Pilgrims Welfare Leaders Defraud Board, Pilgrims Of N132m —EFCC

By Emma Peters

The EFCC on Monday arraigned the former Executive Secretary of Adamawa Christian Pilgrims Welfare Board, Mr. Lucius Mayo; and three other principal officers of the board at a Yola High Court for alleged fraud and diversion of N132m.

The principal officers were Paul Yaduwa, Elisha Yahaya and Rhoda Samson, the Director of Finance, accountant and cashier of the board respectively.

The suspects were charged with conspiracy and diversion of N132m to their personal use.

The prosecution counsel, Ahmed Muntaka, while reading the charges before Justice Nathan Musa, said Mayo, sometime between August and December 2016, obtained N84,948,600 from Adamawa Government under the false pretence that the money would be used for the expenses of local government-sponsored pilgrims for the 2016 pilgrimage.

Muntaka told the court that the accused person diverted the money to his personal use, thereby committing an offence contrary to the Advance Fee Fraud and other Fraud-Related Offences Act, LFN and punishable under the same Act

He said other charges included inflation of contract price, forgery and refusal to make full disclosure of assets on EFCC Assets Declaration form.

He further alleged that the principal officers also defrauded some self-sponsored pilgrims by denying them the performance of their religious act in 2016.

According to the prosecution, on September 14, 2016, four self-sponsored pilgrims paid N2.54m into the board’s account, but the money was withdrawn by the board and diverted.

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“Furthermore, investigation has proved that the former Executive Secretary of the Board sold registration forms to 1,569 intending pilgrims in the year 2016 at N10,000 each, amounting to N15.69m.

“Despite that, majority were sponsored by the Adamawa State Government, and the money was never remitted to the board’s account.

“It was also discovered that the Head of Medical received the sum of N3.5m for drugs procurement but was instructed to return the sum of N1.5m to the Director of Finance who did not issue treasury receipt.

“Later, a N3.5m fictitious payment voucher was raised by the accountant to cover up the act,” the prosecution revealed.

He further said that another N26.34m was obtained by the first defendant from the intending pilgrims under the false pretence that the money would be used for upgrading their Basic Travelling Allowance from minimum seat of $500 to maximum of $750 each; but, instead, the money was diverted.

The defendants, however, pleaded not guilty to all the charges .

Mr. Sule Abu, the defence counsel, moved for bail application for the defendants.

Justice Nathan Musa granted the first defendant bail at N100m and one surety with landed property within the jurisdiction of the court or a Permanent Secretary in civil service.

The second, third and fourth defendants were granted bail at N50m each, with one surety each with landed property valued at the same amount or a Director in civil service

The case was adjourned to 6th and 7th February for definite hearing.

(NAN)