Less than three years after his appointment, the Executive Secretary of the National Christian Pilgrims Commission, Tor Ujah, is under probe over a series of alleged fraud, PREMIUM TIMES can report.
The federal government decided to investigate Mr Ujah, who was appointed in 2016, over multiple allegations of diversion of funds at the agency on his watch.
According to documents seen by this newspaper, the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) in October 2018 gave instructions for the investigation of the allegations.
“The secretary to the government of the federation is in receipt of a report, alluding to the fact that the funds of the Nigeria’ Christian Pilgrims Commission are being mismanaged,” a document signed by the SGF’s legal adviser, Emmanuel Akissa, said.
It added that following the information, the SGF would investigate 10 different payment vouchers issued between 2017 and 2018, on behalf of the commission.
Multiple sources within the commission told this newspaper that the office of the SGF had instituted a panel which was made up of eight people, headed by the chairman of the NCPC’s board, Yomi Kasali, to conduct the investigation.
The sources told PREMIUM TIMES that Mr Ujah is being investigated for allegedly diverting $229,000 meant ensuring pilgrims’ visit to Israel, Greece and Rome in July 2017, among other allegations.
“The ES is also suspected to have diverted $103,000 in 2018. Concerning that money, the ES had explained that it was used for hiring of a hall during the bidders’ education workshop, which held in Israel last year.
“The irony of this claim is that, while the ES is claiming that the money was used for hiring the hall, it is a fact that the workshop was held inside the hall of the Nigerian Embassy in Tel-Aviv, a place where the ES could not have made any such payment,” the source who spoke on condition of anonymity said.
According to another source, N1 billion meant for the commission’s local budget was also transferred to the commission’s offshore account between 2016 and 2017.
“The ES has not been able to submit the annual pilgrimage report to the SGF and the Vice President since he assumed office,” said another top source within the commission. “The infractions are more than what any single one of us can tell you,” the source added.
When PREMIUM TIMES approached the office of the SGF, its spokesperson, Willie Bassey, confirmed the investigation in a telephone interview.
“Yes, the investigation is ongoing and we will make the findings public in due time,” Mr Bassey said, after consulting with his permanent secretary. He, however, declined further comments on the matter.
Mr Ujah gave certain conditions for speaking with this newspaper.
According to the ES, he could only speak if copies of the document provided by our sources are made available to him.
“How do I know that you are not just trying to blackmail me? If you are not going to let me see the documents you claim to have, then I cannot say anything about what I am not aware of,” Mr Ujah said after an initial appointment to speak with this newspaper.