*L-R: Alhaji Hassan, Gen. Marwa *
By Fatima Sanda Usara
A National Hajj Commission of Nigeria’s (NAHCON) delegation, led by its Chairman, Alhaji Zikrullah Kunle Hassan, paid a working visit to the headquarters of National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA on Tuesday 15th February to discuss matters of mutual interest between the two bodies. Among his entourage were Alhaji Magaji Hardawa, NAHCON’s Commissioner of Operation as well as NAHCON’s Secretary to the Commissione, Dr Rabi’u Abdullahi Kontagora and others. The NDLEA Chairman, Brig Gen. Mohamed Buba Marwa (Rtd), received the guests.
Disclosing the reason for the visit, the Hajj Commission Chairman recalled that illicit drug trafficking is one of the endemic vices challenging security personnel globally. However, NAHCON is particularly concerned over the Nigerian-Saudi Arabian route since the kingdom is one of the precincts where the Commission’s major obligations are discharged.
Alhaji Hassan reminded that it has been a tradition of the Commission to partner with the drug war agency in Nigeria in sensitizing pilgrims of the danger in trafficking drugs into Saudi Arabia whose penalty is death when caught. Thus now that the Hajj season is approaching, NAHCON finds it expedient to seek NDLEA to intensify monitoring and fortifying luggage of passengers to Saudi Arabia and to double-check them physically while departing to the holy city. Alhaji Kunle Hassan made the call with the confidence that Saudi Arabia would soon lift its ban on entry into the Kingdom for Nigerian Muslims to perform Umrah and hopefully 2022 Hajj.
By this request, NAHCON intends to leave no stone unturned in its desire to ensure that few miscreants do not cost the Nigerian Muslim citizenry their right for legitimate travel into the Kingdom for Hajj or Umrah. He described the situation as disturbing that even innocent people are implicated in the drug trafficking saga. Alhaji Zikrullah Hassan expressed confidence in the NDLEA’s exploits declaring that was what inspired the visit.
In his response, the NDLEA boss, Brig. Gen Marwa agreed with his NAHCON counterpart that indeed the illicit drug menace in Nigeria is ugly. He decried the situation as worse since those who are supposed to apprehend the criminal trade are also found complicit in it. Buba Marwa was delighted that NAHCON is taking this war seriously, he assured Hajj Commission of the agency’s readiness to strengthen the partnership and work with NAHCON both in Nigeria and offshore in Saudi Arabia. Gen Marwa reiterated that Nigeria is well respected by Saudi Arabia whose high-powered delegation from its drug war agency had visited the Nigerian NDLEA office to carve out teamwork strategy. But for the Covid-19 pandemic, the two countries would have signed a Memorandum of Understanding by now on the illegal drug trade war.
Finally, the NDLEA boss promised to collaborate with FAAN in luggage handling and monitoring at the airports to curtail cases like those of Zainab for whom the story would have been tragic if the Nigerian leader, President Muhammadu Buhari, who Saudi Arabia has high regard for, had not intervened.
In an unrelated development, Alhaji Zikrullah Kunle Hassan on Wednesday, 16th February led another delegation to Lagos state to solicit support for the Commission’s activities. He identified areas where NAHCON craves support to include the Hajj Savings’ Scheme, the Hajj Institute of Nigeria where he prayed Lagos state government would sponsor its staff for training. Above all, the NAHCON Chairman explained that the delegation was in Lagos particularly to seek the state government’s support in getting Certificate of Occupancy for its land situated in the heart of Lagos. The Chairman further lamented that out of 30 hectares of NAHCON land secured since 1975, encroachment had gulped over 95% leaving NAHCON with only three hectares out of 30. The Commission cannot make significant progress on developing the land through Public Private Partnership (PPP) without the certificate of Occupancy.
Furthermore, the NAHCON Chief Executive Officer explained that the second reason for the visit was to seek support of the Lagos state government in the Commission’s PPP plan to increase means of its internally generated revenue. He informed that the Kano state project had reached 90% completion with the strong support of the Kano state government. The Chairman acknowledged the Lagos state government for always offering support to NAHCON.
Equally, Alhaji Hassan expressed hope that Saudi Arabia would soon uplift its landing ban into the kingdom to enable Umrah and hopefully Hajj 2022. When that happens, the NAHCON Chairman assured that the Commission would transparently distribute Nigeria’s allocated slots to states through an endorsed formular.
While welcoming the guests to his office, Dr Femi Hamzat reassured the delegation of the state governments readiness to assist any citizen of Nigeria, Lagos being the Center of Excellence. He directed the Lagos state Commissioner for Home Affairs, Prince Anofiu Elegushi to immediately commence the process of ratifying the Certificate of Occupancy for the land. In addition, the Deputy Governor informed NAHCON Chairman that beyond the ordinary approval, the Ministry of Home Affairs shall oblige NAHCON with architectural support when needed. Dr Hamzat concluded with the instruction that hence forth the ministry shall remain the Commission’s direct contact point to fastrack granting of NAHCON’s request.
Alhaji Zikrullah Kunle Hassan was accompanied on the trip by Commissioner Planning, Research, Statistics, Information and Library Services, Sheikh Suleman Momoh, members of Technical Committee on Processing of Certificate of Occupancy for NAHCON Lands, media and Hajj Development Levy Project representatives. The trip ended with re-inspection of NAHCON land in Lagos.
- Fatima Sanda Usara is Head Public Affairs, NAHCON