By Ibrahim Hassan
The Independent Hajj Reporters, IHR, a civil society organisation that monitors and reports Hajj, has called on the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), to immediately summon al stakeholders meeting to discuss the way forward for Hajj and Umrah industry in Nigeria.
To deliberate on the decision of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to limit this year’s Hajj to residents only and the wider operational implications for Hajj participating countries like Nigeria.
Such a meeting, when called, shall be held in line with existing protocols as released by the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
The meeting should involve all Hajj stakeholders like airliners, immigration Service, Customs, Ulama, NCAA, Hajj technocrats, private tour operators, Saudi Arabian embassy in Nigeria, Civil Societies and Financial institutions.
The statement, signed by the national coordinator of IHR, Ibrahim Mohammed also urged NAHCON to immediately direct state Muslim pilgrim’s welfare boards to commence the process of affecting refunds of deposits made by Hajj 2020 intending pilgrims who are willing to get there without delay.
“NAHCON should also put machinery in motion to educate Hajj 2020 pilgrims on the need for them to defer their Hajj to 2021 in order to lessen the burden of going through cancelling and re-registration of same pilgrims for Hajj 2021,” the statement said.
As for the private Hajj and Umrah pilgrims, the civil society said it acknowledged the challenges faced by private Hajj companies in view of the fact that most of them have made a financial commitment to Saudi Arabian based Hajj services providers and may not have the requisite financial power to affect a full refund to their prospective pilgrims.
IHR also advised NAHCON to carry out wide consultations on how to assist the registered private tour operators in overcoming the obvious operational challenges birthed by the banning of international pilgrims from participating in Hajj 2020.
IHR said countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Britain, South Africa, and Singapore had rightly read the handwriting on the wall and took the painful but necessary decision of opting out of Hajj 2020 before Saudi Arabia announced its decision.