By By Fatima Sanda Usara
Ever since the Hajj season began its descent, activities at the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria headquarters (NAHCON) in Ummul Jood, Makkah, reached a crescendo. Visitors to the office tripled as did its schedule. A line-up of marathon meetings and debriefings laid in waiting for staff after grueling Muna tasks. Fortunately, executives and staff of the Commission are witnessing the first great success that sprang from these engagements. It is the timely airlift of pilgrims back to base. In fact, some pilgrims were taken unawares at the prospects of leaving Makkah early.
Airlift of pilgrims back to Nigeria began with Federal Capital Territory and Sokoto pilgrims on Monday, the 27th of August, and the whole exercise is expected to last a few days over a fortnight, 13th of September, 2018 as assured by the air carriers. This decision was reached in a meeting attended by the Nigerian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia; Justice Isa Dodo (rtd), the Consul General in Jedda; Amb. Muhammadu Yunusa, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON); Barrister Abdullahi Mukhtar Muhammad, NAHCON’s Commissioner in charge of Policy, Personnel Management and Finance; Adebayo Yusuf Ibrahim (Ph.D), Commissioner, Operations; Alhaji Modibbo Saleh, representatives of the three air carriers for this year’s Hajj; MaxAir, Medview, FlyNas, and other NAHCON staff.
Speaking at the meeting which held on 25th of August in the Office of the Consul General in Jedda, Barr. Abdullahi Mukhtar called on the carriers to remember that this second phase of operations is significantly different from the first. He expressed appreciation for the successful airlift operations into Saudi Arabia, however reflected that the return journey is characterized by an eagerness by the pilgrims to return home due to various reasons. Therefore, the NAHCON Chief demanded them to expedite the return journey in a seamless manner.
On their part, the airliners promised to transport pilgrims everyday as soon as the return trips begin. They also assured that a substantial number of Zamzam water have been delivered into the country by them. They were warned to protect pilgrims luggage against bad weather bearing in mind the rainy season. They were also warned to be extra vigilant against transporting illegitimate over-stayers who would want to outsmart both Saudi and Nigerian governments. The meeting lasted until the early hours of the morning.
That international gathering held at Jedda Hilton Hotel was a symposium to review and celebrate the successful completion of 2018 Hajj devoid of tragedies; to the glory of the Almighty. Unfortunately, all NAHCON officials at the meeting had to sacrifice the invitation to dinner, due to the crucial meeting with the carriers.
Meanwhile, in an expanded stakeholders’ post Arafat meeting, on the 27th of August, partakers in Hajj affairs had postfactum discussions on the just concluded exercise. Participants at the occasion were drawn from the diplomatic circles, legislative arm, state pilgrims’ representatives, media and the general public. Awards were presented to best performing states and individuals, in recognition of excellence and to encourage healthy competition. Participants were also updated on prospective arrangements in the second phase of the Hajj season, particularly movement to Madinah and the return trips. While praising all the stakeholders and Nigerian presidency for their support and cooperation during the concluded exercise, NAHCON’s Chief appealed to all NAHCON allies to pardon the commission’s shortcomings and to indicate same to it so that amends can be made in future.
In a similar development, the NAHCON’s Chairman, in a post Arafat staff meeting at the Ummul Judd headquarters of NAHCON, commended the entire staff and management of the Commission for the successes recorded in the 2018 Hajj operations. He recognized the extra effort many of the staff offered round the clock as what laced the accomplishments, urging them to replicate the same effort in the second phase of the operations.
Few among other marathon meetings held included security briefings, media parley, Ulama and medical team updates. In all, perhaps the most back breaking meeting, but most significant to NAHCON’s operations, was the visitation to pilgrims’ tents in Muna. Nevertheless, it was agreed: to be in form, a team must toil: the responses from the visitation were inspiring and instructional to NAHCON team.