Ustaz Abubakr Saddeeq Muhammad
When in March 2017, a man called Ibrahim Suleiman, using a phantom organisation called the Arewa Foundation in Jeddah, filed a petition with the Federal House of Representatives, I wrote a piece detailing the House hearing, to which I was invited, and how the proceedings exposed the mischief behind the fictitious petition. The gist of the petition was that the Chairman of National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) was engaged in fraudulent activities and had a Saudi airline, Fly Nas fronting for him in Nigeria and a Saudi-based Nigerien company, Shuraka Al Khair, fronting for him in Saudi Arabia.
One after the other, each of the claims in the petition were knocked off, as NAHCON was able to explain itself to the satisfaction of the House ad-hoc committee which sat to investigate the truth or otherwise of the claims. That experience showed the extent to which people were ready to go just to defame others for doing their job. Indeed, corruption fights back when you attack it.
The sponsor of that petition swore that he would not relent. He proceeded to the Senate with the same set of fraudulent claims and he found a Senator willing to sponsor the same petition for him. That Senator was Senator Ibrahim Abdullahi Danbaba from Sokoto South Senatorial District. After he raised the issue under Point of Orders 42 and 52 of the Senate Standing Rules on a matter of urgent national importance, the Senate President referred the matter to the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs. This time, it was the issue of the Hajj fares that were announced that year as well as the allegation of forcing the pilgrims to eat food from a catering company. The senator claimed the fares were outrageous and inflated and that the feeding of the pilgrims should be at each pilgrim’s discretion.
The Committee instituted a public hearing to which all stakeholders in the Hajj and Umrah industry were invited. I was a witness to that hearing, which was chaired by Senator Monsurat Sunmonu. At the end of the presentation from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, NCAA, Airline operators, Hajj and Umrah Tour operators and other stakeholders like the State Pilgrims Welfare Boards (SPWBs), the Committee all agreed that the main reason for the increase in the Hajj fares was the increase in the exchange rates, from 197 in 2016 to 305 in 2017.
The Committee resolved to reach out to the executive arm of government to look into ways to reduce the exchange rate of the dollar. Hajj services are mainly paid for in US dollars because most of the services are rendered overseas. The main naira component of the Hajj fare is the airfare. It became clear that many of the Senators did not understand the difference between a scheduled flight and a chartered flight. They also did not understand that certain aspects of the Hajj services are statutorily in the hands of Saudi companies only.
Feeding is made compulsory not by NAHCON but by the Saudi Hajj Ministry. It is mandated upon all Hajj Missions from all countries that they provide feeding for their pilgrims. The same Hajj Ministry then provides a list of catering companies and requires your country’s Hajj Mission (NAHCON in this case) to pick from these. NAHCON would then ask each SPWB to determine which caterer they were comfortable with. The states then choose the caterer they want and this is ratified by NAHCON and passed on to the relevant authorities.
After the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs laid to rest the issue of Hajj fares in 2017, the same Senator Ibrahim Abdullahi Danbaba sponsored another motion requesting the Senate to probe what he described as the extortion of pilgrims by NAHCON. This led to the Senate President constituting an ad-hoc committee to look at “Accommodation, Logistics, Feeding, Onshore and Offshore of Nigerian Pilgrims”. Senator Adamu Aliero from Kebbi State chaired this committee. The committee then invited stakeholders to a public hearing on the issues. I was at the hearings on Wednesday 17th and Thursday, January 18th, 2018 at the Senate Hearing Room 1, White House, National Assembly Complex, Abuja.
Right from the tone of the chairman’s opening statements, you could sense that there was a predetermined outcome in mind. He spoke about certain allegations levelled against NAHCON, ‘of fraudulent extortion and imposition of charges’ ‘through shoddy deals in accommodations, transport fare and feeding.’ He also stated as part of the allegation that ‘Nigerian Hajj fare is (the) highest in the world. While Nigerian pilgrims were normally accommodated in dilapidated, overcrowded and very far hostels from the Haram, their counterparts from other countries enjoy better and more conducive accommodations throughout the Hajj exercise.’
In fairness to the committee members, on both Hearing days, most of them raised cogent points and seemed genuinely interested in knowing the truth without any bias. However, when their report was submitted to the Senate, it was apparent that someone had done a really shoddy job of harmonising all presentations at the hearings and it smacked of vendetta and deliberate mudslinging. How else do you explain a committee that mentions only the allegations against an accused but ignored the responses of the accused, at least, for others to consider and make their own independent conclusions? We have a teleguided report which seems to be designed with the goal of steering the reader to a predetermined conclusion. Could the allegations that a certain aggrieved Senator, who also owns Hajj and Umrah company, which could not secure undeserved special treatment from NAHCON, was the author of such a flawed document be true?
As I did, when I wrote about the House of Representatives Hearing on a similar set of charges, I declare that the current NAHCON chairman was a schoolmate of mine and he is someone I have come to respect and consider as a friend. My company has been a double recipient of the award of Best Performing Hajj Tour Operator in Nigeria (2016 and 2017). The awards were given by NAHCON. I make these declarations because I know what mischief lays in the heart of some people who have wondered why a tour operator should defend his regulating agency. What they fail to realise is that I am duty bound by my training as a cleric to say the truth and affirm it even if it comes from my enemy. Indeed:
O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm for Allah, witnesses in justice, and do not let the hatred of a people prevent you from being just. Be just; that is nearer to righteousness. And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is Acquainted with what you do (Al Maaidah Q5: 8)
Allah knows I have never sought to get more than my company’s due from him and right from the time he was the Commissioner of Operations of NAHCON, we had often had clashes on our differences of opinion on issues pertaining to Hajj and its operations. What cannot be said honestly about him, and indeed many of his colleagues in the Commission, is that he does not have the interest of the pilgrims at heart.
Narrated Anas bn Maalik (RA):
Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) said, “Help your brother, whether he is an oppressor or he is an oppressed one. People asked, “O Allah’s Messenger (PBUH)! It is all right to help him if he is oppressed, but how should we help him if he is an oppressor?” The Prophet (PBUH) said, “By preventing him from oppressing others.” Saheehul Bukhari, hadeeth number 2444
NAHCON should not be allowed to oppress Nigerian pilgrims through avoidable leakages and inefficient handling of the affairs of Hajj but the Senate should also not be allowed to oppress the officials of NAHCON by fighting proxy wars against it bereft of fairness and diligence. Indeed, the impartiality required to do a good job was lacking. I shall come to that later.
Let me summarise the so-called finding of the report. In the sequel to this piece, inshaa Allah, we shall properly examine the veracity of each item in the findings:
- The Senate ad-Hoc Committee Report accused NAHCON of a flagrant breach of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), the Public Procurement Act, 2007 and the Federal Government’s Financial Rules and Regulations. This, the report claimed, was because the Commission had no procurement unit with trained procurement officers to handle Hajj procurements, no procurement planning committee, no procurement plan and no evidence of bid solicitation, thus contravening SGF Circular Ref: SGF50/S.52/II/468 of January 2014 and non-usage of Standard Bidding Documents/Standard Request for Proposals. Other wild charges include usurping the role of the Foreign Affairs Minister by handling matters that are of an international nature and converting the Nigerian Consul General in Jeddah to an employee of the Commission.
If you take these allegations alone on their face value, they suffice to conclude that NAHCON has been engaged in shady transactions. However, these claims will unravel as just mere mischief when I dwell on each allegation later.
- NAHCON introduced “over bloated” (whatever that means) onshore and offshore charges on intending pilgrims without recourse to the function of the Utilities Charges Act, 1992. The charges that were alleged to be inflated include: Administrative fee, Hajj development levy, yellow card (immunisation card), registration forms, tent security deposit, tent cooling facilities, payment for bedding facilities in Minaa and Arafah, deposit paid to the Saudi Hajj Ministry, 1% CBN charge on forex, airline licensing fees, hand luggage screening fees, Zam Zam water fees, and administrative charges of $65 per pilgrim.
Anyone conversant with Hajj operations and its intricacies would be amused by this allegation as many of the items on the list are statutory, according to the Saudi Hajj Ministry. More on that later.
- NAHCON has been ‘hiding’ under section 11 (1) (a) of NAHCON Act 2006 to ‘extort’ intending pilgrims, air carriers and service providers. The report also alleged that the funds generated by NAHCON are not paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the government.
- The report also alleges that the Commission also expends funds without following the provisions of the relevant laws. It specifically mentioned that NAHCON goes on “spending sprees” spending sums “quite beyond the approval limit of the accounting officer (read the Chairman of NAHCON)”. The renting of the Commission’s Makkah office at the cost of SAR 600,000 was cited as an example. It also accused the Commission of having superpowers to mysteriously mislead the office of the SGF, the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP), the Federal Executive Council (FEC) and the President that it could purchase Metro Plaza, Abuja as its headquarters with the funds it generated. This must be quite an extraordinary feat! It took this great Ad-hoc Committee to ‘expose’ this. You will see just how true is the claim later
For lack of space, I will mention the main gist of the other allegations next week, inshaa Allah and then show you what they omitted to tell Nigerians.
As I promised last week, I will conclude on the allegations raised by the Senate Ad-Hoc Committee Report on NAHCON’s activities.
- The committee alleged that NAHCON breached several provisions of the Public Procurement Act PPA in its yearly advertisements on the airlift of Hajj pilgrims and cargo airfreight in the following areas:
- The charging of a non-refundable fee of N1,000,000 for airlines bidding for the airlift of pilgrims and half of that for those bidding for cargoÑairfreight. The PPA empowers procuring entities to charge for only the cost of printing and the cost of provision of the bidding documents to suppliers or contractors and consultants.
- The submission deadline for the bids is one week short of the six weeks required by the PPA
- The advertisement NAHCON makes required the bidders to obtain an application form instead of bidding documents.
- The report alleges that the 2017 Hajj airfares of $1,650 for the North and $1,700 for the South of the country “were grossly exorbitant”. The Committee then mentioned the airfares for scheduled flights for other countries to the same destination – Saudi Arabia – for comparison with the figures lower than what NAHCON-approved airlines were charging. This alone tells you that the committee did a really shoddy job and did not know the vast difference between a chartered flight and a scheduled flight. To further betray their ignorance, they went on to compare the price of scheduled flights by Max Air to Saudia during the Umrah season with chartered flights during Hajj season. Subhaanallah! I will come back to this later, inshaa Allah.
- The committee alleged in the report that the Fly Nas, a Saudi airline, which airlifted 50% of Nigerian pilgrims in 2017, was emboldened by the high charges. They also mentioned that another Saudi Airline, Al Wafeer Air, a scheduled flight operator, would have charged just $1,300 for the same trip. Again, the ignorance of the authors of the report is outstanding. They alleged in the report, also, that the Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA) with Saudi Arabia, which allowed a Saudi Carrier of the country’s choice (read Fly Nas) to airlift 50% of Nigerian pilgrims is unfair and that other countries have pulled out of the arrangement. They also claimed that Nigeria was targeted for the BASA because our airfares were the highest.
- Another claim in the report was that NAHCON was not using the ₦5,000 development levy it charged each pilgrim annually judiciously. The report further stated that the charges were unjustified as they fell under the social responsibility of the government.
- The report alleges that the company it has been accusing NAHCON of giving an undue advantage, Shuraka Al Khair, was contracted to screen the luggage of pilgrims when NAHCON had already constituted a committee on screening staffed completely by its own employees. The same company was contracted to move the main luggage of the pilgrims from their accommodation in Makkah to the airport in Jeddah.
- The report also alleges that NAHCON secures, negotiates and pays for accommodation for all pilgrims and fixed a benchmark price for the accommodation prices. It equally alleged that NAHCON chooses the accommodation and service providers which the State Pilgrims Welfare Boards (SPWBs) were constrained to patronise. The allegations also include the fact that NAHCON reviewed the prices of accommodation in Madeenah downwards but that of Makkah continued to vary each year.
- The report alleges that NAHCON paid for 75 days’ accommodation in Madeenah although the Hajj season lasts only 30 days. It alleges that the excess 45 days was to allow NAHCON rent out the buildings to other nationals and make money illegally. It even went as far as alleging that the revenue collector’s receipt used for issuing the receipts for renting out the excess bed spaces for the excess period of 45 days was ‘fraudulently sourced’.
- The committee alleges that Saudi-based Nigerian-owned companies (not to be confused with Nigerien-owned) were sidelined in the provision of services and accommodation to Nigerian pilgrims by NAHCON sign deliberately stringent conditions it knows the companies cannot meet. It also alleges that NAHCON eliminated competition in the process of selecting accommodation providers in Makkah and that this has resulted in the escalation of prices of bed spaces. They stated that NAHCON gave 65% of all contracts in Saudia to Shuraka Al Khair Group Ltd, which is not owned by a Nigerian. Another issue their report raised was that NAHCON rented apartments that were up to 10 kilometres away from the Haram for the pilgrims. It mentioned the issue of ‘unilateral levies’ imposed on the Saudi based service providers by NAHCON since 2015 when the current chairman was appointed.
M.The senate ad-hoc committee alleges that NAHCON issued dud cheques to a service provider. This is a very serious allegation but as you shall see, it is based on fiction and not fact.
- Another strange aspect of the report was that NAHCON simply succumbed to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia without a fight to include feeding into what Saudi-based service providers would give the pilgrims. The committee insisted that other countries opted out of the arrangement and fed their own pilgrims with their local dishes. They allege that Messrs Shuraka Al Khair Group was given special preference by NAHCON to provide the catering services for 23 different states’ pilgrims.
- The drama did not end as the report alleges that NAHCON doubled the cost of transportation in Saudia without commensurate improvement. The committee also believes that the introduction of a reputable bank, Jaiz Bank, for collecting and remitting the hadyfees per pilgrim instead of the pilgrims paying a higher price individually was a bad idea.
- The committee also alleges that NAHCON sponsors an outrageous number of officials to Saudia during the Hajj season and that many of these are merely cronies and family members of the officials in the Commission. It also alleges that NAHCON does not pursue the interest of the pilgrims.
Let us look at these allegations briefly, starting from the ones I mentioned last week. The next piece will centre around their recommendations, insha Allah.
1) Allegation A: I am aware that there is a resident procurement officer deployed by the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) to the Commission that heads the Commission’s procurement department. When the Senate Ad Hoc Committee alleged otherwise, it was clear no one tried to confirm this. Contrary to the claim of the report that the Commission has no procurement committee, its Procurement Planning Committee is headed by the Commissioner in Charge of Policy, Personnel, Management and Finance. Before him, it was the Commissioner for Planning and before that, it was the Commissioner for Operations. Where the Senate Committee got its information is only imaginable.
For matters relating to Hajj, every country with a sizeable Muslim population designates a body equivalent to our Hajj Commission to represent it. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs once supervised Hajj and the bureaucratic bottlenecks that occasioned led to the management being removed from the Ministry. Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Pakistan and Malaysia, to mention countries with a high number of pilgrims, have autonomous bodies for Hajj affairs and in the case of Saudi Arabia, a full-fledged Ministry of Hajj and Umrah. The committee wishes to take us back to the days of chaos because they have not studied the history of Hajj management in Nigeria and the events that led to the current structure.
2) Allegation B: Last week, I already dismissed the second claim because it was based on pure ignorance. Statutory charges were made to look like NAHCON imposed charges.
3) Allegations C, D and E were also based on lack of due diligence on the part of the Committee. The BPP and NAHCON have had a running argument over the difference between its procurement processes and its licensing role. The Commission requested the BPP to seek clarification with the Attorney-General of the Federation over the two roles because as far as the Commission understood, both are not guided by the same Public Procurement Act. The licensing fees NAHCON charges were deliberately represented as charges that were unknown to a non-existent procurement process of Commission. All procurement processes are governed by the PPA whereas the same cannot be said for licensing. Besides, the licensing fees and all the charges collected by NAHCON are captured in their yearly budgets, which the Presidency submits to the Senate for scrutiny. All these years, no one has raised an eyebrow until this Committee came up with this concoction of a report.
4) Allegation F and G: This is a recurring display of ignorance by different Committees of both legislative chambers. Alhaji Muniru Bankole of Med-View Airlines aptly explained this to the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs hearing to which I alluded earlier. In the Umrah season, pilgrims travel by scheduled flights. In the Hajj season as well, pilgrims travelling in small groups organised by tour operator companies like mine travel on scheduled flights. For large airlifts, the Saudi Hajj ministry stipulates the use of chartered flights that will ensure that a lot of pilgrims are airlifted over a short period. Imagine if you have to travel on the few airlines doing scheduled flights to carry the large contingent of more than 90,000 Nigerian pilgrims. More importantly, the cost of a chartered flight is always higher as you will pay for both the used leg and the unused return leg of the flight (outbound and inbound flights). This is not surprising because international air travel laws forbid a charter to pick passengers from the host airport after discharging its passengers. The return flight is always empty and yet the flight crew, all taxes and fuelling fees will still be paid. The NCAA also confirmed this as they and the airlines are always present during the negotiation stage to license the airlines to be used for airlift. There was even a breakdown of the cost per head to the airline on the day Alhaji Bankole made his presentation.
5) Allegation H: The development levy the Committee alleged was being improperly used is not paid into the account of the Chairman and he cannot access for his personal use as it is domiciled in a special account with the CBN. The committee was given this insight when it questioned the Chairman of NAHCON but it was mysteriously omitted in the report.
6) Allegations I, J and K: The allegation of giving Messrs Shuraka Al Khair undue advantage is a lie. This part of the report is the most telling of bias and vendetta. The process for choosing service providers by NAHCON is not shrouded in mystery. It is well known to genuine and experienced operators in the industry. No SPWB is coerced into choosing a service provider. All NAHCON ensures is that providers meet the minimum standards it sets and improves upon yearly. After shortlisting successful service providers and licensing them, the states are requested to choose their preferred provider. The majority have always picked the company in question since before the time of the current chairman. In fact, when the chairman of the Ad-Hoc Committee, Senator Adamu Aliero, was the governor of his state, he personally used to choose the same company.
In the same vein, NAHCON has never asked any SPWB to choose a particular accommodation provider or caterer. They only screen the companies and invite the SPWBs to make their choice from the screened ones. Mr Ibrahim Suleiman, who has variously petitioned the House and Senate to investigate the Chairman of NAHCON, was actually working for a company owned by his Saudi wife, Island Economic Ltd. This company defrauded the Kano State Pilgrims Welfare Board by inflating the cost of accommodation and was thus blacklisted from giving accommodation to the pilgrims. This was what the Committee referred to as edging out Nigerian owned Saudi-based service providers. What manner of lies are these?
I must continue with the rest of the piece in the third and final part next week, inshaa Allah.
Last week, I started a rebuttal of the pathetic report of the Senate Ad Hoc Committee on Accommodation, Logistics, Feeding, Onshore and Offshore of Nigerian Pilgrims. As I have written earlier, I am duty-bound to expose the lies and present the truth that anyone can verify. I urge every other player in the Hajj and Umrah industry, who has the fear of Allah in his mind and knows that these are unfounded allegations (regardless of the lingering inefficiency of NAHCON), to keep educating those who are seeing the lies written from outside and assuming the worst as Nigerians are wont to do.
Let me continue with the rebuttal. Hopefully, it will clear the grey areas:
- Allegation L: As I earlier explained, this is a false allegation. Nigerian companies were not involved in the provision of services ab initio. Ibrahim Suleiman, the Nigerian manager of a Saudi business, Island Economic Ltd, owned by his wife, was the source of this false information. Their company was not edged out for fun. They committed a monumental fraud by nearly doubling the cost of the accommodation they rented to the Kano State pilgrims. NAHCON found out about this and other infractions and penalised the company. The owner’s husband then returned to Nigeria and has been lobbying for the Chairman of NAHCON to be ‘dealt with’ for daring to do the needful. Anyone who is close to the Kano State Pilgrims Welfare Board can confirm this.
The other aspect of the allegation that NAHCON rented buildings that were 10 kilometres away from the Haram is also untrue. I have been to the accommodations myself and I know for a fact that NAHCON is giving us, the ‘international’ tour operators a run for our money these days. They use hotels that are close to the Haram both in Makkah and Madeenah. In fact, in the case of Madeenah, they stay in the Markaziyyah area, which is about as close to the Haram as you can get.
The report also alleged that NAHCON imposed unilateral levies on the service providers. This is a strange one. NAHCON has an annual budget which it sends to the Presidency for inclusion into the total budget of the country. That budget is defended in the Senate. In that budget, it made an estimate of revenue that will fund the budget, as the country is moving away from spoon-feeding any MDA. The estimates for NAHCON’s revenue included these so-called unilateral charges and the Committee decided to ignore this and instead tried to indict the Commission. How pathetic!
- Allegation M: The report says that NAHCON issued dud (actually, the report called it ‘dude’) cheques to Messrs Arif Mohammed Hijazi Establishment in Saudia. The transaction in question was concluded in October 2014, while the current Chairman was appointed the following year.
The company received three instalments of the complete sum through valid cheques. The manager of the company in question ran into trouble with Saudi authorities over an unrelated matter and for some reason withheld the cheques and did not lodge them. By law, all Hajj Mission bank accounts in Saudia are closed by Muharram of the next year (a month after the Hajj season ends in Dhul Hijjah), perhaps to forestall the use of the accounts for funnelling money illegally into the Kingdom. By not cashing the cheque in Dhul Hijjah, the money could not be cashed any longer, since NAHCON’s account with the bank was liquidated and closed.
When the manager was released, he formally requested a new set of cheques to be issued to their company. Rather than pay with three cheques, the entire sum was paid at once with a single cheque in 2016. The manager was again charged to court and did not cash the cheque or deposit it in the company’s account until the next month of Muharram, when all accounts of Hajj Missions are closed. After this, he approached NAHCON in 2017 to once again issue a cheque in his own name this time. As a financially responsible organisation, they declined the request. The transaction was not a personal one, but between two legal entities.
This is what the Committee described as issuing dude (sic) cheques. And to think that the Committee members had access to the documents detailing this matter and deliberately ignoring it. By Allah, every soul shall stand before the Lord of the Ka’bah. How do these people want to face Allah with these lies?
- Allegation N: The Committee report blamed NAHCON for not standing up for the rights of Nigerian pilgrims and simply accepted that Saudi careering companies should feed Nigerian pilgrims. This again exposes the ignorance of the authors of the report. If they had been diligent, the members would have asked the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah in Saudia, when they visited, why the Hajj Missions of all countries were mandated to include evidence of a catering contract with the other details they submit on the e-Hajj portal of the Ministry.
Hitherto, Nigerian pilgrims would suffer untold hardship as house owners and hotel accommodation providers ripped them off with unfair conditions and less than standard accommodation. The problem faced with food was quite pathetic. The pilgrims ate from Nigerian food vendors, many of whom were operating illegally and under quite unhygienic conditions. Many fell ill on account of contaminated food.
To sanitise the system, the Hajj Ministry and the Ministry of Interior in Saudia ensured that only certified catering companies were allowed to provide catering services. Of the list of licensed catering companies, your country’s Haj Mission would shortlist the ones who met with the requirements of that particular country and then ask the SPWBs to choose the ones they wanted. After signing contracts with these companies, their names are listed in the portal of the Hajj Ministry under the service providers for your country. NAHCON cannot alter that arrangement. No country pulled out of that arrangement; it wasn’t even theirs to pull out of. The Committee goofed as usual. Anyone can visit
All external pilgrims are expected to provide the following on the e-Hajj portal, either through their licensed tour operator like me or through their country’s Hajj Mission like NAHCON:
A schedule of their flights.
An application for the issuance of Hajj Visa.
An application for the approval of transport contracts.
An application for the approval of accommodation Contracts.
An application for the approval of catering Contracts.
Request for Tafweej of Umrah pilgrims from Makkah to Madinah under housing agreements.
An application for the approval of service package contracts intended for the pilgrims.
An application for the payment of bank guarantees.
Without the above information, the e-Hajj portal will not even allow you to complete the process.
For anyone who has been monitoring the progress of the Hajj Commission, it is clear that they are improving with each year. When was the last you heard about crowds of abandoned pilgrims in Saudia? NAHCON is even competing with VIP tour operators for the use of VIP buses. Rather than commend this, the Committee seems angry at the improvements.
To further expose their ignorance and malicious intent, the Committee alleged in the report that Messrs Shuraka Al Khair was given the contract to handle the catering for 23 SPWBs in 2017. Although the company in question is experienced and qualified to handle the catering of any SPWB, it did not partake in catering for Nigerian pilgrims in 2017. Not only that, the allegation makes no sense because NAHCON merely licenses catering companies from which each SPWB will choose. Where did these people obtain information?
- Allegation O: This one is laughable! The Saudi General Car Syndicate (a.k.a. Niqaabah) handles the fixing of transport fares. The rate that the report alleges to be hiked by NAHCON was, in reality, just a review by that Syndicate for the routes Nigerian pilgrims ply during the Hajj season. The buses they used were also much better than before. The uninitiated would mistake the buses for those of ‘international’ tour operators. Indeed, many tour operators used those buses.
- Allegation P: The report alleges that NAHCON sponsors an outrageous number of officials on Hajj. It also mentioned that these officials were mere families and cronies of the real officials. The Committee could not substantiate this. I saw a rejoinder by NAHCON’s Executive Secretary to the allegation, which bears repeating verbatim here:
“While NAHCON cannot hold brief for any State, it has restricted the recruitment of its officials to medical personnel, ulama, media and institutional representatives nominated by their respective organizations”.
The disturbing level of laziness and the apparent lack of due diligence has made the Senate Ad Hoc Committee report a study in how not to write a report. It is shoddy and calculated to embarrass these hardworking souls at NAHCON. It should be thrown where it rightly belongs: the dustbin.
Culled from Leadership Newspaper