The Lagos State Commissioner for Home Affairs, Prince Anofiu Olanrewaju Elegushi has joined other top officials of the State to refute as mischievous, false and untrue the allegation that the State pilgrims were forced to pay a higher amount for hady (animal sacrifices) at the just concluded 2022 Hajj in Saudi Arabia.
Prince Elegushi denied the allegation while speaking with the media on Friday at the Lagos House, Kingdom of the Saudi Arabia, where he led other top officials of the state to give account of stewardship on Hajj 2022 operations.
The meeting which was attended by some selected media including Muslim News, was also meant to announce its scheduled flight arrangements back to Lagos, starting from Sunday, July 17.
An online medium had recently alleged that the State officials defrauded its pilgrims to the tune of N47 million during hady, otherwise known as sacrificial rams, one of the compulsory rites of Hajj.
The medium claimed that the officials collected 555 Saudi Riyals from each of the 1,672 Pilgrims for Hady (sacrificial rams) but employed the service of a Saudi Arabia collaborator who was given 300 Saudi Riyals.
They claimed the Lagos officials led by the Commissioner for Home Affairs and Special Adviser to the Governor on Islamic Matters, Jebe Abdullahi Ahmed, pocketed the remaining 255 Saudi Riyals on each pilgrim, equivalent to N47 million.
But the Commissioner at the press conference held on Friday swiftly debunked the story. He said it’s not true that the Board collected money from all the pilgrims, adding that only 364 pilgrims out of the 1,672 paid 150 dollars each to buy the hady (sacrificial rams) slaughtered by all pilgrims on the 10th of Dhul-Hijjah.
“Apart from the price of the hady, which is within the region of 400 riyals, the 150 dollars we collected comprised other services like ziyarah (visitation expenses), both in Makkah and Madinah. It is not the government that pays for ziyarah. It’s the pilgrims,” he added.
Speaking further, Prince Elegushi said, “It is a norm that the board always collects the ram money from the pilgrims to make proper arrangements. Why? It is because some of our pilgrims in previous operations fell in the hands of people that duped them, collected their money and did not even visit the slaughter farm, not to talk of slaughtering any ram for them.
“In order to guard against this, that is why the board decided then, not even now, that they would be the collector of the ram money. And they would be the one that would now appoint an authorised agent that would go and slaughter for all Lagos pilgrims.
“In this operation, we gave them options. We did not even force it on them. We said it is optional. If you don’t want to slaughter, you have other things to do to cover up for it. You can go fasting. So you are free from the slaughtering of a ram. So, it was optional. They also had the option of patronising any agent that they preferred.
“If they want to go through the board, that was fine. The board would do the appropriate thing. And if they didn’t, we would have tried our best, should they fall into preying hands who dupe them. Till now, we are still maintaining that position. That’s why we have that reduced figure of 364 pilgrims out of 1,672”.
Appreciating Gov. Sanwo-Olu; Deputy, Hamzat
Prince Elegushi thanked Almighty Allah for the successful Hajj exercise inspite of challenges, appreciating the Executive Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu and his Deputy, Dr. Femi Hamzat for their moral and financial support.
According to him, “We thank Almighty Allah. We also thank the Governor of Lagos State for giving us the opportunity to partake in this year’s hajj operation. And also for giving us all the necessary support, both moral and financial. He has been so good to us.
“He has been so helpful to us. Even on Arafat Day, he took his time to chat with the pilgrims. They were all happy that he made a video call. Even the Deputy Governor did same. He made a video call to wish the pilgrims well.
“I am thanking them on behalf of the board for their support. I pray that Almighty Allah will continue to guide and be with them. May Almighty Allah take them across what they are looking at right now which is the second term in government. In Shaa Allah, we will have cause to glorify the name of Allah at the end of the elections”, he said.
Malicious report, an handiwork of detractors – Hon. Jebe
Honourable Jebe, who was also accused in the report, said such malicious report is the figment of the imagination of the detractors, who are envious of the State’s achievements at the just concluded Hajj.
According to him, “If you are doing well, your enemy will never be happy. They will stop at nothing just to get at you because they don’t want you to record that success. They must have prepared for other areas, but maybe they discovered that all areas are well covered. So, the next thing to do is to use the media to damage our personalities.
“It’s so sad that people can be doing that, lying against fellow human beings, trying to destroy somebody that every pilgrim is praying for. It’s sad, but it is in the system. News will come. You will come out to say confirm or disclaim it. So, my own comment is, it is never and can never be true. They are just trying to damage us, of which they cannot succeed.
“I’m not so surprised. You should know we are in a strong political period. So, you should expect more of this. We are ready”, he clarified, corroborating Prince Elegushi’s earlier submission that no pilgrim from Lagos was compelled to pay for ‘Hady, adding that those who paid weren’t shortchanged
The Special Adviser to the Governor on Islamic Matters said there was cordial relationship between the Board and pilgrims, before, during and even after Hajj exercise, adding that the board was ready to render necessary assistance to the pilgrims.
“As you can see, we are all with them. We are living in the same building with them, including all the board members and even the commissioner. So, the information they need were given at the right time. They can access even our rooms to ask questions. Information is flowing adequately.
“If you go downstairs, you see them. We’ve arranged our bags (for the airlifting back to Lagos). We’ve taken measurement of the weight of our bags and everybody is set now to be airlifted back to Lagos,” he added.
Pilgrims begin journey home Sunday – Mofesaye
Earlier in his address, the State Board Chairman, Alhaji Shakiru Ayinde Gafar (Mofesaye) had said the airlifting of pilgrims from Jeddah to Lagos will begin on Sunday, July 17. He added that the airlifting exercise, which is in line with NAHCON’s timetable, will run through July 21, adding that by July 22, all the 1,655 pilgrims are expected to be in Lagos.
According to him, “We are looking forward to airlifting back to Lagos which in shaa Allah, we intend to start according to the schedule given by NAHCON on July 17. That will be on Sunday. So, our airlifting back to Lagos will run through 17, 18, 19, 20. By the grace of God, by 22nd, we should have been able to airlift all our pilgrims back to Lagos, Nigeria.”
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