By Christiana Ekpa
Senate yesterday moved to unravel alleged extortion and imposition of charges, among other hardships inflicted on pilgrims by the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, NAHCON and stops such sharp practices henceforth.
The senate disclosed this at the opening ceremony of a two-day public hearing by the its Adhoc Committee on Accommodation, Logistics, Feeding Offshore and Onshore of Nigeria Pilgrims held in Abuja.
Speaking at the occasion, chairman of the committee, Senator Muhammad Adamu Aliero (APC Kebbi Central), lamented that “there are tales of woes and sorrows by Nigerian pilgrims as it relates their accommodations, feedings, hajj fare and movements while in Saudi Arabia”.
“There were allegations of fraudulent extortion and imposition of charges by the National Hajj Commission through shoddy deals in accommodations, transport fare and feeding.
“It is alleged that the Nigerian hajj fare is highest in Africa and one of the highest in the world. While Nigerian pilgrims were normally accommodated in dilapidated, overcrowded and very far away hostels from the Haram, their counterparts from other countries enjoy better and more conducive accommodations throughout the hajj exercise”, he stressed.
Senator Aliero said it’s unfortunate that some government agencies and individuals responsible for regulating, controlling and monitoring of religious activities engage in corrupt practices and self-enrichment at the expense helpless pilgrims.
He, however, maintained that “as a responsible arm of government, this Senate cannot fold its arms and look the other way while our fellow citizens are been shortchanged by greedy, corrupt and inconsiderate fellow countrymen”.
The former Kebbi state governor also assured that the committee would unravel the allegations and come up with far reaching recommendations that will guarantee transparent hajj operations free from all sorts of abuse.
The Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, while declaring open the session, said the upper legislative chamber viewed the allegations as serious, hence the need to set up the adhoc committee to look into them so as to make hajj exercise much easier for Nigerian pilgrims.
Saraki described hajj as one the most important pillars of Islam which every Muslim is aspiring to perform at least once in lifetime.
The Senate President therefore promised that National Assembly would do whatever is humanly possible to stop the ugly practice.