.By Taofeek LAWAL, Abuja
. As 4th Board Marks One Year Anniversary
Nigeria in the next few years will be a reference point for hajj operations all over the world where pilgrims will not only get value for their money but will have prior information about their itinerary to Saudi Arabia to fulfil the last pillar of Islam, Hajj.
The chairman/chief executive officer of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), Alhaji Zikrullah Kunle Hassan, stated this while briefing the media on Friday at the Hajj House, NAHCON headquarters, Abuja as part of activities marking the one year anniversary of 4th NAHCON board which was inaugurated in February 2020.
Since the inauguration of the board a year ago, the NAHCON boss said the commission has hit the ground running by taking and implementing far-reaching decisions which will make hajj operations in Nigeria much easier for Nigerian intending pilgrims who want to perform the holy pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia. He said the fourth board carefully studied the situation of hajj operations in Nigeria and realised that the actualization of the establishment of the Hajj Savings Scheme (HSS), a ‘baby’ nurtured by past leaderships of the commission, in the country is the only lasting panacea to hajj affordability and successful operations.
He said that the board has taken the message of the HSS for acceptability through robust campaigns and sensitization in the media around the country and to some geo-political zones while assuring that the one for the North East will hold very soon in Bauchi. He added the HSS which has the endorsement of state governors, royal fathers and other major stakeholders has witnessed massive registration from intending pilgrims in less than three months since it was launched.
“I want to assure you that Hajj Savings Scheme has come to stay in Nigeria and with the scheme on ground, 60 percent of hajj operations perennial challenges will be solved. Nigeria’s Hajj authorities will have enough time to plan well ahead of hajj operations, this single achievement will allow for more sanity in the performance of hajj. By the time the scheme matures fully, it will boost and invigorate our national economy and provide employment for our youths,” Hassan said.
The chairman also laid emphasis on the establishment of the Hajj Training Institute (HTI) which he said will take off in 2021 with the intention to professionalise hajj administration in Nigeria. He said NAHCON has concluded all the necessary interface with all the stakeholders concerned while discussions have been finalised with the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) with approval gotten to bring a workable academic curriculum for tutoring in the proposed HTI.
Hassan said his board is set to make Nigeria a reference point for hajj operations globally where Nigerian intending pilgrims will be able to hold their heads high with and will be provided with the information which will give them an insight of what to expect before, during and after their journey to the Holy Land for hajj activities. He stated that the board will leave a legacy which will put Nigeria among the best hajj operators in the world.
He said, “We would want to be remembered as a country of pilgrims who want to serve as a reference point for any Muslim participating country in hajj operations anywhere in the world. Today, we are one of the best in hajj operations in the world but certainly not the best. We would like to be remembered as forward-looking people with precision on what is happening and what will happen as far as hajj operations is concerned. We want to be able to tell Nigerian pilgrims ahead that you are going to hajj in 2023 and in that same 2023 you are staying in this hotel, you are flying this airline, you are going at this date, you are coming back at this date, you are spending these numbers of days, you are enjoying these numbers of facilities. We want the situation where our pilgrims will know that there will be no reason why somebody will take his hard-earned money and go and spend it to buy all the made in India and China in Saudi Arabia and bring it back to Nigerian economy. It will take a while but the best way to summarise is that we are going to be a reference point even among our peers among other Muslim countries who will be able to say look at Nigeria and see the way they are handling their hajj operations.”
“And that is one of the reasons we are introducing the Hajj Training Institute (HTI) which is going be first anywhere in the world and in the English-speaking world. We want a situation where countries can tell themselves and say go to Nigeria they have an institute where you can learn everything about hajj. Tour operators will compel these countries to come to Nigeria and tell them that Nigeria has an industry where you can be trained on hajj operations. We want to leave a legacy that the Muslim Ummah will be proud and which is going to be a pride of Islam and pray that NAHCON will continue to be the shining light of Islam all over the world.”
Commenting on the commission’s preparations for 2021 hajj, Hassan said Nigeria like any other nation is waiting for official pronouncement from Saudi authorities while expressing hope that the recent procurement of Covid-18 vaccines has given hope for 2021 hajj to take place. He said NAHCON has been in constant touch with the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on Covid-19 for proper guidance. He said all appropriate measures will be considered in line with the rules and regulations of the Saudi authorities as far as hajj operations are concerned.