BY SULE TAHIR.
THE Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has been grilling some top officials of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) over 2022 hajj operation finances and contracts.
The agency, according to insiders, have uncovered hundreds of millions of naira stashed in the bank accounts of some top aides of the Executive Chairman Zikirullah Kunle Hassan.
EFCC also quizzed Commissioners Nura Hassan Yakasai (Policy, Personnel Management & Finance), Abdullahi Magaji Hardawa (Operations), and Sheikh Suleiman Momoh (Planning, Research, Statistics, Information and Library Services (PRSILS).
It will be recalled that the Kano State Governor Abdullahi Ganduje has called on the Federal Government and National Assembly to investigate the alleged fraud in the 2022 Hajj operation.
Mr Ganduje said, “The last 2022 Hajj operation was the worst I ever witnessed during my tenure as the governor of Kano state. It was 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.
“Due to the dishonest attitude of the National Hajj Commission, even at the level of service delivery, the National Hajj Commission failed woefully.”
The investigations, our reporter reliably gathered, have been ongoing in the last two months, with many key staff being questioned to ascertain their roles in the alleged sleaze.
An impleceable sources close to the commission told our reporter that, “EFCC officials have traced huge amounts of money stashed in the accounts of some of the top aides of the hajj commission chairman. The discovery was mind boggling.”
As an attempt to cover-up the alleged fraud, NAHCON has embarked upon a series of transfers of some essential staff who were accused of writing the petition to EFCC as well as supplying various documents to them, out of the commission headquarters in Abuja.
“There is apprehension inside the Hajj House headquarters of the commission as top management staff are accusing some middle-cadre staff of leaking the sensitive document to the anti-graft agency. Some were transferred after a general staff meeting where they were threatened,” the source who declined being named said.
EFCC spokesperson Wilson Uwajuren, when contacted, said he was not briefed about the investigations. However, sources at the anti-graft headquarters said the current NAHCON board is also being investigated for alleged depletion of NAHCON’s Riyals-based official account, hajj seats and visa racketeering, withholding of pilgrims BTA, shunning of hajj saving schemes pilgrims, inability of NAHCON to airlift thousands of pilgrims, among others.
A source at the commission “said so many issues arose concerning flagrant abuse of federal government’s financial regulations, reckless onshore/offshore spending without approval from the relevant authorities.”
Another source said the anti-graft agency was inundated with petitions by some concerned stakeholders who sent elaborate petitions backed up with exhibits to the EFCC.
Some of the investigations date back to 2019 when Mr Hasan’s board came on board, an EFCC official who declined being named because he wasn’t authorized to speak on the probe, said.
The probe, for instance, covers 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 anti-graft is investigating 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.
All efforts to reach the NAHCON spokesperson, Mousa Ubandawaki over the story proved abortive as calls were busied, texts and chats were not replied.