Independent Hajj Reporters, IHR, has called on the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, NAHCON, to constitute a committee that will oversee refund of deposits to Hajj 2020 intending pilgrims across the country.
The group, in a statement issued on Sunday by its national coordinator, Ibrahim Muhammed and publicity secretary, Abubakar Mahmoud, said it is expedient for the apex hajj regulator to ensure a transparent refund process following the decision of Saudi authorities to limit this year’s Hajj to only residents of the Kingdom.
“NAHCON should set up a committee comprising its officials, the media, civil society and security agencies, especially anti-corruption bodies to oversee the hajj fare refunds to 2020 intending pilgrims,” it stated.
“Our experiences on previous Hajj refunds show that some fraudulent states pilgrims officials short change pilgrims, while some states pilgrims agencies sometimes convert approved pilgrims refunds to personal use.”
“NAHCON should issue guidelines to States Muslim Pilgrims’ Welfare Boards on processes of making the refund in a uniform setting,” the group explained.
It further stressed: “Following the cancellation of Hajj 2020 for people outside the Kingdom due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some States Muslim Pilgrims’ Welfare Boards have told the intending pilgrims to apply and signify interest to either be refunded or defer their pilgrimage to 2021.
“Furthermore, states such as Kano, Adamawa, Bauchi, Lagos, Cross River, Katsina, Lagos, Sokoto, Kaduna and Niger had issued statements urging pilgrims to come forward for refund. Kano and Bauchi have already commenced the refund.”
It, however, said the pilgrims agencies are urging pilgrims to apply for refund without providing details on the process of application.
“For example, will intending pilgrims apply online or through a hand written application? Do states Muslim Pilgrims Boards provide a form to be filled by the ‘willing pilgrims? How will state Muslim pilgrims boards identify those that are willing to be refunded and those that are interested in deferring to Hajj 2021?” it queried.
IHR also urged pilgrims’ boards to make adequate publicity in their various states to ensure that those who are willing to collect their money are well informed of the refund and the process of collection.
It said NAHCON should provide a feedback mechanism such as phone numbers and emails addresses where pilgrims who are denied or could not be refunded can lay their complaints.
“Such feedback channels should be publicized in electronic, print and online media,” the group said.
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