“There is no shame in not knowing; the shame lies in not finding out” – Rusian Proverb
Hajj administration in Nigeria witnessed a historic moment on Thursday, May 24, 2007 inside the Olusegun Obasanjo Hall in the office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation. It was the day hajj administration was erected on a pillar of law and defined regulations. That was the day the then Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mahmud Yayale Ahmed, formally inaugurated members of the Board of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON). Hajj operations took an upward swing since that historic day.
Members of the NAHCON that were inaugurated on that day included: Alhaji Muhammed Musa Bello, the current Minister of the Federal Capital Terittory (FCT) as Chairman/Chief Executive Officer; full-time commissioners – Alhaji Liadi Tella and Dr Badmus O. Yusuf; part-time members representing geo-political zones – Sheikh Adams Idoko (South-east), Alhaja Fatimah Oyekan (South-west), Alhaji Ahmed Efebili (South-south), Sheikh Musa Isa (North- central), Alhaji Salisu Ado Shinkafi North-west) and Hajiya Hannatu Sanda Birma (North-east).
Please, permit me to share with you some vital parts of the inaugural speech of the then secretary to the government of the federation vis-a-vis the position of the NAHCON Establishment Act 2006 as it relates to the office of Chairman and other members of the commission.
In the second paragraph of his inaugural speech, the then SGF said, “The Constitution of Nigeria, the enabling Act of the Commission as well as Public Service Rules and Financial Regulations are the vital documents that would guide the operations of the Commission.” Here, it is clearly stated that Hajj commission is a child of legal surgery and must be guided by the enabling law and not individual prejudice. No alternative.
The fourth paragraph of the inaugural speech highlighted the administrative life span of occupants of each office. “The Act of the commission is very clear about your tenure and responsibilities. You are expected to serve for a period of four (4) years in the first instance, renewable for a second and final term of four years.”
Furthermore, NAHCON Act 2006 separated the office of chairman as a distinct office from the three permanent commissioners. Office of chairman as the chief accounting officer is not the same as the office of permanent commissioners as contained in NAHCON Establishment Act2006.
On the composition of the commission, Section 3 (1) states that the commission shall consist of (A) The chairman who shall be: i) The Chief Executive and accounting officer of the commission; ii) Responsible for the commission for the day to day management of the commission.
This was followed by section 3 sub-section (b) which stated that “Three full-term members and six part-time members representing two geopolitical zones two who shall be women.
Interpretatively, Section 3 (A) sub-section 1 and 2 stands on its own and it clearly defines the office of chairman while section 3 (B) deals with the appointment of permanent commissioners.
This shows that there is a clear difference between the office of the chairman of NAHCON and that of the permanent commissioners.
Consequently, whoever occupies the office of permanent commissioner for eight years can be appointed as chairman for another eight years. That is the position of NAHCON Establishment Act 2006.
Moreover, the current acting chairman and the commissioner in charge of operations have served only one term in office as chairman and commissioner of operations, respectively.
Their reappointment in acting capacity falls within the scope of NAHCON Act as they can still be considered for another term (second-term) of four years or be allowed to operate pending when new boards are constituted.
Likewise, the 1999 constitution forbides anyone who has served as executive governor of a state for two terms of four years (eight years) from contesting for governor for another term. However, no law in Nigeria prevents someone who has served as a state deputy governor for eight years from serving as executive governor for for or eight years or is there any?
Moreover, President Muhammadu Buhari’s administrative policies have been that of consolidation of service delivery through ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs). This commendable vision saw the second coming of the Governor of Central Bank Godwin Emefiele. The chairman of the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), Elias Mbam was also reappointed due to his good record.
The current Acting chairman of NAHCON, Abdullahi Mukhtar Muhammed, and his team are widely acknowledged as the engine inside the moving transformation vehicle in NAHCON in the last eight years. They deserve a second term as chairman of NAHCON to consolidate the gains of their achievements.
Finally, we may wish to note that Section 20(1) of the National Hajj Commission Act 2006 squarely places the supervision of the commission under the Presidency. So, if, for example, the Presidency whose responsibility it is to supervise NAHCON says it is satisfied with the status quo, who am I to say otherwise?
Muhammed is National Coordinator, Independent Hajj Reporters