By Onyebuchi Ezigbo
Nine months after the removal of the former Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Christian Pilgrims Commission (NCPC), Rev. Tor Ujah, federal government has yet to appoint a replacement in substantive capacity.
Since the disengagement of Rev. Ujah, the Christian Pilgrims Commission has been administered by the Director of Administration in the Commission, Mrs Esther Kwaghe, in acting capacity.
THISDAY contacted the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), which is a major stakeholder in the services of NCPC to know its position on the non appointment of a new executive secretary for the commission, but a top official who pleaded anonymity said that CAN had no direct responsibility over the pilgrims commission.
He said statutorily, the Christian pilgrims commission was under the office of the secretary to the government of the federation but that being a Christian, the Vice President, YemI Osinbajo, was allowed some measure of influence over the affairs of the commission.
Even before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, activities at the NCPC had slowed down due to the uncertainty over its leadership.
For instance, the Director of Administration who has been overseeing the affairs of the Christian commission is said to be merely designated as “director in charge” which places her in a very limited capacity to carry out the functions of the executive secretary.
A source at the commission who volunteered information to THISDAY said that the acting position did not allow certain decisions or initiative to be taken to enhance the services of the commission.
“The designation as the director in charge had ab initio put her in a very serious limitation. She can virtually do nothing without reference to the board,” the source said.
When the former executive secretary was removed, the impression given by the government was that a substantive head would soon be appointed to replace him.
This assurance was given in the statement conveying the sack of Rev. Ujah, signed by the Director of Information in the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Willie Bassey.
He said the disengagement was in line with the provision of section 4, sub-section 3 of the Nigerian Christian Pilgrim Commission Act.
“Rev. Ujah has, therefore, been directed to hand over to Mrs Esther Kwaghe, Director of Administration in the Commission, who is to oversee the Office, pending the appointment of a Substantive Executive Secretary,” the statement had said.
When THISDAY reached out to the Chairman of the Christian pilgrims commission, Pastor Yomi Kasali, Monday, he said what he knew was that it was the responsibility of the President to appoint a substantive executive secretary for NCPC.
However, a source said, “What is more curious about the whole situation is that the position at the Christian pilgrims commission became vacant in August, months before that of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) which became vacant in November last year.
“But President Muhammadu Buhari imnediately appointed a new chairman for the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) in the person of Zikrullah Hassan from Osun State.”
It said the president also named new commissioners for the Muslim pilgrims’ agency.