The Tawafah Company for Pilgrims of African Non-Arab Countries popularly known as the Mu’assasa on Thursday confirmed receipt of a total sum of 19.9 million riyals equivalent to N2.2 billion from thirty three Nigerian Hajj and Umrah tour operators through the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON)’s RTGS account with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Chairman of the Mu’assasa, Mr. Ahmad Sindi, who made the confirmation, however, said the money could not be paid to the International Bank Account Number (IBAN) of Nigerian private tour operators who were expected to use the fund for visa processing during the airlifting of pilgrims for the 2022 Hajj, due to mismatch in the account numbers and account holders.
It would be recalled that in June 2022, the private operators under the aegis of the Association for Hajj and Umrah Operators of Nigeria (AHOUN) had alleged that NAHCON refused to fund their IBAN (account), which affected the processing of their intending pilgrims’ visas.
The Association also said the Commission’s failure to pay into Mu’assasa’s account led to many of their members missing scheduled flights to Saudi Arabia for the 2022 Hajj, which commenced on July 7 and ended on July 11.
Chairman of the Mu’assasa has, however, exonerated the Commission of any wrongdoing, explaining that the issue of the IBAN account was affected generally by lateness in this year’s Hajj announcement but specifically to issues relating to mismatch in the account numbers and account holders’ names on one hand, and on another level inaccurate account numbers.
He made the revelation when Alhaji Zikrullah Hassan led a delegation comprising top officials of the Commission and some private tour operators to the members of the Mu’assasa on Wednesday.
The meeting was aimed at seeking debrief and resolution of two crucial 2022 Hajj operational matters; the first of which was to seek an explanation for the Private Tour Operators’ IBAN account accreditation setback and way forward.
The second was the poor feeding arrangement during the pilgrims’ stay in Mina and Arafat as well as NAHCON’s request for a refund on behalf of the pilgrims.
The remaining money yet to be credited to the 33 tour operators companies’ IBAN account is 19.9 million riyals, as Mr. Sindi assured that the monies are intact and will be returned to NAHCON’s account as soon as the Mu’assasa receives a formal letter of request to that effect.
The Mina poor feeding
Regarding the Mina feeding arrangement, Mr. Sindi of the Tawafa company disclosed that from next year, Mu’assasa will work with only well-established caterers that have adequate manpower and sufficient facilities.
According to him, we may even require bank guarantees before accepting any recommended caterer. This will happen because of the disappointment they also witnessed this year from the engaged caterers, though the company initially got the impression that they were satisfactory.
He mentioned that the extra meal was at no cost at all to the pilgrims or the caterer.
Mr. Sindi promised to explore NAHCON’s request for refund and revert.