By; Abdull-Azeez Ahmed Kadir.
Chairman, National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), Barrister Abdullahi Mukhtar Wednesday said that N1.7 billion refunded by Saudi Arabian Hajj Service Providers for certain services not rendered, has been disbursed to State Pilgrims Welfare Agencies for onward refund to all 2015 pilgrims across the country.
He called on all 2015 pilgrims across the country to go to their respective Pilgrims Welfare Agencies for refund.
The Chairman revealed this during a courtesy call by leadership of the Kaduna Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) on Wednesday in his office.
He said the Presidency and the commission are now monitoring all state pilgrims agencies to ensure strict compliance of refund of the monies to the 2015 pilgrims “because it is pilgrims’ rights and based on the change mantra against corruption in this country.”
He said it is the first time in the history of NAHCON that such amount of money amounting to N1.7 billion is being recovered from the Saudi Hajj providers.
Muhktar charged the media to help disseminate such information especially the new Hajj operation guidelines.
According to him, NAHCON is setting standards for uniform fares, effective from the current Hajj operations across the country, unlike before when state pilgrim welfare agencies charge different Hajj Fares.
“For example, it is no longer acceptable for states pilgrim agencies to charge different fares for forms, registrations, and even the annual Hajj fares.
“We are setting standards for a uniform mode of operations in all the pilgrim welfare agencies across the country,” he assured.
He said the 2015 Hajj tragedy will remain in the memory of the commission for a long time because of the death, devastation and loss of hope in the psyche of the people.
“In that tragedy, 274 Nigerian pilgrims died, while 35 were declared missing. Three more deaths were discovered through DNA samples and their graveyards identified while their death certificates issued, which raised the number of death to 277 and 32 missing.
“We are yet to receive the compensation from the Saudi government for the Grand Mosque Crane crash. As soon as we get it, we will use the legal means to forward it to the families of the victims,” he said.
Six Nigerians had died, and other six injured in the crane tragedy. The Government of Saudi Arabia had promised compensation of one million riyals for the dead, one million riyals again for the critically injured and 500,000 riyals for the injured.
“One thing about the tragedy is that it is not only Nigeria that has experienced missing pilgrims in the sad saga. There are countries like Iran, Indonesia, Malaysia and the rest of them” he stressed, adding that “President Buhari was so worried and concerned on the tragedy such that he used the instrumentality of his office to get quick and effective information on the Hajj stampede.”
He charged media practitioners to be very sincere, objective and fear Almighty Allah “because whatever one does, he must account for it in the day of judgment. Remember Allah and his judgment at all times in the discharge of your duties,” he added.
He described the Kaduna NUJ as partners in progress, adding that, all achievements are not the handiwork of one man, but collective efforts of all stakeholders in the commission.
“Kaduna state NUJ will forever remain in my mind and consider them as part of my success story. I will continue to relate with them as long as I remain NAHCON Chairman.
“If I am handing over to someone, I will tell him to carry you along in whatever he does.”
The NUJ Kaduna State Council Chairman, Comrade Garba Muhammad, in his remark, commended the leadership of Barrister Abdullahi Muktar especially his handling of the 2015 Hajj tragedy.
He said, the recovery of 1.7 billion naira from the Saudi government being funds for services not rendered to Nigerian pilgrim is very commendable and worthy feat which all chief executives of government agencies and institutions ought to emulate, particularly at this crucial period of zero tolerance on corruption.
The Chairman also mentioned that it is a milestone, the completion of airlift of 2015 pilgrims three days before the closure scheduled date by Saudi authorities.
“It is a feat that must be sustained and maintained in view of adequate preparations introduced by NAHCON,” he said.
Muhammad also commended the commission for overcoming challenges posed by e-tracking visa processing that caused delays in the overall airlift of intending pilgrims.