2023 Hajj: Minister hints of strict regulations for airlines as Saudi delegation visits Nigeria
The Minister of Aviation, Captain Hadi Sirika, yesterday 5th December 2022, announced that Hajj and Umrah operations will be streamlined under strict regulations to make the airlines stronger as well as to protect Nigerians plying that route from experiencing difficulties.
This was made known by Fatima Sanda Usara, NAHCON’s Assistant Director, Public Affairs.
Sirika who revealed this in a meeting with a delegation from the Saudi Arabian General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) led by its President, Abdulaziz A. Duailej, called for a review of the 50/50 Hajj passenger sharing formula between Saudi Arabia-owned airlines and those of other Hajj participating countries.
He requested the GACA President to consider Nigeria’s peculiarities in this regard. According to him, a successful partnership depends on negotiations, compromise and seeking mutual support and understanding.
In turn, the Chairman National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), Alhaji Zikrullah Kunle Hassan, requested information on the scope of operations that the Advance Payment Guarantee (APG) covers under GACA guidelines. The clarification was sought in view of the problem encountered in the 2022 Hajj where NAHCON had requested its APG be used to allow Azman Air to commence airlift before the airline’s own APG would be approved. It would be recalled that Azman Air lost 11 days of operations due to a delay in its APG being credited to its IBAN account.
The Chairman also requested GACA to make known early enough which Saudi-based airline would be deployed for the Hajj operations. Other requests forwarded by the NAHCON Chairman include the forwarding of information on Saudi-recognized private charter flights to NAHCON to enable the Commission to monitor their activities.
Similarly, the NAHCON head requested that security identity cards for NAHCON staff posted to the airports for Hajj operations be made readily available. Alhaji Zikrullah Kunle Hassan explained that by the middle of December, the Commission is slated to begin aviation-related activities in preparation for the 2023 Hajj.
The GACA President, Abdulaziz A. Duailej, who is in Abuja, Nigeria, disclosed that his presence in the country is part of the 2023 Hajj preparations process to ensure hitch-free operations. He recognised the importance of early planning to avoid hitches, due to which his industry and the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah have concluded plans to make known all modalities for the 2023 pilgrimage season ahead of time to give participating countries a grace of at least five months for prearrangements. He expressed hope that Hajj air carriers will remain operational throughout the year and not just become functional during Hajj.
Speaking during the meeting, Captain Musa Shuaibu Nuhu, the Director General (DG) and Executive Officer of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) revealed that the authority had set up a committee that reviewed and identified lapses in the year’s Hajj operations.
The DG informed that the findings and recommendations would soon be made known to the relevant bodies. Musa lamented the use of too many airports for the Hajj operation of which many are without sufficient facilities or capacity for international flight operations. He urged the airline operators to make provision for not only large capacity aircraft but backup ones too.
On their parts, the Executive Director and representative of Max Air, Mr Harish S. Manwani and the Chairman of Azman Air, Alhaji Abdul Manaf Sarina, assured that they have added large-bodied aircraft to their fleets which are constantly undergoing technical maintenance as required.
Others in attendance at the meeting were NAHCON’s Commissioner Operations, Alhaji Abdullahi Magaji Hardawa; Head of Aviation, Engineer Goni Sanda; NAHCON’s Makkah Liaison Officer, Ustaz Lamim; experts from the aviation industry and representatives of air carriers.
Alhaji Zikrullah Kunle Hassan, Captain Sirika and other speakers during the meeting thanked the GACA President for his constant support and for coming to Nigeria to facilitate this timely planning.