A civil society organisation, Independent Hajj Reporters (IHR), has expressed satisfaction with the model adopted by Kano and Katsina States Pilgrims’ Welfare Boards, for the refund of 2020/2021 hajj fares to intending pilgrims.
National Coordinator of hajj reporters, Ibrahim Muhammed, gave the commendation in a statement made available to journalists.
The IHR, a foremost media outlet that reports hajj and umrah activities, had earlier requested information from some selected states to provide details of hajj refunds for 2020 and 2021 to pilgrims who could not embark on the spiritual journey due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) had directed state hajj handlers to refund any intending pilgrim willing to collect his or her deposit after the cancelled pilgrimage, IHR had embarked on the exercise to encourage transparency and accountability in the management of pilgrim’s funds and support the present administration’s open policy on public finance.
The statement read in part “IHR is particularly impressed by the display of open transparency in paying back intending pilgrims of hajj 2020/21 by Kano and Katsina States Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Boards.
“It is noteworthy that the two states were not in the first batch of states where FoI letter was sent to, yet the leadership of both boards promptly released details of hajj 2020 and 2021 refund exercise to the public.
“Kano began payment of refunds immediately hajj 2021 was cancelled and periodically gave updates on numbers of pilgrims that applied for a refund, those refunded, amounts and an exact number of pilgrims that rolled over their deposits. Such a display of transparency deserves our commendation.
“The Kano state board, under the tutelage of Alhaji Mohammad Abba Danbatta, constituted a refund monitoring committee that comprises security agencies, media and representatives of the state government, to ensure transparency and accountability in the refund process. Out of over 5,800 intending pilgrims, about 2,300 have so far shown interest and had since received their deposits.”
Further, the release noted: “Katsina state pilgrims board adopted pre-verification method by pasting names of pilgrims and amount they paid in each zonal office prior to effect the refunds – a measure meant to discourage shortage of payment.
The Executive Director of Katsina State Pilgrims Welfare Board, Alhaji Suleiman Nuhu Kuki, had on August 20, released details of refunds to the public at a press conference.
“Therefore, Katsina State Muslim Pilgrims Board demonstrated openness for highlighting the number of registered pilgrims for hajj 2020 and 2021, gave details of the amount refunded to pilgrims in three batches, number of pilgrims that were refunded, and established different committees to oversee the refunds and submitted separate reports as per each batch,” the IHR stated.
The group noted that such an open policy of transparency and accountability as demonstrated by the two states provided the needed trust and confidence in hajj administration by prospective pilgrims who may wish to roll over their funds to hajj 2022.
The group was particularly excited with the details of the refunds made by the Executive Director of Katsina state pilgrims’ board, Kuki, noting that the refund exercise was carried out in three batches.
“It said Nuhu Kuki said the board refunded the sum of N407,834,977 to 331 intending pilgrims in the first batch, with N176 million released to 134 intending pilgrims in the second batch, while a total sum of N77,330 million paid to 63 intending pilgrims in the third batch.
“Giving a further breakdown, the executive scribe said the board registered about 2,721 intending pilgrims for both 2020/2021 Hajj exercise, out of which 508 intending pilgrims made a request for a refund, totalling about N661 million”.