Less than one month after its official launching in Kano by the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), the Hajj Savings Scheme is facing serious crisis capable of preventing its operation, this newspaper exclusively learnt.
HAJJ REPORTERS gathered that the Forum of State Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Boards Chairmen – an umbrella body comprising of all Chairmen/Executive Secretaries of States Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Boards – has protested the modalities adopted by NAHCON in operating the scheme.
Multiple sources told HAJJ REPORTERS that the forum unanimously told NAHCON that states Muslim pilgrims boards will not partake in the Hajj Saving Scheme unless NAHCON reviews the operational modalities of the scheme to conform with NAHCON Establishment ACT 2006.
NAHCON had earlier signed an agreement with Jaiz Bank on September 10 and the scheme formally launched in Kano on October 4, 2020.
NAHCON, the apex Hajj regulatory agency in Nigeria, is being accused of flouting some sections of its establishment Act by hurriedly usurping the powers of state pilgrim agencies and also launching the scheme without a board in place.
For instance, section 7 (1) empowers NAHCON to establish the scheme, supervise and regulate it. One of the sources said by this “you should understand that the Act also defines the roles of States Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Board and FCT, by clearly saying the scheme should be operated by the Pilgrims Welfare Board of each state and the FCT for interested intending pilgrims.”
The Forum of SMPWBC, is, however, contesting NAHCON’s role in the operation of the scheme and therefore vowed to reject the entire scheme until the commission reviews the following areas: Registration/Enrolment of Pilgrims by NAHCON through its Zonal offices; signing of the Hajj Saving Scheme Agreement with Jaiz Bank without input from the States Muslim Pilgrims Boards, and the proposed profit-sharing formula.
Section 7 (1) of the NAHCON Establishment ACT 2006 said “The Commission shall establish, supervise and regulate a system of Hajj savings scheme to be operated by the Pilgrims Welfare Board of each state and FCT for interested intending pilgrims.
Section 7 (2) said that the commission shall set up a Board of Trustees for the saving scheme comprising of men of high integrity who are not members of the commission and may as well take such other measures that are desirable for the success of the scheme.
Another source said this crisis almost derailed the launching of the scheme due to the insistence of some State Muslim Pilgrims Boards not to participate in the launching.
NAHCON chairman, Zikirullah Kunle Hassan was said to have pleaded with the forum because dignitaries have already been invited.
Another area of disagreement is the profit-sharing formula proposed by NAHCON, the source said.
The scheme working documents proposed a profit Sharing Ratio of 40:30:30 between the pilgrim, bank and NAHCON/SPWB.
The pilgrims (saver) takes 40% while the bank (Jaiz Bank) takes 30%. The remaining 30% is to be shared between NAHCON and States Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Boards.
“We cannot agree on this because doing so means that States Muslim Pilgrims Boards and NAHCON are partners in operations in the Hajj Saving Scheme. This will be contrary to the NAHCON Establishment ACT, another source added.
To resolve the contending issues, NAHCON had met with the States Muslim Pilgrims Boards Executive Secretaries and agreed that “a committee be set up to come up with modalities that will reflect section 7 (1) and (2) of NAHCON establishment Act.”
The committee, which has since begun work had two more weeks to submit its report, HAJJ REPORTERS gathered.
It was gathered that since its launching in Kano on October 4, no single potential pilgrim has enrolled in the Jaiz Bank portal because of the disagreement between NAHCON and States Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Board.
The disagreement has also prevented NAHCON from sticking to its initial plan of simultaneously launching the scheme in four other states, it was learned.
When contacted for comments, NAHCON Head of Public Affairs, Hajiya Fatima Sanda Usara, said it’s not true that state pilgrims boards are against the hajj savings scheme.
“It is not true that State pilgrims boards are not in support of Hajj Savings Scheme. They are fully in support and they are together,” the spokesperson said.
She, however, said that the states pilgrims boards had indeed raised some issues with certain aspects of the scheme thus: “Initially they raised concerns in some certain items and the commission had inaugurated a committee comprising representatives of the States and NAHCON. The committee sat down and ironed out those grey areas. They presented their concerns during the states and NAHCON meeting and they were given time to go and resolve the issue and come back which they did.”
Usara added that NAHCON and State pilgrims boards are on the same page and that Hajj Savings Scheme has already kick-started and it is ongoing. She said enrollment is done by Jaiz Bank and States pilgrims boards for now.
She said right from the start, NAHCON is not the operator of the scheme. It is the states and Jaiz Bank that will operate the scheme.
On the other hand, HAJJ REPORTERS several efforts to get comments for this story from the Chairman of Zamfara State pilgrims board, Alhaji Abubakar Sarkin-Pawa, who is also the Chairman of the Forum of Chairmen of States Muslim Pilgrims Boards, Alhaji Abubakar Sarkin- Pawa, was not successful.
For nearly a week, the chairman failed to respond to the questions sent to his active mobile phones.
When at a time, our correspondent reached him on phone and explained the story to him and sought for his reaction, Sarkin -Pawa again said he was in Kaduna and would physically meet with our correspondent by 11 am on Thursday to give his reaction.
When the reporter called him at the appointed time, he failed to pick his call. He also did not reply to the text messages sent to him over the issue. He later sent a text message and rescheduled the appointment.
As of the time of publishing this story, the forum chairman was still incommunicado, as he neither picked his calls nor replied to our text messages