Abuja - President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday asked the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) to address all corrupt practices that had debased Hajj and Umrah operations in Nigeria.
The President gave the order when he received members of NAHCON, led by the Chairman, Alhaji Abdullahi Mukhtar, at the Presidential villa.
Mukhtar told State House Correspondents that the President also directed inter-agency collaboration between the Commission and other relevant agencies to address the challenges and menace of corrupt-related practices.
He said Buhari had ordered that such practices should be stopped forthwith.
He added that such practices included the issue of pilgrims paying for services not rendered to them.
The NAHCON chairman said in some cases, those who did not have the chance to perform the Hajj or Umrah at all end up losing their deposits.
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He also mentioned illegal operators "that are not licenced to carry out the activites of either Umrah or Hajj, still playing around and carrying out the activities with impunity.
"So all these will be addressed,’’ the chairman said.
Muhktar also said that Buhari had approved carriers for the 2015 pilgrimage, adding that the list would be sent to states for them to select the airlines of their choice.
He said the airlines include Max Air, Medview Airlines, Kabo Air, Planet Air, Skypower Express, Dornier Aviation, Top Brass and Hak Air.
"So with this meeting, it is clear that preparations for 2015 Hajj has reached its climax.
"Also, Mr President had directed that we should comply with all regulations laid out by Saudi government to ensure the success of 2015 Hajj.’’
The chairman said part of the budget for the Hajj would be borne by the Federal Government.
He said "the Federal Government normally takes responsibility for providing medicals, security service and consular services to pilgrims and that is exactly what the government will do this year.’’
On Hajj fare, the NAHCON boss said the President had directed that the figure be announced immediately "and we will do that without further delay.’’
He added that the number of pilgrims for this year’s Hajj remained 66,000 under the states and 10,000 under private tour operators.
On the need for the Commission to be independent, the chairman said the modalities were still being worked out but required some time.
He said "we have all put on our thinking caps to work toward compliance and I am sure that at the appropriate time, we will address the press on that too.’’