The Lagos State Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Board may not sell forms for intending Pilgrims planning to embark on the Hajj 2022 Holy pilgrimage to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
This is part of the major highpoints of a press conference addressed today by the Hon. Commissioner for Home Affairs, Prince Anofiu Olanrewaju Elegushi, in the conference room of his Ministry, at the Secretariat, Alausa, Ikeja.
The conference was designed for the State Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Board to formally react to the cancellation of 2021 Hajj exercise for foreign pilgrims by Saudi Arabian Government due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Explaining the rationale behind the affirmative statement, Prince Elegushi stated that the state already has 3,016 intending Pilgrims that have formally registered and fully paid their deposit for the already cancelled 2020/2021 hajj exercises, adding that unless the Saudi Arabian autourity and National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) gives the State additional slots, it might not be feasible selling forms for new intending Pilgrims outside those already registered.
Elegushi further stated that only 69 intending Pilgrims or approximately 2.24 per cent of a total of 3,085 intending Pilgrims for the 2020/2021 sets have written to request for refund of their N1,300,000.00 deposit while the remaining 3,016 or approximately 97.76 per cent have willingly decided to leave their deposit in the custody of the State Government for the 2022 exercise.
He affirmed that the request for refund by the 69 affected persons have been processed and forwarded to the Governor, Mr. Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu, saying immediately the Governor gives his approval, the affected persons would be refunded.
While confirming that the 2022 Hajj operation would commence in the state before the end of December, 2021, Elegushi urged all the 3,016 intending pilgrims to have faith and trust that the State Government would do everything humanly possible to protect their interest and they would not be disappointed.
Answering question on why the State Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Board focuses only on Umrah (lesser hajj) during Ramadan and not the year-round, the Commissioner said that the Board is working assiduously towards getting the International Air Transport Association (IATA) licence to be able to fully operate the Umrah throughout the year.
He assured that once this is achieved, the Board will operate at full scale.
On the prospect of the Hajj Savings Scheme (HSS) launched in Lagos by Mr.Governor in December, 2020, Prince Elegushi reported that 164 intending Pilgrims have embraced the scheme from Lagos State by opening account with the accredited bank.
He added that the effort has thus placed the state in a prominent position amongst the states in Nigeria that have keyed into the scheme so far.
He also emphasized that the scheme which was designed to encourage less privileged Muslims to contribute gradually towards actualizing the spiritual obligation is not fully a Lagos State affairs but a collaborative effort with NAHCON, other States Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Boards and Jaiz Bank Plc. (the official banker), adding that people can contribute as much as they can until they are able to meet the Hajj fare.
Reacting to a request from a media outfit in respect of the cancelled 2021 Hajj exercise for foreign pilgrims, he urged the outfit to direct its request to the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), the only Federal Government agency regulating Hajj operations in Nigeria. He stressed that the State Muslim Pilgrims Board is not liable to the scrutiny of the outfit.
He gave assurances that the state would continue to deploy the best of her resources and manpower towards achieving a comprehensive and rewarding Hajj exercise for her intending Pilgrims.
On his part, the Executive Secretary, Lagos State Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Board, Mr. Rahman Ishola expressed his appreciation to the Governor, Mr. Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu; his deputy, Dr. Kadri Obafemi Hamzat and the Hon. Commissioner, Prince Anofiu Olanrewaju Elegushi for their unflinching support to the Board.
He said the support of the present administration has greatly assisted the Board in actualizing its mission.