Delta State Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, Richard Mofe Damijo (popularly called RMD) and the acting General Manager of the state’s Tourism Board, Philo Nkem Ajufo, have allegedly embezzled N50 million belonging to the ministry.
Several sources in Delta State, including two employees of the Culture Ministry, told our reporter that a former commissioner in the Ministry had requested N50 million to organize the “Delta State Expo 2007.” However, the state government was unable to release the funds that particular year to sponsor the yearly event.
By some bizarre twist, the funds were finally released to the ministry’s tourism account in May, 2012. “As soon as the money arrived, the commissioner said that the ministry could no longer hold the event since six years had elapsed,” said a source within the ministry. “The Honorable Commissioners also argued that Deltans would have forgotten about the event – and therefore the money should not be used for the purpose it was released.”
However, our reporter obtained documents from the Delta State Ministry of Finance stipulating that the N50 million must be spent on the event for which the Culture Ministry applied for it. The warrant was signed by one P.O. Evuojapha on behalf of the Commissioner of Finance. The warrant indicated that N35 million of the funds was to go to the Tourism Board.
Our sources disclosed that Mr. Damijo, a former popular Nollywood actor turned politician, connived to issue a check of N35 million in the name of Ms. Ajufo who reportedly deposited the sum into her First Bank private account number 3006131619. “Mrs. Ajufo and RMD then shared the money,” one of our sources asserted.
Another government source told SaharaReporters, “It is very obvious that the manner the check was issued in the name of the board GM instead of in the name of the board was fraudulent. It portrays an element of fraud.”
Several of our sources depicted Ms. Ajufo as somebody versed in the art of warming up to top politicians in the state and getting her way.
Two sources said Ms. Ajufo used her share of the looted funds to start off a twin duplex building located at No.6 Dunkwu Crescent in Asaba, the state capital. The building is behind Junior Staff quarters and near a Redeemed Christian Church. One source said Ms. Ajufo had started the project in June, 2012.
A source close to Ms. Ajufo told SaharaReporters that the head of the tourism board had denied receiving any of the embezzled funds. “She accused Mr. Mofe Damijo of carting away the whole sum of N50 million even when her account was used to commit the fraud,” said the source.
Meanwhile, Ms. Ajufo’s staff have reportedly lost all patience with her manner of running the board. “The acting GM is very, very corrupt,” said a staffer. “As we talk, apart from her official car, the Tourism Board cannot boast of a single functional car. All the board’s cars are grounded. And in this era of technology, there is no single working computer apart from one in her office – which she doesn’t use. Her office is entitled to N1 million subventions every month, but as soon as the money comes the commissioner and the GM share most of it. The left over is never properly used by the GM.”
A source who was on the GM’s entourage to the Akwaba Festival in Lagos last October told SaharaReporters that Ms. Ajufo embezzled some funds meant to secure an exhibition stand at the festival. “The GM collected N500, 000 from the government to procure an exhibition stand for Delta State at the Akwaba Festival held in Lagos in October, 2012. Instead, she pocked the sum of N300, 000 and went for an ordinary table stand which cost her N200, 000 only. She is the most corrupt of all the GMs we have ever worked with in that board. She runs fraudulent deals with the commissioner and they have both amassed wealth for themselves to the detriment of the people of Delta State.”
When a reporter sent a text to Ms. Ajufo, the embattled GM wrote back, “Please, speak with the Honorable Commissioner for Culture and Tourism. Thank you.”
Contacted by phone, Mr. Damijo denied all the allegations, insisting that no such money was released to his ministry at any time. “That matter is a dead matter,” he said. “There was no N50 million released to my ministry.” I run the Ministry with people, the Permanent Secretary and other directors.”