu parish before looking for an exit route. He is part of the axis that is obsessed with undermining projects and programmes beneficial to Christians from this part of the Diocese.
Among the projects are Musikoma youth centre, Misikhu mission hospital (that coll
apsed under father Marcelus) and Kibabii dispensary.
Father Ogola is said to be still controlling the running of funds and resources at Kibabii despite having departed, a move that has angered Kibabii parishioners.
“He is yet to hand over the operations of the Parish fully to father Simon who is his cousin and proxy. We need to be told who are the signatories to the Kibabii parish accounts and how much is on the account,” demanded Peterson on behalf of the Christians.
Christians in the Diocese further want father Ogola to account for the Diocese funds ever since Bishop King’oo was transferred to Machakos. The Christians accuse Father Ogola of misusing the funds and resources to lobby for his own appointment as a Bishop.
As the senior most priests, father Ogola has been in charge of the running of the Diocese and General Administration. Bishop Obanyi who is the acting Bishop also oversees the same and gets briefs directly from father Ogola who is like the Deputy Bishop.
Father Ogola is also accused of orchestrating the auctioning of a car that was being used by Bishop King’oo to one of his allies who is a priest in charge of Nangina Parish. Christians in the diocese are also wondering where Father Ojilong got the money to purchase the prado which is valued in millions, an act of absurdity going against his vow and a mockery to the poor faithfuls.
The act has triggered a rush by other priests to scramble for resources and funds in their parishes overburdening the Christians and they are contemplating to abandon the church because of the wanton taxation. The Misikhu parish priest is accused of controlling the funds of the parish single handedly.
Christians say that he trusts no one from within the Parish and even the collections from the church are counted in his bedroom behind closed doors. There are no updates on the financial records of the church and knowledge of the project for the funds,” said a Christian Mr. Peter Wekesa.
The priest is said to also run a personal wholesale in Malaba town where he spends most of his time.
At Chebukaka parish, the father in charge is accused of mistreating his assistants and taking all the donations by Christians to shops in exchange for cash.
“Christians usually bring foodstuffs to the church. The food is meant to be consumed by the priests and distribute the remainder to the nuns and other needy people in society. We were surprised to discover that the same ends up in shops at Chebukaka market,” said a Christian Mrs. Rebah Wekesa.
The situation is the same at Kimilili where the parish priest maintains three vehicles at the expense of the faithful and in Naitiri thes priest run the church like a personal estate.
Ironically, all the priests on 13th January 2020, at St. Paul’s parish in Kanduyi signed an oath to keep corruption off the church. The ceremony was witnessed by CJPC leaders from all parishes.
Christians are now demanding that the priests at the centre of malpractices be dealt with as per the laws of the church to restore their confidence in the church.
The Christians say that a major revolution is upcoming and it may be difficult to stop the same if their grievances are not addressed in a timely manner.
Despite earlier attempts by the Christians to seek intervention, the deafening silence construed as impunity by the church hierarchy is astonishing.