BY : RAJI AYOOLA, Ibadan
Oyo State Governor, Engineer Seyi Makinde has declared that Hajj pilgrims from the state would enjoy better services in the coming year, as his government is set to give the Oyo Pilgrims Welfare Board (Muslim Wing) the needed backing to deliver on its mandate.
The Governor, who gave the indication while receiving a report of the 2019 Hajj from the Board, said that a new dawn has truly come to Oyo state going by the transparency demonstrated by the Board which refunded the sum of N24,628,900 to Hajj pilgrims before they embarked on the journey to Saudi Arabia.
The Governor noted that the Board’s action reflected what his administration has been doing in terms of transparency and accountability.
A statement signed by the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr. Taiwo Adisa, indicated that the Governor stated these at the Executive Chamber of the Governor’s Office, Secretariat, Agodi, Ibadan, during the presentation of the 2019 Hajj Exercise by the Oyo State Pilgrims Welfare Board (Muslim Wing).
According to the statement, Governor Makinde commended the members of the Board led by its chairman, Professor Sayed Malik, for being able to work towards a seamless 2019 Hajj operation despite not being the ones that started the process.
It will be recalled that Governor Makinde, upon his assumption of office on May 29, ordered a reduction of Hajj fares for intending pilgrims from Oyo State by N51,170, with the overall refund to the intending pilgrims placed at N24.6 million by Professor Malik, who appreciated the Governor for the gesture, among others.
In his speech, Governor Makinde said: “I want to thank you for the report. We have noted the challenges you were faced with in the course of the operation.
“Remember that this board did not start the Hajj operation for 2019. It was started by the previous administration and you were able to take ownership of the process, despite all the things that have been done incorrectly before you came on board. So, to me, that you were able to get all the pieces of puzzle together to have a successful hajj operation, I am convinced that we did not make any mistake in appointing you all on the board.
“My expectation is that the next year operation will be far better, because you have taken ownership by doing the planning. You are going to be the ones to execute too. So, we have noted the recommendations and, of course, we will start working on them.
“Another good thing is, we did not make last year’s budget, as the 2020 budget is the first the administration is going to put together and I believe some of the things you have stated will be looked at. We will ensure that we put them in next year’s budget.
“On behalf of the government and the good people of Oyo State, I want to thank you most sincerely for a job well done.
“You can count on my personal support and that of the administration in general to ensure that you deliver on your mandate and you deliver effectively on time.”
Governor Makinde also used the occasion to persuade those bent on creating needless religious sentiments by castigating his administration for being one-sided as far as religion was concerned, to desist from such path and find better things to do with their time.
He said: “For those who always castigate the government as being one-sided about religion, I still want to say to them that they should have a change of perception and face the reality because, by next year, our intending pilgrims will have better story to tell. I know you all can do it and you will do it and we will support you, inshallah.”
The Chairman of the Board, Professor Malik had in his speech commended the government of Oyo State, the Governor and other stakeholders for their contributions to the success of the Hajj operations, noting that there were a number of constraints that militated against the smooth running of the operations.
He called on the Government to look into the recommendations of the Board, stating that the implementation of the recommendations would ensure hitch-free operations and enhance the welfare of pilgrims from the State.