A former spokesperson for a non-governmental organisation, Dignity for the Helpless Foundation, Mr. Shallom Ufforth, has said cash was withdrawn several times from the bank account opened for a kidney failure patient, Tochi Mbonu, through an Automated Teller Machine card.
Ufforth alleged that the owner of the NGO, Pastor Samuel Brown, decided to apply for the ATM card from the bank to prevent him from monitoring the account.
The ex-spokesperson, who was co-signatory to the account, added that when he was not comfortable with the arrangement, he left the organisation.
Our correspondent had reported that Tochi, a graduate of the Benue State University, became deaf in India after being on dialysis for two years in the country.
She was on dialysis in Nigeria for one year before being flown out in 2015.
Her mother, Ndidi, said she was stranded with her daughter in India due to lack of funds for her kidney transplant, adding that she had resorted to selling beans cake (moin-moin) for their survival.
She said her family was introduced to Brown’s NGO in 2015 and an agreement was reached to raise N11m for Tochi’s operation.
She explained that Brown also agreed to open a joint account with the family to ensure transparency and accountability.
Tochi’s mother said she was surprised when the NGO opened an account without involving any member of the family.
Ndidi said Brown had only given them N1.4m, adding that he paid N30,000 every two weeks to reach the sum about a year ago.
Tochi, who chatted with our correspondent on WhatsApp, had begged for help from Nigerians, saying her condition was becoming critical.
Ufforth said he introduced the family to the NGO, adding that he later regretted it due to Brown’s attitude.
He said, “I was the public relations officer of the foundation. I was the one who introduced the family to the NGO’s founder. We agreed to open an account to get funds for the girl. But the reason they were not signatory to it was because Tochi and her mother had to travel for the treatment in India. So, I was to represent their interest. The account was opened with Mr. Brown and me as co-signatory.
“We had agreed that before money is withdrawn from the account, the use must have been itemised. So, it appeared I was monitoring how money was being withdrawn from the account.
“One day, he called me and asked if the girl’s mother had been disturbing me for funds. He said he wanted to do a reorganisation of the account. We went together to the bank where he collected a form, requesting an ATM card on the account. So, with the ATM card, there was no more need for him to use cheque or get my signature before any money is withdrawn.”
He said before he left the organisation in June 2016, he asked Brown how much he sent to the victim’s family and he claimed to have sent about N1.5m.
Ufforth said when he, however, called Tochi’s mother to confirm the money, he was told only N750,000 had been received by the family as of then.
“I believe the girl’s mother called him over his claim and he challenged me for discussing the issue with the woman. We had a serious argument over it. It was at that moment I knew I had to leave the NGO,” he added.
Brown, in his reaction, said he applied for the ATM card after Ufforth stopped working with him, adding that he did not know the amount in the account.
He said, “I started using an ATM card when he stopped working with me. I have been trying to reach him; his telephone number has not been reachable.
“I made efforts to raise money for the account initially, but I have stopped since you levelled (allegations) against me.”
Ufforth, however, insisted that Brown started using the ATM card while he was still working with the NGO.
The victim’s mother, Ndidi, maintained that the family was in dire need of funds for a kidney transplant, urging Nigerians to come to their rescue.