Governor Umaru Mohammed Bago of Niger State has called for urgent action to investigate the alleged mismanagement of a staggering N90 billion federal government subsidy for Hajj pilgrimage.

Addressing the media at a press conference in Saudi Arabia, Governor Bago did not mince words as he criticised the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) for its handling of substantial public funds allocated for the annual pilgrimage.

“It’s unfortunate, and there is a need for the National Assembly to probe these funds,” Governor Bago declared, highlighting concerns over the transparency and efficiency of NAHCON’s financial operations.

The governor went further by announcing his intention to spearhead efforts within the Nigeria Governors’ Forum to propose a legislation aimed at dismantling NAHCON’s operational authority.

“NAHCON is not helping matters. The government has no business in doing this business,” he asserted, advocating for a privatised approach to ensure better efficiency and accountability in managing Hajj affairs.

Governor Bago criticised NAHCON’s performance during the 2024 Hajj operation, labelling it a “resounding failure.”

“In a nutshell, the 2024 Hajj operation is a failure,” he emphasised, underscoring the urgent need for systemic reforms to prevent further mismanagement and safeguard the welfare of pilgrims.

His demand for legislative intervention and scrutiny of Hajj funds signals a potential turning point in the oversight of pilgrimage operations, amid growing concerns over financial accountability and operational efficiency.

Governor Bago made the statement in a video interview in Saudi Arabia, accusing NAHCON of going beyond its regulatory role by taking on operational responsibilities.

“But for us as a country, we have failed. We have failed and continued to fail and fail and fail,” he declared in his assessment of the situation.

“NACON is supposed to be a regulator, not an operator. But NACON has decided to continue to play the part of operation and therefore they failed the programme,” he asserted, citing the alleged mishandling of critical tasks including feeding, accommodation, transportation, and medical services.

Highlighting specific failures in his state, Governor Bago revealed tragic outcomes due to inadequate medical oversight under NACON’s purview.

“In my state, we lost two pilgrims in Medina due to medical issues that proper screening could have prevented. Another four perished due to the heat wave,” he disclosed, emphasizing the preventable nature of the losses.

The governor called for an immediate overhaul of NACON’s operations, advocating for state governments to take charge of pilgrimage logistics.

“Let state governments be able to do the right thing – screen their pilgrims, check their health statuses,” he said, criticising NACON for its overt inefficiency and cultural insensitivity”.

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