According to an official government report, the 2023 Hajj committee in Zamfara State intentionally allowed individuals known to be terrorists to participate in the recently concluded Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia,Premium Times reports.
The same report also alleges various acts of corruption, including embezzlement of funds, inadequate documentation, illicit reduction of allowances for pilgrims, and other corrupt practices by certain committee officials.
This revelation comes to light five weeks after PREMIUM TIMES exclusively disclosed the apprehension of terrorists, their spouses, and informants working for them at Sultan Abubakar III International Airport in Sokoto upon their return from Saudi Arabia.
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The 2023 Hajj delegation committee, established by the state government, has submitted a comprehensive report on the recently concluded Hajj exercise to Governor Dauda Lawal. The committee’s recommendations include a complete overhaul of the Zamfara Hajj Commission (ZAHCOM).
Musa Mallaha, the committee’s chairman, reportedly informed the governor that aside from permitting criminals to participate in the annual Hajj pilgrimage, ZAHCOM officials devised various methods to misappropriate government and pilgrims’ funds.
The challenges identified by the delegation encompassed issues such as deficient record-keeping systems and documentation, non-compliance among local government areas, inadequate screening processes, the inclusion of criminals in the Hajj exercise, problems with the Basic Travel Allowance (BTA), including unauthorized reductions and fund diversions, and the operation of multiple bank accounts, leading to confusion and potential misuse of funds.
The report strongly recommended a complete overhaul of the Zamfara Hajj Commission (ZAHCOM).
Upon receiving the report, Governor Lawal expressed deep concern about the misconduct of some ZAHCOM staff, including the misuse of pilgrims’ and public funds, substantial discrepancies in pilgrims’ deposits, and financial irregularities. Sulaiman Idris, the governor’s spokesperson, relayed this information to PREMIUM TIMES.
Mr. Idris stated that the report covered various aspects of the Hajj exercise, including committee memberships, staffing levels, financial expenditures, and the verification of pilgrims’ deposits.
He also mentioned that the delegation’s report highlighted significant achievements, such as the successful repatriation of 3102 pilgrims to Nigeria, cooperation with the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, and the establishment of sub-committees that facilitated the smooth operation of the exercise.
Mr. Idris added that the governor reiterated his administration’s commitment to implementing the committee’s recommendations and assured that necessary actions would be taken in the coming days.