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Deal with Fake News Merchants, CSO urges NAHCON

Independent Hajj Reporters, (IHR), a faith based Civil Society Organization (CSO) that reports and monitors Hajj and Umrah activities has called for the arrest and prosecution of all persons who manufacture, publish and circulate unverified and misleading information about recruitment of staff into the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) as well as enlistment into Hajj 2024 National Medical Team.

In a statement Sunday, IHR recalled that NAHCON had recently issued a statement to debunk a fake news item about recruitment of Nurses for the 2024 Hajj being promoted by fraudulent individuals.

IHR also recalled that before the 2023 Hajj, some disgruntled elements had created a website and shared the links to unsuspecting members of the public alleging that the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia was sponsoring thousands of people from Nigeria to Hajj free of charge.

An online fact checker pesacheck, traced the internet protocol address link to a location in Oyo state in Nigeria.

Also, while the national coordinator of this group was in Saudi Arabia for pre-Hajj preparations visits, a lot of people kept calling him to verify the authenticity of Saudi Arabian recruitment of Hajj volunteers from Nigeria to assist in this year’s Hajj.

According to them, the information was broadcast in the Mosque urging those who are interested to apply through a certain foundation.

Our findings revealed that a female founder of the so-called foundation went to convince the Imam of a Mosque in Kaduna that she was tasked with the job of recruiting Hajj volunteers seeking the assistance of the Imam to help broadcast the news which he obliged.

After discovering that the lady had no such opportunity, the Imam quickly made a counter announcement withdrawing his earlier statement regarding the recruitment of Hajj volunteers from Nigeria.

Just yesterday, NAHCON was compelled to issue another disclaimer of a number being used by scammers to call people claiming to be calling from NAHCON.

Releasing statements by NAHCON over fake news is becoming a recurring trend and as such we urge the commission to have all those behind the ignoble messages arrested and prosecuted. This we believe will serve as a deterrent to others.

The hands of all Hajj administrators are already full and they need not be drawn into refuting fake news all the time to the detriment of the more important tasks before them.

IHR also said it is worrying that this and many such incidences has diplomatic implications during Hajj because Nigeria, which has the fifth largest contingent, plays a vital role in Hajj operations in Saudi Arabia.

“While we commend the commission for quickly issuing statements denying the non-existence of recruitment of Nurses, they should begin to track and arrest all those who use Hajj as a cover to perpetuate fraudulent practices”, IHR said.