From Fatima Sanda Usara
The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, (NAHCON) held its review meeting of 2019 Hajj and first preparatory meeting on 2020 Hajj firstly on Thursday, 24th October 2019 with Chief Executives of Pilgrims’ Welfare Boards/Agencies/Commissions (SPWB/A/Cs) and another on Tuesday 29th of same month with Licensed Tour Operators.
The meetings which were held in NAHCON’s new headquarters, The Hajj House, was attended, by the above mentioned stakeholders, NAHCON Board members, its executive officers and management staff. The meeting was chaired by NAHCON’s Chief Executive Officer and Chairman, Barrister Abdullah Mukhtar Muhammad.
The gatherings generally acknowledged the improvements made in the 2019 Hajj operations and in order to sustain the successes so far achieved, there was a call to maintain the spirit of teamwork and consultations. Also both gatherings congratulated NAHCON for moving into its new office. The building was described as a prestige to Hajj operations in Nigeria and good legacy of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Some of the issues discussed were On Makkah/Madina accommodations, it was agreed that funds for booking of lodgings would be deposited early and directly to building owners for cheaper bargains. During operations, each state must deploy a minimum of one official to Madinah in advance of its pilgrims’ arrival for smoother coordination.
On the issue of Masha’ir in reference to the retreat in Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifa, the Commission lamented the several requests for extension of deadline for registration as compounding the Mina congestion problem.
Therefore NAHCON cautioned both state boards and Licensed Tour Operators to abide by early registration and to stick to deadlines. The Commission assured that if this arrangement is respected, there is certainty that service providers in Saudi Arabia will reserve adequate space for pilgrims as requested in a formal communication.
In relation to this the Commission approved status quo to be maintained on remittance of Hajj fare; deadline for closure of registration will be announced in due course. Intending pilgrims are to deposit about N1.5m in three instalments to their states’ pilgrims’ boards in bank draft.
Due to number of complaints received from pilgrims on services being rendered not being commensurate with package paid for, measures have been taken to ensure that the package a pilgrim pays for is what will be served to them. Towards this, the Commission will define types of packages available and cost of each. The packages will be publicised in the mass media.
Consequent upon this, state boards and Licensed Tour Operators must register all their pilgrims on the e-portal and particulars of the intending pilgrim be supplied on the portal. The Commission will not tolerate pilgrims being registered on portals other than that which it is created for. This deviation has hitherto remained an impediment to reliable data bank for security reasons, research and reference purposes.
Similarly, Tour Operators have up to November 30th to submit online application forms for 2020 Hajj license to avoid disqualification.
It was resolved that SPWBs will be allowed to conduct Umrah operations to boost their revenue generation at the state level. However, they must have dedicated and certified staff to run the Umrah services. They must also run separate accounts for Hajj and Umrah and NAHCON will monitor the accounts to ensure full compliance and proper utilization of the funds.
Fatima Sanda Usara is the Head, Public Affairs, NAHCON.