Editor's note: Ismail Omipidan, a group political editor and social affairs analyst, raises questions relating the secrecy and controversy surrounding the continued stay of some officials of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) after the supposed expiration of their tenures in office.
Before my first encounter with officials and management of hajj affairs in Nigeria in 2007, the impression I had was that a place like the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) should be peopled by persons with utmost fear of God and the highest level of integrity. But my encounter proved otherwise.
I was hugely disappointed.
Apart from the fact that most of them care less about the tenets and principles of Islam, predicated on fairness and justice, majority of them come across like saints, speak like one, but their actions are at variance with the white attire they put on, which makes them appear like saints.
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Although, there are persons who have remained true to their conscience and discharged their responsibilities with utmost fear of God, the bad eggs have not allowed their work to show.
Meet critical stakeholders like the airline operators, NGOs, contractors and the likes, it is one tale of injustice after the other.
If other public officials are desperate to perpetuate themselves in office, NAHCON story should be exemplary and different. Sadly however, that is not the case. Instead, what we get daily are statements that convey only part of the truth, deliberately to mislead the members of the public.
I came across one of such recently, purportedly authored by Fatima Sanda Usara. The piece was titled "NAHCON: Why Mukhtar Remains a Speck in their Eyes." Usara is with the Public Affairs Unit, NAHCON.
Although the piece was laced with many lies and half-truths, I am not interested in them. I am only interested in interrogating the controversy surrounding the extension given to the management of NAHCON.
NAHCON is charged with the sole responsibility of managing hajj affairs in Nigeria, while the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), under the leadership of its president-general and Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, is saddled with the responsibility of superintending the affairs of Islam and Muslims in Nigeria. Since hajj is one of the fundamental pillars of Islam, the NSCIA should have more than a passing interest in what happens at NAHCON.
However, not a few NAHCON officials believe that the NSCIA was becoming too overbearing in its perceived oversight function over NAHCON. Conversely, from day one, persons around the Sultan have also complained openly that the now acting NAHCON chairman, Abdullahi Mukhtar, has refused to carry the NSCIA along in the running of NAHCON. Credence was lent to this when in May 2015, NSCIA wrote formally to the National Assembly and the presidency to protest the then appointment of Mukthar, as NAHCON chairman.
Nevertheless, since it was the former vice president, Namadi Sambo, that ensured his appointment into NAHCON, first, as commissioner in charge of operations in 2011, and later as chairman in 2015, there was little or nothing NSCIA could do to stop his appointment. His appointment as chairman formed part of the series of the appointments made in May 2015, on the eve of Dr Goodluck Jonathan's presidency.
Now, if fresh appointments could be made in May 2015, by an out-going government, why was it difficult for a sitting government that had won its election to appoint a chairman if there was no sinister motive?
Two, who wrote the memo to ask for an extension of the tenure of the current management team? What was the basis?
Three, even after a blanket six-month extension which covered all members of the board, was there need for a fresh letter of appointment, which now gave rise for some persons to be excluded? What was the basis for the exclusion after obtaining a blanket approval?
Four, in the letter to the National Assembly in 2015, nominating Mukthar and others, it was stated clearly that the now acting chairman was being appointed then as chairman, for a second and final term, having served from 2011 to 2015, as commissioner in charge of operations. In the light of the above, will it be right, as being insinuated that Mukhtar can be entitled to another term as chairman of the commission?
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I make bold to submit that whoever was behind the dubious extension given to the management of NAHCON in the first instance did not mean well for the Muslim Ummah and Islam. The act is a negation of the tenets and principles of Islam.
In conclusion, apart from the two women that joined the board in 2015, all other members of the board, most of whom are serving in acting capacity now, have all served out their two terms. They should, therefore, give way for fresh ideas. The policy reforms at NAHCON were started under the leadership of the immediate past FCT minister, Mohammed Bello, as NAHCON chairman. It was directly driven by the commissioner in charge of Policy, Personnel Management and Finance (PPMF), Ibrahim Yusuf. Like Mukthar, Yusuf too has spent his two terms. Curiously however, Yusuf, I understand was one of those prevented from benefiting from the six month extension granted the management of NAHCON by President Muhammadu Buhari. What was the basis? If you ask me, na who I go ask.
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