Saudi dates scandal: Count us out, NAHCON pleads
As controversy continues to trail the alleged diversion of over 200 tonnes of date palms donated to Nigerian government from Saudi Arabia, National Hajj Commission (NAHCON), has come out to deny involvement or complicity.
An official of NAHCON confided in The Guardian, yesterday, in Abuja, that the scandal has nothing to do with the commission, but an entirely Federal Government affair.
The Saudi Embassy in Nigeria had on Thursday, in a statement advised Nigerians not to buy the dates (dabino), which it discovered were being sold in the open market, as they were part of the ones supplied to Nigerian government to distribute for free to Muslims to use in breaking their fast.
The incident, from The Guardian investigation, has caused the Federal Government huge embarrassment, leading to an investigation into the circumstances that led to the disappearance of the dates, as well as, to identify the culprits.
Government has however, tendered unreserved apologies to Saudi government over the mess.
On what could be the likely consequence of the action of government officials involved in the diversion of the date palms, especially visavis Saudi relationship with NAHCON, the official maintained that the commission had no link with the incident.
He said: “I just read the Saudi embassy statement on the incident, so we have nothing to do with it, as it is strictly a matter for the Federal Government.”
Investigations by the government is to determine how some of the 200 tonnes of date fruits donated by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to Nigerian Muslims found their way into the market, so as to avoid a future occurrence.
In a statement by its spokesperson, Clement Aduku, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Hajiya Khadijat Abba-Ibrahim, was quoted as apologising to the Saudi government over the “unfortunate turn of events.”
“This is not the spirit in which the 200 tonnes of dates was given,” the minister of state, said, even as she expressed “disappointment” over the “unfortunate turn of events.
She disclosed that the dates were distributed from a warehouse belonging to Royal Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the presence of the Charge d’Affairs, Dr Yahya Mughram.
The commission for refugees, migrants and Internally Displaced Persons, she added, drew up list of recipients, which she said, included IDP camps, as well as, prominent Mosques.
“It is important to note that once the dates were delivered to their final destinations, the ministry of foreign affairs became free of any subsequent responsibility. It is therefore disappointing to learn that some of the consignment is being sold for profit,” she said.