Stopping The Attempt To Stop Hajj 2017 (5)

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So far, we have examined five of the six allegations levelled against the Executive Chairman of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON). The first four instalments have shown us just how empty those allegations are under scrutiny.

Today, we will look at the remaining allegations and see whether they can withstand scrutiny.

The sixth allegation from Ibrahim Sulaiman Yusuf’s group; the Nigeria Arewa Foundation, was that the Executive Chairman manipulated the choice of air carriers for the 2015 and 2016 pilgrims’ airlift. They claimed that he favoured foreign carriers to the detriment of local ones. They went further to describe the exclusion of some ‘reputable’ indigenous air carriers as unexplained.

Let us, again, examine the facts. There has been an agreement between all countries and Saudi Arabia for decades to the effect that 50% of all foreign pilgrims coming to Saudi Arabia by air must be airlifted by a Saudi airline. However, the usual practice was for only Nigerian carriers to airlift the pilgrims and pay some royalties to Saudi airlines. The most prominent Saudi airlines are Al-Wafeer, NAS Air and Saudi Arabian Airlines. That was until 2010.

In that year, at a meeting between the Saudi General Authority on Civil Aviation (GACA) and the then Nigerian Hajj Delegation led by the Senior Special Assistant to President Jonathan on Aviation, Captain S.U Iyal (OON), GACA asserted its right to enforce the 50% airlift agreement with Nigeria. They wanted Al-Wafeer and Nas Air to airlift pilgrims.

Fortunately for the local airlines, the arrangements for the airlift had reached advanced stages and the Executive Vice President of GACA, Mr Abdul Aziz A. Al-Angari, conceded that it was too late to bring in the two airlines. Nigerian carriers would airlift the entire pilgrims if they met all safety and economic regulation requirements. However, subsequent years will be different. Both GACA officials and NCAA officials were required to meet in January 2011 to fine-tune an arrangement which will see the Saudi carriers airlifting their 50% quota.

This meeting was witnessed by representatives of Kabo Air, Med View Airlines and Modified Araba Air Services Agency (MAASA) as well as NAHCON officials. The current Chairman of NAHCON inherited the Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA).

In May 2011, the meeting earlier scheduled for January 2011 was held in Jeddah. The then Director-General of the NCAA, Dr Harold Demuren, led the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority while Captain Mohammed Ali Jamjoom, Vice President Safety and Economic Regulations led the GACA team. The meeting was inconclusive as both parties continued to insist on two different things. GACA insisted on implementing a 50% airlift quota while NCAA insisted on allowing market forces to dictate the quota. They however both agreed on the need to develop the Nigeria-Saudi air route and to allow Saudi carriers equal opportunities to airlift pilgrims. That second meeting had representatives of the local carriers present. Kabo Air, Max Air, Med View Airlines and Meridian Airlines were duly represented.

Again in August 2014, another meeting was held at the GACA Headquarters in Jeddah. The Nigerian delegation, led by the Honourable Minister of State for Foreign Affairs II, had among them the representatives of 3 indigenous carriers, officials of the NCAA and the Federal Ministry of Aviation as well as the current Chairman of NAHCON, Barrister Abdullahi Mohammed Mukhtar, who was then the NAHCON Commissioner of Operations. At that meeting, the two parties had a more fruitful deliberation than the previous. The gist of the meeting was that Flynas would fly the Abuja-Medina and the Kaduna-Medina routes on behalf of itself and Saudi Airlines. They agreed that the airline would be allowed to airlift 9,500 pilgrims.

In 2015, the Aeronautical Authority of Saudi Arabia had another meeting with the Nigerian delegation. They signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) which includes among other things, the increment of Saudi carrier slots to 25% of the total pilgrims flying from Nigeria and an annual increment until the target of 50% quota is met. The MoU was signed by Ambassador Danjuma N. Sheni, who was the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the time. The Chairman of National Hajj Commission was not the ‘manipulator’ at the meeting as he was still the Commissioner Operations and had no idea his predecessor would leave the position that year not to mention becoming the Chairman.

Incidentally, the following people represented their airlines at the 2015 meeting: The MD/CEO of Med View Airlines, the MD/CEO of Skypower Airways Express, the General Manager of Max Air, the Manager in charge of Government and Regulatory Affairs at Arik Air and the General Manager in charge of Hajj and Umrah at Kabo Air among others. Why I have been mentioning some of the indigenous airlines at the meetings is to show you that the claim that the airlines were excluded from airlifting without explanation is false and borne out of malice and or ignorance. The airlines knew why some of them had to be excluded. Yet, a man whose business was not affected by the exclusion made it a point to add to his already frivolous allegations.

There is a hadeeth of the Messenger of Allah which is useful for those who are ignorant but who nonetheless jump into hasty conclusions. It was recorded by Al Imaam Abu Dawud in his Sunan (Hadeeth 337) and was said on the occasion of the death of one of his companions. Abdullah Ibn Abbas reported: A man had a deep gash in his head during the time of the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him. He had a wet dream and sought to know whether he was excused from performing the ritual bath (ghusl) for that due to his wound, but the other men said they found no concession for him and insisted he took the ritual bath. The water seeped into his wound causing his death. When this news reached the Prophet, he said, “Why did they not ask if they did not know? Verily, the only cure for ignorance is to ask questions. It would have been enough for him to perform dry ablution, or to use a small amount, or to tie a bandage around his head.”

The current Chairman of NAHCON joined the Hajj Commission after the BASA with Nigeria had been signed. As at the 2015 meeting where it was agreed that the Saudi carriers would be allowed to airlift more pilgrims each year, he was not in charge. The current Honourable Minister of the FCT was the Chairman then. Even at that, due to the diplomatic nature of the matter, he did not head the negotiation team; the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs led the team and signed the agreement on behalf of the team. Where Ibrahim Yusuf Suleiman got his dubious information from is anybody’s guess.

The gist of all the allegations listed in the petition against the Chairman is that Ibrahim Yusuf Suleiman wants him removed; no more. In putting together his petition, he tried to give it the semblance of a petition signed by 158 people. To begin with, the owners of those names did not have any idea their names would be used in a petition. Secondly, they did not sign the petition; their signatures were invented for the purpose. Thirdly, there was no evidence that they had any Hajj services businesses.

The actual petitioner, whose wife’s company had been barred from providing services in the 2017 Hajj exercise due to dishonest practices, does not have a company of his own. He represents Island Economic Establishment. He claimed that NAHCON gave him a commendation letter for the previous two Hajj operations. What he called commendation were just the certificates issued to the company he represents which is the same that is issued to all service providers during Umrah and Hajj seasons by NAHCON. There was no commendation in sight.

The petitioner should not get away with the deliberate smearing of another man’s name and should be prosecuted. He wrote the worst rebuttal I have ever read to the Chairman’s responses. His points are not even worth reproducing here. No wonder the House Committee which listened to him were unimpressed and scolded him severally for his disjointed presentation. It is sad to see a Muslim in this state. In all his presentation too, he did not produce a single sheet of paper as evidence of his claims against the Chairman.

When a man is about to tell a lie, he claims his witness has died. When a child wishes to inherit what is not lawfully his, he often invents a history to support his claim. The author of the frivolous petition should use the period of Ramadan to seek the forgiveness of Allah and then that of the man he has falsely and maliciously accused.

Every false accuser should remember the penalty for that with Allah. Bearing false witness and making false accusations are two of the greatest crimes a human being can commit with respect to another human being. It robs people of their happiness and dignity and it destroys names and goodwill which were built meticulously over years. A wise person will shun both.