By Henry Umoru
ABUJA—THE Senate ad-hoc committee on operations of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, NAHCON, yesterday raised the alarm that it had uncovered what it described as monumental fraud in the operations of the commission.
According to the committee, NAHCON should as a matter of urgency be sanctioned for violating relevant sections of the 1999 Nigeria Constitution( as amended), Public Procurement Act, 2007 and NAHCON establishment Act, just as it has urged the National Assembly to immediately commence amendment of the NAHCON and Utility Charges Commission Acts to bring them to be in conformity with present day realities.
The committee in its report, which was presented for consideration, but later suspended till another legislative day, said the fraud was perpetrated in the provision of accommodation in Madina, the subletting of bed spaces and other procured services rendered by the commission between 2015 and 2018.
It said the fraud should be thoroughly investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, with a view to bringing the culprits to book.
The committee recommended, among others, that “the monumental fraud associated with the provision of accommodation in Madina, the subletting of bed space and other procured services rendered by the Commission between 2015 and 2018 (inclusive) should be investigated fully by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, with a view to bringing culprits to book.”
The committee also recommended that henceforth, NAHCON should stop renting accommodations beyond the number of days Nigerian pilgrims would spend in Madina, while all proceeds realized from renting accommodations in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 should be refunded to pilgrims who undertook the Hajj exercise in those years.
The Senate committee in its 34-page report, submitted to the Senate at plenary, said the commission held the wrong perception that monies held in trust for Hajj pilgrims was not owned by it and by extension the Federal Government.
It stated that the procurement processes in respect of the said monies were not subject to the provisions of the Public Procurement Act, 2007.
The report, entitled “Ad-hoc committee on accommodation, logistics, feeding etc, onshore and offshore of the Nigeria pilgrims”, was presented by chairman of the committee, Senator Adamu Aliero, All Progressives Congress, APC, Kebbi Central, for consideration and approval.
It was, however, stepped down to enable senators read and digest the document.
Presenting the report, Senator Aliero said the committee uncovered over-bloated onshore and
offshore charges by NAHCON levied on intending pilgrim in addition to state welfare boards.
The alleged “fraudulent charges” the report said, “escalates the cost of the pilgrimage.”
According to the report, NAHCON was under the impression that it was not among the public agencies listed in the Second Schedule of the Utilities and Charges Commission, even when the Second Schedule (j) of the Act states “such other public utilities as may be determined from time to time by the commission.”
The report said: “For instance, in 2017, onshore charges, such as administrative fee, Hajj development levy, yellow card and registration forms paid to the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria by the 75,000 Nigerian pilgrims that went through the states pilgrims welfare boards amounted to N712,500.000.”
According to the Committee, State Pilgrims Welfare Boards charge administrative and other charges which amounted to N1,474,875,000.
It also said each pilgrim was further charged the sum of$1.33 as tent security deposit.
Besides Aliero, who is the chairman, other members of the committee are Senators Ibrahim Danbaba; Mao Ohuabunwa; Matthew Urhoghide; Olarenwaju Tejuosho and Sabi Aliyu Abdullahi ad members.
In his remarks, Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, who presided, asked senators to read the report, describing its contents as weighty.
According to Ekweremadu, reading the document will enable senators make meaningful contributions when the consideration of the document resumes.