Hajj Operations: Senate Committee Uncovers Fraud at NAHCON

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Deji Elumoye in Abuja

The Senate Ad- Hoc Committee on Accommodation, Logistics , Feeding , Onshore and Offshore of the Nigeria Pilgrims , has unravelled monumental fraud in the yearly holy pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia operations of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, (NAHCON).

The Committee, which was set up by the Senate on July 20, 2017, has recommended the sanctioning of the Hajj body by relevant agencies for alleged violation of relevant sections of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria ( as amended) and even some provisions of NAHCON Establishment Act .

It specifically called on the anti graft agency , the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission ( EFCC) to beam its searchlight on the commission .

The six-member committee in a 34-page report presented at plenary yesterday by its Chairman, Senator Adamu Aliero ( APC Kebbi central), alleged that annually NAHCON and the State Pilgrims Welfare Board ( SPWB) sponsor outrageous number of officials to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia from revenue generated from pilgrims and funds from State Governments.

According to the report, the N1.4 million charged as hajj fare this year was inflated by about N400,000.00 as each pilgrim ought not to have paid more than one million naira.

The committee, which investigated NAHCON operations from 2015 to 2018, noted that the national and state officials ‘ roles of Medicals , Media, Ulamas and Guides often overlap with one another and that in many cases , relatives and cronies of NAHCON and SPWBs ‘ Executives were sponsored in the name of officials just to enable them perform the Hajj with fees paid by ordinary Nigerians.

The ad-hoc committee also submitted “that NAHCON officials are reluctant to pursue matters that affected the general welfare of the Nigerian pilgrims in Saudi Arabia as clearly evidence in their failure to pursue the payment of compensation of some families of the victims of the 2015 crane and stampede tragedies in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia”.

It recommended that NAHCON should immediately constitute proper procurement planning committee in line with Public Procurement Act , 2007

Other recommendations include “that all unnecessary charges by NAHCON and SPWB, such as administrative charge , Hajj Development Levy ( N5,000) , Yellow card, Registration forms, SPWB administrative charges and other charges should be stopped immediately

“ That the National Assembly should immediately commence amending the NAHCON and Utility charges commission Acts to bring them to be in conformity with present day realities

“ That number of days for the accommodation in Madina should be reduced from 75 days to only 40 days and number of bed spaces in Madina should also be reduced to 20,000 from 24, 000 as currently contracted.

According to the committee, the monumental fraud associated with the provision of accommodation in Madina through subletting of bed spaces and other procured services rendered by the commission between 2015 and 2018 should be investigated fully by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission ( EFCC).

The Senate however, could not consider in detail the committee’s report as the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over the session, said it would be better not to rush consideration of the report as the committee of the whole was about considering the report.

The Senate therefore resolved to revisit the report next week.