Nigeria is one of the greatest global stakeholders in Hajj. It has maintained top position every year in Hajj quota. It was ranked the seventh largest participant in the annual event in 2017, having nearly 95,000 pilgrims who performed the Islamic obligation in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. That is why Nigeria, on one hand, is recognized by the Saudi Arabian government as a partner in progress in the dynamism of Hajj-made-easy for Muslims of the world. On the other hand, Nigeria is revered globally for the tremendous transformation of Hajj management within the country and outside its shores.
To justify these huge cosmopolitan recognitions, Nigeria was invited to the 2018 World Hajj and Umrah Convention (WHUC) and given the unique privilege to deliver the keynote address to the world leaders in Hajj and Umrah organization and management. There, Nigeria told her success story as well as commended the revolution in Hajj administration around the world as well as the effects of Hajj on the global socio-economic re-ordering.
For the 2018 convention, the WHUC focused on The Great Expansion of the Haram with particular emphasis on the developments of the rail systems and airport logistical advances and improvements in an effort to help plan and educate on the social and logistical aspects of the pre-Hajj and Umrah. Normally, the outcome of the WHUC becomes an annual report composed from contributions by various stakeholders and the report identifies sector trends and gives ahead of time projections, as well as proposes solutions for common related obstacles, current and future.
Nigeria’s positions on critical Hajj issues were distinct. Nigeria wants the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to spearhead the engagement of various stakeholders: the Organization for Islamic Conference (OIC), the Muslim World League and Hajj Missions, to leave a legacy for the next generation of Muslims. Nigeria also proposed to the global Hajj and Umrah community to truly professionalize the management of Hajj and Umrah by having a global body that will set industry-specific standards, processes, accreditation and related matters. These formed parts of the brilliant message delivered by the Chairman, Chief Executive Officer, National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), Barr. Abdullahi Mukhtar Muhammad at the opening session of the international gathering on Monday April 30, 2018 in London.
As the resposibility for organizing Hajj and Umrah by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia indicates an expansion of the number of visitors along with improvement of transportation, accommodation and other facilities to world standards, Barr. Mukhtar urged stakeholders to initiate a sunnah that will take Hajj and Umrah to the next level globally.
Unarguably, over the last century, the tremendous efforts of the Saudi Arabia government to ease the Muslim pilgrimage to Makkah can only be rewarded by Allah. No human commendation and reward can equal the commitment, dedication and selflessness of the Kingdom on this all-important spiritual endeavour. Yes, people may say the pilgrims pay for every service rendered to them, but how difficult it is to organize and coordinate Hajj activities for several millions of pilgrims annually can only be undermined by warped knowledge.
Represented by the Commissioner in charge of operations in NAHCON, Alhaji Abdullahi Modibbo Saleh, Barr. Muhammad urged stakeholders in the Hajj around the world to rally round the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 as it affects Hajj. He warned against politicization of Hajj matters and commended the Hajj officials for providing such platform to share ideas and experiences on the global event. I find it somewhat necessary to reflect a little on this case of politicization of Hajj matters which has generated a lot of controversies to the extent that some groups and individuals have accused the Kingdom of giving room for the new trend.
The NAHCON Chairman/CEO recalled the three major requirements for Hajj: transportation, resources to sustain pilgrims throughout the journey and health. He noted that the cost differences in the trio from the ninth year after Hijrah when Prophet Muhammad embarked on the Hajj with thousands of his companions to date – 1430 years later – have increased tremendously. He charged participants to take Hajj to the level of “Ihsaan” where Hajj jobs are carried out whilst being aware that Allah is watchful.
Speaking on the topic Developing a healthy Hajj and Umrah Sector with Sustainable Growth, he said different countries of the world are at different stages: the struggle stage, the stability stage and the consolidation stage in Hajj and Umrah management, with the Malaysians and Indonesians considered to be in the last stage, which some or most managers are yet to reach.Recalling the popular adage “charity begins at home”, he took the participants through the activities of Nigeria’s Hajj operations from 2004 to 2017 with particular reference to the period between 2004 and 2006 when Nigeria had to continuously seek an extension of airport closure deadlines. The Nigerian government, he observed, incurred huge financial losses in form of additional operational expenses or penalties for violations caused by poor arrangements.
The Nigerian Hajj Mission, then, also depended entirely on the federal government funding, in addition to the haphazard manner in which Hajj activities were coordinated in Saudi Arabia with the federal and state contingents operating almost independent of each other, duplicating duties and at times working at cross-purposes.He narrated how an independent Hajj body was established from inputs from Nigerian stakeholders of various fields. It was the birth of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) which has over the years overcome almost all the critical challenges and stabilized Hajj operations in Nigeria.