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Niger gov urges N’Assembly to probe N90bn Hajj subsidy

Governor of Niger State, Umar Bago

Niger State Governor, Mohammed Bago, has called on the National Assembly to investigate the N90 billion released for the 2024 Hajj subsidy operation.

The governor made this call on Sunday through a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Bologi Ibrahim, in which he described the National Hajj Commission’s performance as a “failure.”

“The N90 billion subsidy paid by the Federal Government for the Hajj operation, with some states including Niger paying billions of naira, needs to be probed by the National Assembly. It is ridiculous that pilgrims were given only $400 to take care of themselves for about 40 days despite each pilgrim paying N8 million. The N90 billion would have made more impact if shared with states. The money is enough to run a Universal Basic Education budget for four years,” he said.

The governor, who took a large entourage including all the female Permanent Secretaries of ministries and departments in the state to Saudi Arabia for the Sallah celebration, disclosed that Niger lost six pilgrims. According to him, two of the deaths were due to medical challenges, and four were a result of the heatwave which killed over 1,000 pilgrims. He called for a review of the NAHCON law.

The governor also raised concerns about NAHCON’s role, stating it has turned into an operator of Hajj activities rather than a regulatory body. He recounted the difficulties pilgrims faced and advocated for private sector involvement in Hajj operations.

“Let the private sector drive Hajj operations, and NAHCON should be a regulator at the center. If NAHCON must exist, it should strictly be a regulator. I am leading a committee of governors to the NGF, and from there we will go to the NEC. I will propose this motion, and we will send a bill to the National Assembly to review NAHCON’s role.

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“NAHCON is not helping matters. Our Federal Government is too big to be worried about Hajj operations; these should be Local Government issues, not even State issues. State Governments should organize pilgrimages and get agents from the private sector to handle these matters as other countries do,” he further stated.