By Sani Tukur
The Nigerian consular general to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Mohammed Yunusa, has lambasted members of a Senate ad-hoc committee who accused the leadership of National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) of extortion.
Mr Yunusa, in a telephone interview with PREMIUM TIMES Wednesday, said the Adamu Aliero-led committee only “concocted lies” aimed at disparaging the chairman of NAHCON, Abdullahi Mohammed.
Mr Aliero had last week tabled the report of his committee before the Senate.
The committee said as part of its task, members travelled to Saudi Arabia to meet with relevant groups and individuals.
Mr Yunusa, however, said the team did not meet with a single organisation involved in the Hajj affairs.
“How can you say you are investigating (the) conduct of Hajj operations and officials? You came all the way to Saudi Arabia and refused to meet with the ministry of Hajj, the Adilla in Madinah, hotel owners, caterers, car syndicate and Muassassa,?” Mr Yunusa said.
He said what the committee did was to meet with a group of Nigerians who had earlier written a petition against the NAHCON chairman.
The envoy said when Mr Aliero and his team arrived Saudi, “they went straight to meet with Sabo Lagos and his group and they only called me around 1 a.m. At first, I declined to go and meet them but realised that as distinguished senators, they deserve some respect, so I went.”
“When I got there, Senator Danbaba started shouting at me and I had to shout back. No one can shout at me at this age.
“I arranged a meeting for them with the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, the highest organ in terms of Hajj management and anybody willing to get credible information should be there first, but they refused to come for the meeting.
“I am sorry to say but anyone that travelled to Saudi Arabia, refused to meet with his real intended target, only to come back home and write a fake report, does not deserve to be called distinguished.
“They just went there in a jamboree and they already (had) a mind-set to tarnish the image of the people in NAHCON, for selfish reasons,” Mr Yunusa said.
The consular general said “I challenge the committee to produce the minutes of their meetings in Saudi Arabia, if they held any.”
The committee, in its report, had stated that Mr Yunusa was turned into a NAHCON staff in the 2017 Hajj exercise.
Responding, the envoy said “I am very proud to have served my country and we did very well. We negotiated down the cost of accommodation for Nigerian pilgrims in Madinah and I thought we should be commended,” he said.
Mr Yunusa said he is always ready to serve Nigerian pilgrims whenever he is called upon to do so.
He also said when he travelled to Madinah with the team, Mr Aliero in particular, expressed delight with the hotels used by Nigerian pilgrims.
“He swore by Allah that these hotels are good and even remarked that the location is simply perfect, he told me in Hausa that there is no way anyone can take more than 10 minutes to reach the mosque.”
The Aliero committee had also accused NAHCON of pushing for the use of the facilities of a company, Shuraka Al-Kair, for pecuniary gains.
Mr Yunusa said what usually happens is that NAHCON simply draws a list of accommodation providers and gives it to states to select which one to use.
“It is about competition. If this company is the one giving the states good value for money, what is wrong with that?
“In any case, I know for a fact that even Aliero himself, when he was governor of Kebbi State for eight years, was using this same company throughout. Was it forced on him? Is the current NAHCON management the one in office at the time? People should just fear God and do the right thing,” he said.