The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) has replied to a query by the Office of Auditor General of the Federation on the N79.5 million allegedly buried under the fictitious estacode for the first pre–Hajj mission to Saudi Arabia in 2017.
The Head, Public Affairs NAHCON, Fatima Sanda Usara, said in a statement yesterday that the response to the Auditor General followed a report by the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), which indicted officers of 10 MDAs, including NAHCON for allegedly spending N3.7 billion collectively on “fictitious estacode”.
The report alleged NAHCON paid the estacode to its top staff and families.
The Commission insisted that there was nothing fictitious about the estacode nor about the visit by its delegation that attended the first pre-Hajj visit held in December 2017.
The delegation, which was led by the former Minister of State, Foreign Affairs, Hon. Khadija Abba Ibrahim, had in attendance representatives from the Ministry, the National Assembly, officers from the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF), the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), NAHCON executives and some of its essential staff.
NAHCON said its contingent comprised members drawn from sister agencies with oversight functions to guide management in decision-making that would serve the best interest of the Nigerian pilgrims before committing its signature to the agreement.
The statement insisted that yearly NAHCON embarks on three pre-Hajj visits at the instance of Saudi Arabia for a seamless pilgrimage to the Kingdom.
“The first and most crucial is the meeting for signing of Memorandum of Understanding for the coming Hajj and extended to each country that intends its citizens to participate in the Hajj season.
“The delegation subsequently holds meetings with Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation during such visits and embarks on other traditional functions with individual agencies supervising Hajj affairs covering specifics like arrivals and exit of pilgrims into and from Saudi Arabia, local accommodation and transportation, meeting with Muassassah in charge of general welfare of pilgrims ranging from comfort to complaints in Makkah, Muna, Arafat, Muzzdalifa until exit from the city of Makkah.
“Hence, it is safe to assert that there is hardly a chance that NAHCON would design estacodes for an event of such magnitude and then fail to attend, without the expectant result being a miscarried Hajj season. There is no way it could even be hidden. For the year in question, NAHCON does not only have custody of stamped entry and exit passport pages; it has pictures to back up authenticity of its claim that all members travelled to Saudi Arabia,” NAHCON said.