June 24, 2024

Probe N90 billion, scrap NAHCON, let states organise Hajj, Gov Bago tells FG

Probe N90 billion, scrap NAHCON, let states organise Hajj, Gov Bago tells FG

Governor Muhammed Umaru Bago of Niger state has urged the Federal Government to scrap the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, NAHCON, and allow the states to handle Hajj operations.

Bago also called for the probe of the N90billion released to the commission by the federal government to cushion the effect of the rising exchange rate and inflation which affected the hajj fare with an astronomical increase of over N8million from the earlier paid N4.5million by the pilgrims.

According to the governor, “NAHCON is supposed to be a regulator and not an operator, but NAHCON has decided to continue to play the part of operation, therefore they have failed pilgrims.

“In my State, we lost two (2) in Medina due to their state of health and this is one of the reasons I am talking about NAHCON, because if medical part of the pilgrimage is handled by state, you will do your screening.

“You will see people who are diabetic, people who have underlying illnesses and you will be able to understand how you can transport them; but nobody does that because NAHCON is in charge.

“We lost two (2) due to medical issues and we lost another four (4) due to heat wave, in my state, and in Nigeria, I am sure it can’t be less than hundred (100) in general. This is not a good number and this should stop.”

“Let state Governments organise hajj, screen their pilgrims, check their statuses health wise and even for those going as medical personnel, let us understand where they are coming from, let us understand scrutinize them and know what and what they will be doing. But nobody scrutinises them because because NAHCON is handling it.”

“There is need for the National Assembly to probe these funds (N90 billion Federal Government subsidy to NAHCON for 2024 Hajj Operations).”

“NAHCON is not helping matters. Our Federal Government is too big to be worried about Hajj operations, these are supposed to be Local Government issues and not even State issues. State Government should be able to organize pilgrimage and get Agents from the private sector who will do these things the best way as other Countries are doing it.”

“People paid N8 million for these operations directly before even the subsidy and they got only $400, this is ridiculous. What is $400? Somebody paid N8 million to NAHCON and you come and give them stipend of $400 to run themselves for one month?

“There is no reason why Hajj operations should last beyond two weeks. You bring pilgrims for 40 days; you leave them here, some 45 days, it’s ridiculous, because of racketeering in airlifting, in handling of cargo and other things.”

“Let the private sector drive Hajj operations, Government should be a regulator, NAHCON should be a regulator at the centre. If NAHCON must exist, then they should strictly be a regulator but as I have told you, I am leading committees of Governors to the NGF, from there we go to the NEC, I will propose this motion, and we will send a bill to the National Assembly where issues of this NAHCON should be reviewed.”

According to him, “NAHCON has no business in chartering of flights; it is not their business to feed the pilgrims because of different local dishes for different state. For example, I am from Niger State, if you allow me to feed my pilgrims, I will be able to ship local foods to Saudi Arabia to feed my own pilgrims.

“I will be able to get a Kitchen that will feed my pilgrims with what they are used to, not to give them slice of bread or boil egg. People are starving. We have different cultures; you cannot force the Arabian cuisine on our people and that is why they are falling sick.”

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Forum of Chief Executives of State Pilgrims Welfare Boards, Agencies and Commissions, has dissociated itself from governor Bago’s idea to decentralise NAHCON, by devolving its powers and functions to State Pilgrims Welfare Boards Agencies and Commissions.

The Vice Chairman of the Forum, who is also the Executive Secretary of Kebbi State pilgrims Welfare Board, Alhaji Faruku Musa Yaro Enabo stated this while fielding questions from newsmen after a post Arafah meeting of the forum held in Saudi Arabia recently.

He described the suggestion as retrogressive, counter productive and in bad taste, adding that it would be a recipe for chaos, disorder and outright negation of uniformity.

The Vice Chairman said each pilgrimage, year-in-year-out, comes with its peculiar challenges and hiccups, which are tackled headlong by the commission and provide measures to mitigate and guard against reoccurrence. It described the idea as ill-advised, adding that it was only an isolated incident which affected some select few wealthy, well-to-do individuals and or those in position of power.

He emphasised that the idea was in total disregard to the improvements and achievements recorded during this year’s Hajj exercise compared to that of last year.

He further opined that rather than throwing the baby with the bathwater, NAHCON, should immediately, soundly and decisively step in to find out if there was any dereliction of responsibility by any private tour operator, which resulted to the embarrassment caused the dignitaries accommodated in Tent A, with a view of taking disciplinary measures to serve as deterrent.

Some governors, members of the National Assembly including other top dignitaries who were supposed to the housed in Tent A could not access the services of the top tent during their stay in the Holy sites. Although they were private Tour operators’ pilgrims but NAHCON came to their rescue by providing alternative tent for them.

By and large, Alhaji Faruku Enabo said, it was selfish to ignore the comfort, ease and seamless services almost all the over fifty thousand Nigerian pilgrims enjoyed this year from the airlift to the holy land, accommodation, feeding, transportation, in Madinah, Makkah, Mashã’ir, and other sundry services throughout the main Hajj exercise so far, praying for the return journey to be more successful.

Earlier, in its resolutions, the forum led by Malam Idris Ahmed Almakura who is also the Chairman of Nasarawa State Pilgrims Welfare Board commended the NAHCON on early visas processing, airlifting of pilgrims to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia at record time, feeding and accomodation in Madinah as well as the Mashair activities.

The forum however expressed disappointment by the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, over the $400 given to pilgrims using the prevailing exchange rate instead of the $500 earlier agreed.

The forum added that no state has the capacity to conveniently deal with the Saudi Hajj authorities, as that would almost equates to the Saudis dealing with thirty six nations instead of a one Nigerian nation.