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2022 hajj: CSOs back Ganduje, seek probe of NAHCON over finances, contracts

A coalition of civil society organisations have backed the call by the Kano State Governor Abdullahi Ganduje, urging the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related…

A coalition of civil society organisations have backed the call by the Kano State Governor Abdullahi Ganduje, urging the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the National Assembly to investigate the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) over 2022 hajj operation finances and contracts.

Governor Ganduje made the call in Kano recently while receiving the 2022 Hajj Operations report from the management of Kano Pilgrims Welfare Board, led by the Chairman of the Board, Professor Abdullahi Pakistan, and Executive Secretary of the Board, Abba Danbatta.

Ganduje said, “The last 2022 Hajj operation was the worst I ever witnessed during my tenure as the governor of Kano state. It was managed mismanaged, several dishonest attitudes, fraud and anomalies.

“Due to the inefficiency and mismanagement of the National Hajj Commission, many pilgrims suffered severely without any remorse from the national agency.

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“Due to the dishonest attitude of the National Hajj Commission, even at the level of service delivery, the National Hajj Commission failed woefully.”

In a statement by the Movement for Greater Nigeria and Good Governance (MGNGG), a coalition of anti-graft organizations, signed by its Advocacy Director Tokunbo Lasisi, and Communications Lead Batool Sahib, at the weekend, said the probe is expedient ahead of 2023 Hajj.

The CSOs expressed concern that weeks after Kano governor’s clarion call for the probe of the hajj agency, the National Assembly has not made any move to probe NAHCON.

However, the coalition said, “it is gratifying that the ICPC operatives have reportedly swooped into action by grilling top officials of the agency over the contracts, onshore and offshore expenditure of the 2022 hajj operation.”

Some of the allegations that dogged the 2022 hajj operations include the alleged depletion of NAHCON’s Riyals-based official account, hajj seats and visa racketeering, withholding of pilgrims BTA, abandoning of hajj saving schemes pilgrims, inability of NAHCON to airlift thousands of pilgrims, among others.

The CSOs said, “The ICPC, we learned, have so far invited over six top officials in the accounts and finance department of the hajj commission.

“The checklist being requested by the anti-graft officials include alleged abuse of federal government’s financial regulations, reckless onshore/offshore spending without approval from the relevant authorities.”

The statement said, “other areas of interest to ICPC include all approvals on Hajj 2022 made by the office of the SGF; all releases made by the commission on general activities for Hajj 2022; all expenditure incurred on accommodations, medicals, feeding and transportation for 2022 hajj; names and profiles of companies and caterers engaged by NAHCON for 2022 hajj; cost of contracts/supplies and payments made for 2022 hajj; among others.

“The personnel, overhead and capital payment vouchers, cashbooks, vote-books, payment mandates, statements of bank accounts, proposed and approved budgets, budget releases, from 2019 to 2022, it was learned.
Other areas under investigations include capital warrant files, capital project and policy files, audited financial statements, contractors register, technical evaluation committee report on procurement, IGR generation and utilsation, recruitment and promotion files – all from 2019 to 2022.”

The MGNGG said it is worrisome that public agencies, operating in religious sectors like hajj, will be marred by alleged corruption while “we turned a blind eye.”

“We call on President Muhammadu Buhari to up his anti-corruption ante by ensuring that all those indicted in the commission over 2022 hajj are brought to book,” the CSOs said.