Some Nigerians intending to go on pilgrimage to Mecca from Bida Local Government Area of Niger State would not perform this year’s Hajj as the Area Pilgrims Officer (APO), Nma Ndagana, has failed to remit millions of naira paid into his account.
Daily Trust reprots that about 150 intending pilgrims paid into the APO’s personal bank account as he directed them instead of paying into the official designated account domiciled in the Jaiz Bank.
The Secretary of the Niger State Pilgrims Welfare Board, Alhaji Umar Maku Lapai, who confirmed the incident, said that a committee had already been set up to investigate the allegations.
He did not, however, give the number of affected intending pilgrims, explaining that complaints had been received in batches and more people were still coming forward with similar complaints.
He said the number of people registered by the APO was more than the allocation given to his local government and he only remitted for the assigned number of people for his local government.
“There are two ways to it. For us in the Niger State Pilgrims Welfare Board, we have paid money for the 2, 265 people but we are yet to receive complete visas. It is the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria that is responsible to give us the visas.
“In the case of Bida, the number of pilgrims that he (APO) registered were above the slot he was asked to register. Those that he paid their money to us have been given visas. Those that paid their money to his account were the ones with problems.
“We have set up a committee to find out what actually happened. The committee is still investigating. The affected people are coming in batches. In the first place, we registered 28 complaints. Later more people came and they are still coming,” he said.
Lapai also explained that if the allegations were found to be true, the official involved would not be allowed to travel, adding that the board would not take responsibility for money paid into individual accounts.
He, however, could not explain the whereabouts of the APO.
But an official of the board told our correspondent in confidence that the APO had been arrested by the police and was undergoing interrogation.
Effort to get confirmation of his detention from the Niger State Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Wasiu Abiodun, was not successful.
He had yet to return calls placed to him or reply a message sent to him as of the time of filing this report.
Meanwhile, Lapai revealed that airlifting of intending pilgrims from Niger State earlier proposed for Minna airport had been moved to Abuja due to security concerns.
He said pilots and aviation officials had raised concerns that planes would not be able to land at the Minna airport because of the security challenges.
He also said some intending pilgrims in some local governments had yet to receive their visas, attributing the delay to the collection of their passport.
Daily Trust gathered that already, the first batch of the intending pilgrims from the state had been transported to Abuja through the state Transport Authority while screening of the remaining batches was still ongoing.
Intending pilgrims from Chachaga, Magama, Mashegu, Kontagora and Munya had also been screened awaiting airlift.