…explains why 2022 ‘emergency hajj’ faced many challenges
Soni Daniel, Abuja
The Chairman of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, Alhaji Zikrullah Kunle Hassan, said on Wednesday that necessary measures had been taken to make the 2023 pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia better than that of this year.
The NAHCON Chief Executive Officer, who spoke with journalists in Abuja explained that the challenges posed to Nigerian pilgrims were partly caused by the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and the reduction in quota granted the country by Saudi Arabia.
Hassan disclosed that many Nigerians could not travel for Hajj this year due to the drastic reduction in the number of pilgrims from 95,000 to a paltry 41,000 by the Saudi authorities.
The chairman explained that apart from the drastic reduction in the quota granted Nigeria, there was little or no time to prepare for the hajj.
“It took just about six months to prepare for it even as Hajj had been cancelled for two previous years to the utmost distaste of intending pilgrims for those years. Worse, when the 2022 hajj was finally announced by the Saudi Arabia authorities to be possible, the number to be allowed had been severely slashed by more than 50%.
“Nigeria that used to be allowed to present 95,000 pilgrims had its own cut down to 43,000. With less than six months to tidy up, there had also appeared some other unusual intervening variables to contend with.
“Following a blanket cessation of all economic activities at the peak of covid-19, productivity had declined so substantially. Economies of different countries have been struggling. Currencies, therefore, across the world including those stronger than ours, some of them in the developed world, have been merely floating.
“ We are even poised to achieve more as NAHCON staff are now being prepared to take on additional challenge of hajj period passport management hitherto the exclusive preserve of Saudi agencies for some handsome fee.
“We are poised to advance Nigerians’ interest in Saudi and we will deploy all our relevant endowments in this direction particularly our experiential assets. Yet, we are fully prepared to domesticate in the Hajj sector the President Buhari’s subscription to Open Government Partnership, OGP, deriving from the enactment of the Freedom of Information Act of 2011.
“We are happy to announce to you that on account of the enhanced performance in this year’s hajj by NAHCON, all other African countries consensually deferred to us to lead them in interfacing with the Saudi authorities.
“We will strive continuously to improve on service delivery to those we have been statutorily mandated to serve. For us, having agreed to serve in this capacity, there is no going back even as we will not be contented with half measures. We are committed to excellence for which we have been known. We are determined to hoist Nigeria’s flag higher amongst others given the diplomatic values of hajj beyond the religious.
With the experience gained from this year’s hajj, the chairman announced that the commission had begun early actions in order to make next year’s hajj better for pilgrims.
Among the decisions taken include discussions with relevant Saudi authorities on Hajj and Umrah for early information dissemination, meeting with Muassassah during Hajj 2022 especially on area of service delivery to fine-tune the operations of Hajj Savings Scheme to provide enough funds for emergency situations in the foreign land.
Other actions being planned in order to boost the funding of the commission include the commencement of a public private partnership in the management of its landed properties, the commencement of the
Hajj Institute of Nigeria (HIN) to be formally opened by President Muhammadu Buhari later this year and the professionalization of the management of hajj administration in Nigeria.