Home NEWS Senate Indicts Muslim Hajj Commission Over Extortion, Fee Hike

Senate Indicts Muslim Hajj Commission Over Extortion, Fee Hike

Abdullahi Muktari

The Senator Adamu Aliero led ad hoc committee on the plight of Nigerians on hajj pilgrimages to Saudi Arabia, has indicted the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) over what was considered as “extortion of Monies from Nigerian Pilgrims by the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria.”

The Senate, at the plenary yesterday, Thursday, looked at the report of the Ad Hoc Committee which considered the issues of accommodation, logistics, feeding and others such as Onshore and Offshore of the Nigerian Pilgrims and accused NAHCON of corruption and breaching laws in its operations.

Senator Adamu Aliero presented the report as members were asked to study it ahead of its adoption next week Tuesday.

The Senate had on July 20, 2017, resolved to conduct the probe following the adoption of a motion moved by Senator Ibrahim Dambaba, titled, ‘Extortion of Monies from Nigerian Pilgrims by the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria.

In the report, a copy of which our correspondent obtained, the committee listed several irregularities in the operations of NAHCON as well as infringements of the Constitution and the Act establishing the commission.

The report read in party: “The committee has observed that the commission’s procurement processes on the annual hajj operations were marred by many contraventions and infractions as it flagrantly breached the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria, the Public Procurement Act 2007, and the Federal Government’s Financial Rule and Regulations in the conduct of its role as mere regulator of hajj operations.

“Similarly, it was also observed that under the normal circumstances, Saudi Arabian authorities recognise two institutions as far as hajj is concerned: the Foreign Affairs Ministry and the (Nigerian) Civil Aviation Authority. The Foreign Affairs Ministry’s recognition was based on the international laws under the Vienna Convention on Consular Matters. The role of hajj commission is limited to national issues.

“However, NAHCON has usurped the responsibilities of these agencies and deals directly with Saudi Arabian authorities without recourse to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In fact, the committee has realised that the Nigerian Consular General in Saudi Arabia has been turned into an employee of NAHCON. This explains why there is a conflict of interest in almost all the offshore transactions engaged by NAHCON.”

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The committee also accused NAHCON of “over bloated charges,” onshore and offshore, saying, “The charges escalate the cost of pilgrimage.

“For instance in 2017, offshore charges such as Administrative Fee, Hajj Development Levy, Yellow Card and registration forms paid to NAHCON by the 75,000 Nigerian pilgrims that went through the States Pilgrim Welfare Board amounted to N712,500,000. Also, SPWBs charged administrative and other charges which amounted to N1, 474,875,000.”

NAHCON was further accused of short-changing and extorting Nigerian pilgrims, intending air carriers, and service providers “through spurious charges without regards to the Second Schedule of the Utilities and Charge Commission, in its quest to generate revenue, hiding under Section 11(1)(a) of NAHCON Act 2006.

“Similarly, the so-called revenues realised by the commission were not paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund, contrary to Section 80(1) of the 1999 Constitution. This action by the commission also negates the principle of Treasury Single Account because the said revenue from 2014 to 2017 was kept in the commission’s account without recourse to TSA.

“Just as in the same manner,  the commission generates its revenues with total disregard to extant Acts, so it expends them without following the provisions of the Constitution.

“Similarly, NAHCON often goes on spending spree from the said generated revenue, quite beyond the approval threshold of the Accounting Officer, which is a breach of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation’s circular with reference number SGF/OP/S.3/XI/894, dated 14th January, 2016.”

Source: Punch.

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