The reality and fictions about NAHCON, 2017 Hajj

The reality and fictions about NAHCON, 2017 Hajj
August 24 18:42 2017

By Babangida Pate

In keeping with what now appears to be a tradition in the media, the National Hajj Commission (NAHCO), once again, came under an attack for allegedly ignoring the health wellbeing of Nigerians in a so-called pilgrims’ camp in Saudi Arabia.

It was alleged that some Nigerians pilgrims in Saudi Arabia have been hit by a variety of avoidable ailments while the NAHCO fails to provide basic medications and watches situation helplessly.

It was also claimed that the NAHCO officials have failed in their onerous responsibility of looking after the welfare of pilgrims, who have paid through their nose in order to make the annual obligatory pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia.

However, just as soon as the claims were made, the NAHCON issued a statement denying the allegations and setting the record straight. In did so, no doubt, in an incontrovertible manner and supported its position with facts which, regrettably, can hardly be appreciated by its traducers.

Yet, it became clear to discerning Nigerians that the spurious allegations made against the NAHCON was, without any doubt, the handiwork of some unscrupulous elements trying to discredit the different reforms initiated by the commission.

It need not be said that the management of hajj exercise has thrived, before the arrival of the Barrister Abdullahi Mukhtar Mohammed-led NAHCON in a manner that could be best described as inefficient. Those in positions of authority in Nigeria, including traditional rulers and religious leaders who fed fat on government sponsored Hajj exercise, and erroneously referred to as the custodians of religion and culture, topnotch politicians and public office holders used to go on Hajj, sponsor or grant Hajj seats to their acolytes and praise singers, with all expenses paid for by the government, to the great neglect of the common people and economy.

In the same breath, from the money earmarked for the purpose of Hajj exercise, in all tiers of government, billions were stolen and went into private pockets.

Such situation prevailed until 2015 when President Muhammadu Buhari tacitly canceled office of the Amirul Hajj and said that the federal government was no longer going to foot the bills of people going for pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia and blocked areas of financial leakages in the NAHCON.

Essentially, corruption has since ceased to exist in NAHCON, yet, those who benefitted from the old order, understandably, have refused to move on, even when it became clear to them and Nigerians that the situation can’t be otherwise with Abdullahi Mukhtar Mohammed at the helm of affairs.

Otherwise, how can the NAHCON be said to be operating a pilgrims’ camp in Saudi Arabia, when what it operates is a pilgrims residence in hotel in both Makkah and Madina, with no fewer than 50 medical health personnel including doctors, pharmacists and nurses working to dispense services to the pilgrims?

In fact, in demonstration of its intention to cater for the wellbeing of pilgrims, NAHCON’s national medical team arrived Saudi Arabia since July with the first batch of pilgrims.

Other than that, in order to enhance the performance and efficiency of the medical team, the commission flew malaria drugs worth over N10 million which have been distributed and stored in the Nigerian clinics located in Markaziyya area in Madina, where the bulk of Nigerian pilgrims are accommodated. The same situation exists in Makkah where the commission has about four functional clinics distributed across the different Nigerian accommodation/residence in Makkah.

But because some vested interests, taking shield behind the media, are bent on destroying the NAHCON, such facts cannot be seen even when it is made public, and appreciated.

Unfortunately, some section of the media fronting for those bent on destroying the NAHCON, even where allegations were made that some pilgrims were languishing in sickness, the names of the concerned pilgrims could not be mentioned, mainly because the stories were fictitious.

Of course, there is little or no wonder that the traducers of the NAHCON, having failed in their bid to tarnish the image and integrity of the leadership of the commission at the two chambers of the National Assembly during the controversy over 2017 Hajj fare, have now decided to disrupt the smooth operation of the 2017 Hajj exercise, through mainly issuing lies and half-truths in the media. And, therefore, that they came with this fallacious and mischievous lies designed to create panic in the minds of the pilgrims and people in Nigeria, it is hardly surprising.

Babangida Pate, a public commentator, writes from Abuja, FCT.