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Report reveals how Zamfara officials allow terrorists participate in Hajj, embezzle funds – Official

Gov. Lawal receiving report from ZAHCOM
Gov. Lawal receiving report from ZAHCOM

Officials of the Zamfara State 2023 Hajj committee deliberately allowed known terrorists participate in the just concluded hajj exercise in Saudi Arabia, a government report has revealed, according to an official.

The report also accused some of the officials of embezzling funds, not having proper documentation, criminal reduction of pilgrims’ allowances among other corrupt practices.

This revelation comes five weeks after PREMIUM TIMES exclusively reported how security agents apprehended terrorists, their wives as well as some informants working for the terrorists at the Sultan Abubakar III International Airport in Sokoto after returning from Saudi Arabia.

A 2023 hajj delegation committee inaugurated by the state government has, in a detailed report reviewing the just concluded, exercise submitted this to the state governor, Dauda Lawal, on Thursday.

The committee recommended a comprehensive overhaul of the state’s Hajj Commission (ZAHCOM), the official said.

The chairman of the committee, Musa Mallaha, reportedly told the governor that apart from allowing criminals to participate in the annual hajj exercise, officials of ZAHCOM also contrived various ways of diverting government and pilgrims’ funds.

“Among the challenges reported by the delegation are the lack of proper documentation and record-keeping systems and lack of compliance among the local government areas.

“Some other challenges include poor screening processes, allowing criminals to participate in hajj exercise, issues with the BTA allowance including criminal reduction in the amount and diversion of funds as well as operation of numerous bank accounts, leading to confusion and potential misuse of funds.

“The report recommended a total overhaul of the Zamfara Hajj Commission (ZAHCOM).

“While receiving the report, Governor Lawal expressed dismay on the actions of some staff of ZAHCOM over misuse of pilgrims’ and public funds including large numbers of missing pilgrims’ deposits and financial scandal,” Sulaiman Idris, the governor’s spokesperson said.

Idris said the report covered various aspects of the hajj exercise including membership of committees, staff strength, financial expenditures and verification of pilgrims’ deposits.

“The delegation’s report also highlighted notable achievements, including the successful airlifting of the 3102 pilgrims back to Nigeria, coordination with the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria and the establishment of sub-committees that facilitated smooth operations of the exercise,” he said.

Mr Idris said while receiving the report, the governor reiterated his administration’s readiness to implement the recommendations of the committee.

He said the governor assured that within the coming days, he will take necessary actions.