“CHRONICLE OF HAJJ ADMINISTATION IN NIGERIA”
Compiled Ibrahim Muhammed
Independent Hajj Reporters
Hajj in the olden days
Organized Hajj: The Pre-colonial Period
The history of organized pilgrimage caravans from Kano dates back to the early nineteenth century when caravans were regularly started from the city. According to the Kano Chronicle, the Isalmization of Hausaland began in the middle of the fourteenth century by Malian wangara traders. Although Hausaland was by this period already on the route of pilgrims from the Western part of the Sudan, nevertheless available historical accounts do not suggest an interest in the pilgrimage among the Hausa rulers and governing class in contrast to the Mais of Bornu.
The longstanding pilgrimage highway of Hausaland known as the Sudan route ran from the cities of Katsina and Kano through Aïr (Agades), the Fezzan and Aujila into Egypt or else across the Nile. The leader of a caravan was known as the madugu under whom intending pilgrims would congregate and travel, often on foot. In the pre-colonial period, there was little formal organization of travelling to hajj and the journey was usually undertaken at the discretion of private individual and groups. The organization was often informally assigned to the madugu who was usually an important personality such as a scholar, wealthy merchant or notable person who automatically assumed the status of the Amiral Hajj (Pilgrims’ Leader). At the beginning of this century groups of pilgrims from the south, especially Yorubaland where the Fulani jihad had established Islam in Ilorin and Oyo, traveled northwards to Kano or Bornu where they joined the caravan. An early English explorer, Barth, who came to Kano in 1857, estimated the city’s population at 30,000 but added that the figure doubled during the main caravan season.
The pilgrims usually visited the rulers in the capital cities of the lands through which they passed in order to solicit alms and “safe conduct”– usually escorts, in case of clear danger, or a standard letter of introduction giving the name of the recipient and the seal of the issuer. However, formal visits to the rulers were not always necessary. In some cases, well-to-do volunteers played host to the passing pilgrims and ulama (Islamic scholars) offered ‘du’a’ (prayers) for safety.
Organized Hajj: The Colonial Period
The British colonial occupation of what is today Nigeria lasted effectively for a century: from 1861 until 1960. The year 1906 marks the real beginning of British administration throughout Nigeria as the North was finally occupied in that year. The British, aware of the potentials of hajj in forging global solidarity among Muslims, wanted to curb the flow of pilgrims in order to protect their own interests in Nigeria. Rigid rules restricted the number of pilgrims while ‘good conduct’ was ensured through surveillance by escorts and at strategic posts along the pilgrimage land routes up to the Sudan. Colonial policy was to discourage contact among the various national segments of the Islamic community. Some of the measures introduced by the British colonial government were modern travel requirements such as passports, immigration control, health regulations and some payment of deposits for services in the holy land.
A positive aspect of these measures was the introduction of motorized trucks buses and, finally, aircraft. As the pilgrims’ transportation facilities were improving to the point where a quick trip was possible, the British came to regard the pilgrimage as less threatening. New travel formalities, combined with modern travel facilities, brought revolutionary changes in hajj organization in Nigeria. As early as 1920, His Majesty, the Emir of Katsina Alhaji Muhammadu Dikko pioneered the Hajj by sea when he traveled aboard a British steam boat from Lagos through London and Cairo. His Majesty was followed in 1927 by the famous Kano businessman Alhaji Alhassan Dantata who traveled by the same means through Morocco and Egypt in company of fifteen persons after obtaining passports from the colonial Resident in Kano. In 1931 the Waziri of Kano, Muhammadu Gidado Dan Malam Mustapha traveled on the hajj by road along with selected family members. Sixteen years after his first journey by sea, the Emir of Katsina traveled by road along with a renowned Kano merchant Alhaji Ibrahim Ringim, who bought a light truck for the Hajj journey. He took along with him his son Alhaji Uba Ringim (then about 15) and his teacher Malam Shehu Usman and joined the Emir’s entourage on a request by the Emir of Kano.
In 1937, the famous Emir of Kano, His Majesty Alhaji Abdullahi Bayero (Sarki Alhaji) traveled on the Hajj by road in the company of forty persons including family members. Two other Kano merchants, Alhaji Muhammadu Nagoda and Alhaji Haruna Kassim, who traveled in 1944 in a truck from Nagoda’s fleet, followed his route. Alhaji Haruna Kassim was to become modern Nigeria’s most prominent private pilgrimage travel agent.
Hajj in the olden days
Organized Hajj By Road
The first fully organized hajj journey by road undertaken by a group from Kano occurred in 1948 when three merchants, led by Alhaj Muhammadu Nagoda, provided lorries for the long trip to the Sudan (the terminus of the land route), charging each pilgrim 20 pounds. The pilgrims then crossed the Red Sea to Jeddah by ship from the port of Suakin near Port Sudan. The journey usually lasted six months. The year 1948 was a turning point in hajj by road. That year Alhaji Mahmud Dantata (1922-1983), jointly with Alhaji Haruna Kassim and Alhaji Ibrahim Musa Gashash, established the West African Pilgrims Association (WAPA). Their aim was to facilitate pilgrimage travel by road and air. Buses and lorries were provided for the road journey that passed through Bornu to Chad and onto the Sudan Republic. Later, when air transport became more readily available, the WAPA established a new corporation, Hajj Air Limited, to handle hajj travel by air . It is not certain which of the two: the Pilgrims Aid Society (PAS) of Kano or the WAPA / Hajj Air Limited pioneered the mass pilgrims transportation by air from Kano, but it is certain that the PAS obtained the approval of the colonial Resident in Kano to airlift pilgrims from Kano in a West African Airways Corporation (WAAC) aircraft. The Director civil aviation in Lagos, gave the approval for the airlift.
Organized Hajj by Air
The prosperous modern business of hajj by air went on side by side with the hajj by road option through the 1950’s. However, hajj by road must have begun to decline by the end of the decade as air travel was becoming popular, safer, faster and cheaper. Perhaps hajj by air was given impetus partly by a recommendation of Alhaji Ibrahim Dasuki who was stationed in Khartoum, Sudan (September, 1960-October, 1961) where he became aware of the considerable obstacles that intending Nigerian pilgrims encountered in the Sudan. Thus, during this period the overland route for the pilgrimage was discouraged in favor of the air route. Pilgrimage by air also received a boost in the late 1950’s as Northern Nigerian leaders began to visit London more frequently for constitutional talks. It became possible to stop in Saudi Arabia on the way home to Nigeria for the hajj or the umrah (a shorter, voluntary visit to Mekkah that can occur at any time of the year, also referred to as the lesser hajj).
Jamrat in the olden days
Direct Government Involvement in Hajj Affairs
During the budget session of the Federal House of Representatives in Lagos early in 1953, a member, Alhaji Abubakar Imam tabled a motion for the establishment of the ‘Nigeria Office’ in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia to cater for Nigerian pilgrims. The motion was accepted with minor amendment and Imam was asked to submit a proposal on its actualization. As the motion was motivated out of concern rather than personal experience, Alhaji Imam decided to perform the hajj himself that same year in order to study the real problems and report back. He departed Kano on 27th July 1953 in a plane chartered by the Nigerian Pilgrims’ Aid Society Limited, which started operating in Kano in 1951. In September 1953, shortly after his return from the pilgrimage, Alhaji Imam recommended for the appointment of a pilgrims commissioner to accompany the pilgrims yearly; the establishment of a dispensary at the major pilgrims centres; the provision of accommodation for the pilgrims in Mecca and Medina; and the control of fees and charges that are indiscriminately imposed on the Nigerian pilgrims. He also recommended for the recognition and commendation of meritorious services rendered to the pilgrims by officials and volunteers in Nigeria and Saudi Arabia. All the recommendations were accepted in principle and for the purpose of implementation the Government appointed a three-man hajj delegation led by Alhaji Isa Kaita, a Northern Nigerian Regional minister. The delegation submitted a report on the pilgrimage to the Northern Regional and Federal Governments in 1954 when there were only about 300 to 400 official pilgrims from Nigeria each year. As he came face to face with the issues involved in the Hajj Operation, Alhaji Ahmadu Bello, the Sarduna of Sokoto and the Premier of Northern Regional Government, became very interested in the hajj. In 1955 the Sardauna led a four-man delegation to Saudi Arabia to personally investigate hajj conditions and to advise the Government.
The commission focused on several thorny operational problems such as the mutawwif (local guide) agency to be responsible for guiding Nigerian pilgrims in the holy land, the absence of accommodation for Nigerian pilgrims, the lack of medical facilities, and arrangements for reception at Jeddah’s sea and air ports. Meanwhile, Alhaji Ibrahim Dasuki was assigned to Kano as a pilgrims’ officer to assist Nigerian pilgrims at Kano airport on matters of hajj operations especially relating to passports, visas, customs and immigration formalities, health requirements and foreign exchange.
In 1958 the Federal Government of Nigeria became involved in the hajj operations. Its concern at this stage was the welfare of some 21,000 Nigerian pilgrims of uncertain diplomatic status in the Sudan as well as another 20,000 West Africans, mostly Nigerians, who were facing deportation from Saudi Arabia. Consequently, the federal government appointed a goodwill mission under the leadership of the Sardauna to find ways of solving the problems of the Nigerian pilgrims in both the Sudan and Saudi Arabia. In this manner, the pilgrimage began to take on the characteristics of a high-level diplomatic delegation.
Earlier in the year the Northern Regional government had formed a partnership with the Kano-based businessman Alhaji Haruna Kassim to handle pilgrimage traffic. The company, Alharamaini Limited, provided cheap and dependable service to both land and air pilgrims. Following the recommendations of the goodwill mission, the Nigerian pilgrims’ office in Jeddah was raised to a diplomatic status, a mutawwif fee was introduced and offices of Alharamaini Limited were established in the Sudan and Arabia. Alharamaini Ltd. was granted a license by the Northern Regional Travel Agency Licensing Board along with many rival agencies that sprang up in subsequent years, mostly in Kano. The agencies depended largely on chartered foreign airlines such as Sabena and British Caledonian. In 1965 the Ministry of Civil Aviation authorized Nigerian Airways to take over the airlift of pilgrims.
By 1960, the year of independence, the pilgrimage was not only a major event in the religious life of the Northern Region, especially Kano, a city that has been a pilgrim center for centuries. It was also becoming a major logistical exercise, with problems of fare structure, money handling, baggage allowances, foreign exchange and flight schedules. Statistics indicate that in 1956 only 2,483 Nigerians went on the pilgrimage. However, the numbers rose geometrically to 48,981 in 1973 and 106,000 in 1977. Refer to Table-1 for the official record of hajj pilgrims from 1979-1998. The practical arrangements became increasingly complex, but civil servants had acquired sufficient experience to handle them and to cope with new problems as they appeared.
The Northern Nigerian Regional Government set up its first Pilgrims Welfare Board in 1965, following the earlier example of the Western Region in 1958. The Board’s duties were to collect hajj fares, to arrange passports, to collect and issue tickets, to obtain visas, and to arrange for vaccination. When twelve states were created out of the four regions in 1967, most of them set up State Pilgrims Welfare Boards to carry out the same functions. For its part, the Federal Government created a section under the Ministry of External Affairs (now Foreign Affairs) known as the Nigerian Pilgrims Commission to serve as the link among the State Boards.
Concerned about the lack of preparation, both material and spiritual, of the average Nigerian pilgrim, the Northern Nigerian Regional Government set up a high commission in January, 1961 to report and advise on the religious aspect of the pilgrimage and on the problems of destitute Nigerians in the holy land. The commission investigated the conditions laid down in Islam concerning Muslims’ obligations on the holy pilgrimage to Makkah. It paid particular attention to conditions effecting important groups such as people without sufficient funds for the journey, the insane, the blind, the sick and disabled, the very old and the very young, pregnant women and unaccompanied women.
The committee noted that “… people in the above categories suffer great hardship on the journey to Makkah; some of them constitute a grave social problem there and do great damage to the prestige of Nigeria …, The Federal Government… intends to control the immigration of such people in the future.” It also became clear to the government that the enormous responsibilities involved in the transportation of thousands of pilgrims annually and the provision of welfare services could not remain entirely in the hands of private travel agencies. The problem was one of working out a form of diplomatic representation during the transition period to independence, of effecting the arrangement with the Alharamaini Company and of considering the whole issue of pilgrimage as government concerned. It should be noted that, by now, both governmental (public) and non-governmental (private) organizations actively participated in various aspects of the hajj. The public sector however bore the bulk of the responsibilities for policy formulations and for the administrative and technical support necessary for the annual hajj operations.
Private pilgrims travel agencies continued to grow in number until they became beset with many problems, including absurd competition, exorbitant commissions to subagents that lowered profits, delays in airlifts, baggage losses and a poor attitude toward pilgrims’ welfare. The private agencies that undertook most hajj arrangements on behalf of the intending pilgrims were also blamed for being unreliable and exploitative since their owners were primarily motivated by profit maximization. The public sector too was blamed for certain lapses regarding policy and technical support. Although governments at regional and federal levels realized the need for involvement in the important affairs of pilgrimage, no clear and comprehensive policy was formulated to guide hajj affairs. Kano State, the major pilgrims centre in Nigeria, nay in West Africa, made a modest attempt in 1968 to put in a controlled measure through an edict cited as the Travel Agencies (Control) Edict, 1968.
The Nigerian Pilgrims Board (NPB), 1975-1989
In order to correct this situation, the Federal Government of Nigeria issued Decree No. 16 of 1975 establishing the first Nigerian Pilgrims Board to coordinate and control the annual pilgrimage to the holy land at the national level. There were several reasons for setting up the board. The number of pilgrims continued to grow as hajj travel became easy, affordable, and popular. It became clear to the government that the enormous responsibilities involved in the transportation of thousands of pilgrims annually and the provision of welfare services in a foreign country could not be left in the hands of private travel agents. The rise in standards of living and travel both locally and internationally necessitated more extensive and efficient services for pilgrims. Nonetheless, the private agencies showed little concern for pilgrims’ comfort, welfare and moral guidance 33. Meanwhile, the government deepened its longstanding involvement in hajj operations through several important agencies such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Nigerian Airways, the FAAN, the Customs Service, the Immigration Service, the Port Health Services, and the Central Bank. Consequently, there was a growing need to coordinate the activities of these various agencies with those of the Pilgrims Welfare Boards in the states. The hajj had developed to the point where it had acquired far-reaching implications not only for economic and welfare policies but also for national security and international relations.
The Nigerian Pilgrims Board that formally came into being in July 1975 was charged with many functions. It was responsible for coordinating the activities of the independent State Pilgrims Welfare Boards and for securing sufficient aircraft to transport pilgrims to and from Saudi Arabia. The NPB established and maintained pilgrims transit camps for accommodating and processing pilgrims. Medical personnel, welfare officers, pilgrims’ guides and porters were provided to cater to the needs of the pligrims. In addition, the federal Board had to arrange for the pilgrims’ travel documents and foreign exchange while trying to maintain accurate statistical data on the Nigerian pilgrimage. The NPB had the responsibility of distributing the hajj seats allocated by annual quotas that were approved by the President, see Table-3. It also set up the machinery for public education about the hajj including the dissemination of information to libraries and the mass media.
Although the board was authorized to supervise air transportation, it merely extended the monopoly over the supply of aircraft that Nigeria Airways had enjoyed since 1965. Naturally, setting up the NPB required the abolition of the private pilgrims’ agencies and their replacement with state boards. The NPB also opened regional offices in seven cities —Kano, Lagos, Port Harcourt, Maiduguri, Sokoto, Kaduna, and Ilorin. Recently, additional offices were opened in Abuja and Katsina. These regional offices serve the host states and their neighbors by providing pilgrims with transit camps and processing centers and by serving as points of departure and arrival. The regional centers are supposed to coordinate the extensive operations of the state boards. The state boards screen and register intending pilgrims, collect fares, prepare travel documents, obtain foreign exchange allowances, draw up flight schedules with the centrally designated airline, and care for pilgrims’ welfare from their departure until their return home.
If the private travel agencies deserve the credit for popularizing the hajj and contributing to the revival of the hajj tradition in Nigeria, the pilgrims welfare boards at the federal and state levels deserve the credit for standardizing and improving the hajj organization throughout the country. However, these institutional innovations have also created many new problems in their own right. In addition to suffering from the corruption and poor work ethic that plague the Nigerian public service in general, the NPB also struggled with a number of special difficulties. Because the board was under the purview of the Ministry of External Affairs (now Foreign Affairs), the board lacked the autonomy it required in order to discharge its responsibilities effectively. Moreover, the board’s functions overlap with those of Nigeria Airways, which continued to enjoy the monopoly over the airlift of pilgrims that it acquired in 1965–ten years before the NPB was established .
For many years, organizing the hajj flight schedule has been a serious operational problem that seems to reflect managerial rather than technical shortcomings. Officials of both the airlines and the pilgrims’ boards often appear incompetent in handling flight schedules and logistics. In general, hajj managers have inadequate incentives to develop a sense of administrative professionalism. They are discouraged by frequent interference from politically influential persons, by inadequate financing from the government budget, and by the ephemeral tenure of boards that are appointed and dissolved in quick succession as well as the unacceptable attitudes and behaviours of the pilgrims themselves.
The Nigerian Pilgrims Commission (NPC) 1989-1991
In a bid to distance itself from the mounting problems of pilgrimage affairs, the Federal Government of Nigeria promulgated Decree No. 6 of 1989 establishing the Nigerian Pilgrims Commission (NPC). The Decree repealed the Nigerian Pilgrims Board Act of 1975 and charged the new Commission with responsibilities for the general welfare of Muslims undertaking hajj or umrah. Setting up the Commission was a compromise between the two extremes of Government disengagement and direct control of hajj affairs. The decree clearly reflected the Government’s intention to make the Commission autonomous. The NPC was authorized to charter aircraft by appointing the airline of its choice, thus doing away with the Nigeria Airways’ monopoly. The Commission was also permitted to appoint its own staff.
The Directorate / Office Of Pilgrims Affairs (DPA / OPA), 1991-The Present
In 1991, the Directorate of Pilgrims Affairs (DPA) was set up under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and in 1995 its functions were transferred to the Presidency under the ill-fated Task Force. Amid growing revelations of corrupt practices by its leaders, the Task Force was dissolved after Saudi Arabia imposed a total ban on Nigerian pilgrims in 1996 that included even Nigerians residing abroad. In 1997, a Sole Administrator was appointed to run the Office and it has remained under the Presidency throughout the military era.
NAHCON Establishment Acts 2006
NATIONAL HAJJ COMMISSION OF NIGERIA (NAHCON)
Supplementary Provisions relating to the Commission
An Act to repeal the Nigerian Pilgrims Commission Act Cap. 321, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990 and establish the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria to be charged with the responsibility oflicensing, regulating, performing over-sight, and undertaking supervisory functions over agenciesand other bodies; and for related matters.
1. Repeal of Cap. 321, L.F.N. 1990
1. Establishment of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria
1. Composition of the Commission
4. Functions of the Commission
Tenure of Office of members of the Commission
1. Cessation of membership
1. Establishment of Hajj Savings Scheme
1. Secretary of the Commission
1. Staff of the Commission and their remuneration
10. Service in the Commission
11. Funds of the Commission
12. Estimates of expenditure
13. Accounts and records
14. Audit of accounts
15. Bank accounts
16. Register of travel agencies
17. Penalty for contravening terms and conditions of licence
19. Delegation of functions
20. Report of pilgrimage by the Commission
21. Power to defer pilgrimages in certain cases
23. Transitional provisions
Supplementary Provisions relating to the Commission
Proceedings of the Commission
Hajj in the 21st Century
Hajj in the Olden Days
The General Presidency for the Affairs of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s…