Rev Pam clears the air, says commission did not suspend Christian pilgrimage
……challenges Adamawa CAN chairman on corruption allegations
The Executive Secretary of the Nigeria Christian Pilgrims Commission, Reverend Yakubu Pam, on Saturday debunked claims that the NCPC has suspended the 2022 pilgrimage.
Pam also challenged the Chairman of the Adamawa State chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Bishop Steven Dami Manzo over the corruption allegations he levelled against him.
NCPC Board Chairman, Rev Yomi Kasali had recently announced the suspension of all activities related to this year’s pilgrimage to Jerusalem while Bishop Manzo had accused the NCPC executive secretary of financial misappropriation.
Reacting during a news programme on TVC on Saturday evening, the NCPC boss said as the chief accounting officer of the commission, nobody had suspended the 2022 pilgrimage.
He said there was no time that the NCPC management or Board held any meeting to take a decision to suspend this year’s pilgrimage, which had already commenced and was still ongoing.
Pam clarified that due to some logistics problems encountered in the course of the pilgrimage, the Board of the Commission met in November and resolved that the commission would not continue with the airlifting of the pilgrims from the states that had paid to Israel for the November-December exercise.
He added that discontinuing the airlifting of intending pilgrims does not amount to and should not be misconstrued as a suspension of the entire pilgrimage activities.
Pam further stated that suspending pilgrimage was a cumbersome process which the Commission could not unilaterally take a decision on as its supervisory body must inform the President through the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and the National Assembly.
He added that the Commission’s customers, which are the state governments that have paid and the private tour operators could also drag NCPC to court if it decided to take any decision to suspend the pilgrimage.
Pam said, “Because of the logistics problems we faced, we said we should not continue with airlifting, not suspending pilgrimage activities. Suspension means that everything is locked down.
“Before you make a statement on anything suspension, you must write our supervisory body and tell them that we’re suspending activities. You’ll also have to, which is through the office of the SGF, to inform Mr President that everything in the commission is suspended. You must also write the National Assembly and our customers because they have the right to take us to court as a lot of them have paid us to travel.
“But when we say airlifting is suspended, it means other activities are going on and what are other activities? Today, we have over 12 states that have already paid to travel and we’re conducting what we call screening to make sure we have those who are certified to travel, by health, and those that we feel may not abscond. This is what is going on and is part of the pilgrimage activities and just within three weeks or two weeks ago, we have more than four states that have already paid.
“And we have private sector tour organisations which registered with us and they have the licence to carry people to Israel and bring them back but through us because we also screen them and we are in charge of the visas. Until we write the authorities and Government of Israel to give them visas, they will not have visas. And right now as I’m talking, we have over a hundred of them in Israel. So, if there is suspension of pilgrimage activities, why are people in Israel? Why are people in Jordan?”
Pam also said there was no controversy about the N1.5millon paid by intending pilgrims, adding that the commission held a meeting with its private customers and the states in September where the fee was agreed upon.
“As I said, about 12 states have already paid. We start with that first before you go into procurement and then you award the contract to the contractors that will carry the people by the airlines and then the ground handlers who are there in Israel,” he said.
On the corruption allegations leveled against him by the Adamawa State CAN chairman, the NCPC boss said anyone with any proof of graft against should present his evidence to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, which is the supervisory body rather than making wild and unfounded allegations in the media.
“I’m here as the chief accounting officer of the commission to say that there is no suspension of pilgrimage anywhere. If somebody mentions corruption at NCPC, there is a way you can bring it up – bring evidence of the money and whatever it is, there is EFCC or you can take it to those who supervise us. You can come to the media level corruption allegations,” Pam said.